Updated with press release:
The New York Times reports independent comics publishers Lion Forge Comics and Oni Press are planning to merge in an effort to strengthen their library of original comics and graphic novels, and to help them leverage their characters on other media platforms, including animation and film. The news is the latest in a string of small publishers changing business strategies in an effort to compete in an increasingly bigger marketplace.
Lion Forge co-founder David Steward II, and CEO of its parent company Polarity, said, “There’s a lot of alignment, and we were going down the same path.” Rather than compete, the two companies will now share a “bigger, stronger, singular strategy.”
The consolidated publishers will operate out Portland, Oregon, where Oni Press is based. James Lucas Jones, the current publisher of Oni Press, will serve as publisher and president of the new organization. Oni founder Joe Nozemack is stepping down as president and will move to a board and advisory role with the new company. Oni editor-in-chief Sarah Gaydos will continue that role, with Lion Forge VP and EIC Andrea Colvin confirmed by Publishers Weekly to be among those who have left or been laid off as a result of the merger.
“We’re very excited about the resources and the business expertise that David and Polarity and Lion Forge folks are bringing over,” Jones said. “So many potential partnership conversations that we’ve had in the past were really focused on looking at us like an intellectual property farm. At the end of the day, the mission is about publishing books.”
The new venture’s name has not been announced.
POLARITY ANNOUNCES INVESTMENT AND MERGER OF ONI PRESS AND LION FORGE
ST. LOUIS, MO | PORTLAND, OR — Lion Forge (St. Louis) and Oni Press (Portland) announce a merger which will set the two companies on a path to becoming the premier destination for original graphic storytelling, gaming, entertainment, and more. Polarity, the parent company of Lion Forge, will become the majority owner of the new combined entity, with James Lucas Jones serving as president and publisher and the ONI team leading creative and business operations.
The combination of the two companies creates a leading industry player focused on creator-owned, cutting-edge licensed partnerships and original content. Both companies are renowned for engaging diverse and under-served audiences. “We want to build on our strength as a go-to destination for creators, grow our culture as an employee-first organization, and reinforce our commitment to our industry partners and friends,” said James Lucas Jones. “In an increasingly competitive marketplace, where the business of comics and graphic novels is rapidly evolving, this merger is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our two companies to pool our resources for one goal: to create the finest comics and graphic novels for everyone.”
“What the team at Oni has built over the past 20 years is not only remarkable, but aspirational” says David Steward II, CEO of Polarity, and co-founder of Lion Forge. “When we first approached Joe (Nozemack), James, and Charlie (Chu) about the idea of working together, we hoped it would be a natural fit, as our shared mission is to bring diverse content to a global audience. The more we spoke, the more the relationship evolved to the point that we knew our combined experience and resources would align to achieve that goal and advance our unique position in the marketplace.”
“This exciting partnership promises to supercharge Oni’s efforts in navigating all facets of media and gaming, with publishing and advocating for creators still at the core of our values,” says Charlie Chu, EVP of creative and business development. “As always, we are committed to working with a vibrant and diverse roster of creators and being the best partner in comics, graphic novels, and beyond.”
The deal, which streamlines and concentrates the editorial, marketing, production and operations in Portland, OR, was orchestrated by Polarity president, Edward Hamati, who oversees administration and corporate development for Polarity. “Over the last year, we at Polarity have been significantly focused on review and enhancement of the portfolio. We put a premium on alignment of talent and objectives. We were very impressed with the culture established at Oni, which continues with James, Charlie, Sarah (Gaydos) and Margot (Wood) leading the team.”Continued below
As part of this transition, Joe Nozemack is stepping down as president and will move to a board and advisory role with the company. “We wanted to respect the legacy of Joe’s efforts as founder, and we value his partnership,” says Hamati.
“Oni Press was started with the mission to publish comics and graphic novels that would appeal to a diverse group of readers and broaden the audience for the medium. 20 years later, I couldn’t be prouder of the books we’ve published and the wide array of new readers and creators who have joined our community,” says Oni founder, Joe Nozemack. “It was obvious from our first meeting that the Polarity/Lion Forge team had these same passions and goals as the Oni Press team. And I have complete faith that the pairing of the two is going to continue that mission to make sure that there is an authentic and inspiring comic book for any and everyone who wants to join the comic-book faithful.”
Joe’s sentiments are echoed by Sarah Gaydos, who will be serving as editor in chief of the new company. “With our ability to target and develop talent, first-rate editorial guardianship and production of books, and sales and marketing expertise under HarperCollins alum Margot Wood, we’ll be getting incredible, inclusive comics into even more hands. We will be the destination for creators who are looking for our high level of editorial curation,”
From an entertainment perspective, Oni’s current entertainment efforts (“Oni Entertainment”) were established to champion creator-owned properties in other media and the Hollywood market. These efforts will bring significant value to the combined entity’s portfolio and commitment to supporting creator-owned content. “Since we founded Lion Forge, we have always had ambitions around character development and the search for new audiences – this deal will enhance our brands and efforts in that direction,” says Lion Forge co-founder, Carl Reed.
Additional information on the companies’ respective output and consolidation will be announced in the coming weeks.