Celebrating its 15th year, Oni Press, perhaps best known for publishing the Scott Pilgrim and Queen & Country graphic novel series, has a score of plans that will reflect the indie house’s evolution as well as changes in book publishing. In exclusive interviews with PW Comics World, Oni Press CEO Joe Nozemack and editor-in-chief James Lucas Jones discussed the company’s plans for 2012, including its new logo, editorial calendar and forthcoming TV and film projects.
For starters, the company is publishing at least two periodicals monthly, and at least 25 graphic novels in 2012. On the periodical side, debuting in comic shops March 14 is Brian Churilla’s The Secret History of D.B. Cooper; Free Comic Book Day, May 5, sees the release of Bad Medicine, a twist on medical procedural dramas; and later this year sees the return of Greg Rucka and Matt Southworth’s crime drama Stumptown. On the book side, new releases this year include the original graphic novel Coldest City, a spy thriller created by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart; Ross Campbell's young-adult, goth-themed graphic novel Wet Moon Vol. 6, and two trade paperbacks of Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurt's Western-fantasy The Sixth Gun, dubbed the company's best-selling, ongoing series.
Jones explained the company’s interest in releasing more periodicals. For years, he said, the company has focused on graphic novels, experimenting with occasional periodicals.
“For us, it's finding formats that are going to suit the material in the best way possible,” Jones said. “Doing all of the production, lettering, and coloring ... it's hard to do those on projects that have such a long tail. The floppy situation allows us to amortize some of our costs, particularly on coloring.”
Jones also said the company’s editorial calendar has changed drastically in recent years. What was once a run-and-gun process – getting works in mail, editing them, and shipping finals off to a printer in a matter of weeks – is now much more controlled. Jones said the calendar is already booked through fall 2013. “Now, we have more time to do book design, promotions and operations. We have a couple of graphic novels wholly in house and we haven't even announced them yet. But at the end of the day, it's much better for the books and for our stress levels.
The company, according to Jones, is more conscious of retail orders. (Oni says none its books shipped late in 2011.) “Retailers are putting in their orders a good six to eight weeks out—if not, 12—before the product is in stores,” Jones said, “and their plans go to hell in a hand basket if it's not in hand when they think it's going to be. It's something we talked about internally.”
In keeping with industry trends, Oni plans to increase its offerings in the digital comics market. The company has 12 series available on the ComiXology digital comics platform, with new comics released day and date (simultaneous print and digital release) and backlist titles are added weekly. Speaking in general terms, Jones said the company is pursuing multiple digital platforms, and “We have some big plans in terms of original content that is made for the Web that we will be announcing later this year.”
From March forward, Oni Press comics will feature the company’s new logo, a departure from its original logo resembling an Oni demon from Japanese folklore. Designed by art director Keith A. Wood, the new one is a super-imposed graphic accented by the company name and the tagline “Revolutionize Comics.” “I think the company we’ve become—and the way the media and the outlets have gone—called for change in the logo,” Nozemack said. The original logo was created by acclaimed Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons.
In other announcements, Nozemack and Jones cite Oni’s sister company, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, producers of the 2009 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World feature film. The production company is developing TV series based on Oni comics The Damned and Ghost Projekt. The TV projects are being prepped for Showtime and Syfy, respectively.
Nozemack says Closed on Mondays expects to announce more projects this year. “There will definitely be a few in the next few months.”
Though Oni has more than 150 titles in print (at any given time, they said) and some big initiatives underway, it’s still a small company, with eight full-time staffers and two part-timers working with a number of freelancers. Jones took an assistant editor position in 2000, joining Nozemack and then editor-in-chief Jamie S. Rich. “When I started, it was just three of us,” Jones said, “We were in a 500-square foot space, and it was literally a one-room office that we sat in and threw insults at each other.”
Nozemack said the company has been growing slowly, “but I think you see some companies that enter the market and grow too fast, and they then can’t maintain the machine they’ve created. We’ve always been cautious of that.”
While Nozemack wouldn’t speak to sale numbers in the last 15 years, he offered, “You hope that, as years go on, you learn what works and how to address each outlet you have. And as you get better at that, you look for new outlets to grow the readership. The issue with comics now is, with all the digital devices out there, we have a larger audience, so how do we get them to want comics content, and how do we get them to pay for it?”
Nozemack and Jones also said more than 90 percent of Oni’s titles are creator owned, in that the original creator owns the rights. Indeed, the company’s only intellectual property is its new logo.
“We take chances on stuff if we believe in it and even if there’s only a specialty audience for it,” Nozemack said of Oni’s catalog. “You don’t look at something and say, ‘Great book, but it doesn’t make a movie so let’s not publish it.’”