Layoffs and uncertainty continue to plague the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group (OLFPG). After laying off publisher James Lucas Jones and v-p of creative and business development Charlie Chu at the end of June, the independent comics publisher launched a new round of dismissals on July 13, laying off senior v-p of sales and marketing Alex Segura, sales manager Henry Barajas, senior editor Amanda Meadows, and editor Jasmine Amiri. The departures were confirmed via announcements on Twitter by the affected staffers.
Formed in 2019 by merging Oni Press, an indie comics publisher founded in 1997, and Lion Forge, a more recent comics venture launched in 2012, the publisher was set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Oni Press with a series of special publications and events at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con. Instead, the house has canceled its booth and its programming at SDCC, and is now engulfed in controversy, the target of anger and vehement criticism from across the online comics community after firing most of its senior staff without offering much explanation. No replacements have been announced for any of the key staffers that were laid off.
OLFPG is the publishing subsidiary of Polarity, a media and entertainment firm launched by Lion Forge cofounder Dave Steward II, who is CEO of Polarity, in 2018. Prior to the layoffs OLFPG had a staff of about 30 employees. The dismissals of Jones and Chu was first reported on June 28 by the Beat; the most recent layoffs were first reported by Popverse.
There is speculation that Polarity is looking to conserve its cash and may be planning to the sell its publishing assets. However, on July 14, Oni-Lion Forge released a statement, claiming support for its publishing program: “With wildly sensationalistic rumors circulating and false information spreading, we’d like to reiterate that recent personnel changes at Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group were made with the sole purpose of evolving the company and brand, and positioning it for long-term success.”
The statement continues: “We’re proud of our long history in the business and continually strive to be better and do better. We started Lion Forge Comics 11 years ago specifically to make great creator driven content, and Oni’s history is 25 years in the business. Within a new framework that is being worked on now, we remain committed to publishing groundbreaking content, embracing pioneering creators, and advancing authentic diversity and inclusion. We see an incredibly exciting future not just for the company but for our fans and content consumers worldwide.”
However, sources with direct knowledge of the situation described the OLFPG workplace environment to PW as “confusing at all times,” with little planning in place for the upcoming San Diego convention before the company’s appearances were canceled. The initial layoffs were announced on June 28, according to sources, on a company-wide Zoom call that included Steward, who claimed that the company was “dedicated” to continuing the Oni-Lion Forge publishing program. Nevertheless, sources said, “everyone is worried that there is no plan” and that “the company’s institutional memory and good will is now gone.”