Just over two weeks after it emerged that publisher James Lucas Jones and executive VP of creative & business development Charlie Chu had been let go from Oni Press, the Portland, Oregon based publisher has laid off even more staff.
Popverse has confirmed that senior VP of sales and marketing Alex Segura, sales manager Henry Barajas, senior editor Amanda Meadows, and editor Jasmine Amiri are no longer with the company as of this week, with others rumored to also have been impacted by the latest round of layoffs; one unconfirmed version of the rumor suggests that only a skeleton staff will remain at the publisher, ahead of a potential sale by current owners Polarity LTD.
Meadows, Barajas and Amiri confirmed their dismissal on Twitter.
Oni Press withdraws from San Diego Comic Con
The new round of layoffs follows Oni Press withdrawing from exhibiting at next week’s Comic-Con International: San Diego as initially reported by The Beat. As recently as last week, the company was scheduled to exhibit in booth 1829, a space now occupied by Japanese toy company Good Smile Company.
Oni also had two panels scheduled for the convention, with Jones and Chu moderating; both are now officially labeled as canceled as per Comic-Con’s website.
Recent departures at Oni Press before layoffsIn addition, Oni Press recently lost its PR head, as Tara Lehmann left the company at the end of June to take on the role of Director of Publicity at TKO Studios.
Senior editor Shawna Gore, who jumped over to Oni Press when Lion Forge acquired the company in 2019, is also no longer with the company. Gore left her staff position in April, while still freelance editing one book for the publisher.
Lehmann and Gore's departures are unrelated to any of the layoffs in recent weeks, and in the works before Jones and Chu’s dismissal from the company in late June.
What's going on inside Oni?
The latest layoffs came as a surprise to many, including those working with Oni directly. In response to the news, writer Jay Faerber tweeted, “So sorry for all the folks let go from Oni Press today. What a disaster. I’ve got a graphic novel with them slated for October. Will it still come out…?”
Concern over the longterm health of Oni is rife on social media. Literary agent (and former Oni editor) Desiree Wilson tweeted, “I have it on pretty good authority that Oni is dropping all their creator-owned stuff next and keeping IP only. I'm serious, creators, protect yourselves and if you need help figuring out how to get outstanding payments, ensuring you get your rights back, etc, my inbox is open.”
That echoes a tweet from another former Oni employee Rachel Reed, who wrote, “Oni Press creators: now is the time to check your contracts for an out clause that might explain how to revoke publisher rights. Especially if your book is barely through the pipeline. Now is the time to get out. If you have an agent or a lawyer, hit them up TODAY.”
D.J. Kirkland, who worked on The Black Mage for the publisher, added, “y’all need to look into your contracts to see if you can terminate them now or what that process looks like. If it’s been a while since your book came out, double check to make sure that you haven’t missed your rights ownership window to dissolve the relationship with Oni.”
Who is in charge at Oni?
Popverse has been able to confirm that both senior vice president of games and operations Steve Ellis and associate publisher Michelle Nguyen currently remain with the company, and in some respects are the default leaders of the company through process of elimination.
What does this mean for fans of Oni Press comics and games?
It’s unclear at this point what the practical effects of the latest round of layoffs within the company will be, although it’s almost guaranteed that a number of projects already in the works from Oni will be at the very least delayed, if not canceled outright for any of the following reasons: a lack of editorial resources in the wake of the layoffs, creators pulling projects in light of what’s happening with the company, or Polarity looking to refocus the company’s output as the company moves forwards from what’s happening.
Attention should also be paid to Oni’s attendance or lack thereof at upcoming conventions, past San Diego Comic-Con: both Emerald City Comic Con and Rose City Comic Con are happening in the next couple of months, and both are ostensibly local shows for the Portland company – ECCC is in Seattle, WA, with Rose City in Portland itself – meaning that the two traditionally feature an Oni presence. Will Oni appear at either show, and if so, to what degree?
The loss of so many significant figures across the past three weeks means that, no matter what, Oni Press as-was is no more. The question now is, simply, what the Oni Press of the future looks like… or if there even will be an Oni Press for too much longer.
Post-publication of this article, Popverse followed up on this story with a new piece on What we do, and don't, know about the Oni Press layoffs