Oni Press in 2023 is a different company than it was a year ago. That’s not meant entirely literally, although it’s true that those in charge of the longstanding indie publisher today are only months into the job after Oni had a dramatic summer in 2022. Beyond that, however, there’s the fact that Oni has a new mission statement as it moves forward: one in which its comics will be given the chance to let their freak flags fly.
“I started thinking about Oni in the context of the current state of the industry, which is that comics feel boring right now,” new publisher Hunter Gorinson told Popverse during a conversation at San Diego Comic-Con 2023. “They feel very homogenized, and I think a lot of creators or publishers, if you're speaking to them candidly, would say that there's been a lot of self-censorship going on in order to try and pre-package stuff for film or TV. And that has taken some of the renegade energy that comics has, that makes comics exciting, and that makes comics a medium for outsiders, where you can tell stories that can't be told in another medium – it has zapped some of the vitality out of comics over the past 10 years.”
Oni’s new aim, according to Gorinson and new editor-in-chief Sierra Hahn, is to restore that vitality and make comics that… well, feel like comics.
“I think we have a responsibility to the artists, the storytellers, and a mission that puts the artwork forward and to the forefront of the storytelling that we're doing that says, 'This is a beautiful book, or this is interesting artwork. This has captured my imagination.’” Hahn said. “You might not know what it is to look at it, but you're compelled and you're drawn to it visually, and then you have a really great story on the inside. So let's allow the artists to speak for themselves with what they're putting on the cover, what they're putting on the page, and then allow the words to enhance that, versus here's a script, and let's have the art enhance the words.”
Hang continued, saying that in an era where a lot of mainstream comics are focused on writing with art teams being changed or replaced mid-story, “I think people forgot about that interconnectedness [between art and story in comics]. I was happy last night at the [Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards] to have some of the people that went up there really talk about, 'This is the artist's win. I can put these words on the page, but it doesn't have a life until this person comes in and they visualize it, and it goes into a whole other level.' And I think it was really important for the writers last night to acknowledge that. So how can we, as a publisher, use that as an internal sort of mandate with our editorial team, with our marketing and sales teams, and then put that forward out to the world?”
The full conversation — which continues down this thread, but contains so much more, including how today’s Oni is dealing with the fallout from last summer’s restructuring of the company — can be read here.