Earlier this year, independent comic book publishers Oni Press and Lion Forge merged in an effort to “strengthen their library of original comics and graphic novels and help them to leverage their characters on other media platforms, including animation and film.”
New business strategies being adopted by Oni Press, Lion Forge, and others to better compete against the Big 2 (DC Comics and Marvel Comics) include direct-to-consumers sales, binge-able stories, magazine-style formats, and greater financial stakes for creators.
Charlie Chu, Vice-President of Creative & Business Development at Oni Press, also works on the company’s tabletop imprint, Oni Games, with games that have built on the branding on comics and graphic novels.
In an interview with Publishers Weekly, he explains, “The big angle is less about looking to make a ton of money on the gaming side and more about creating brand extensions and providing marketing for the books themselves. It’s meant to drive awareness and sales on the comics publishing side.”
Comic books continue to attract fans willing to spend money on stories because engagement with characters exists across multiple platforms from games on mobile devices to movies in theaters. Other notable statistics about the current state of the comic book industry from Forbes include:
- Sales in 2018 rose $80 million from the previous year
- The US has an estimated total of less than 2 million regular comic book readers
- Popular titles sell over 100,000 copies
- Most titles sell less than 20,000 copies
- Shifting demographics in readership have resulted in genre’s like children’s graphic novels doing better than ever
- Traditional genres are losing readers
- Small niches are growing
- Large niches are losing dominance
- Overall the industry is growing
- Superhero comics and comic book shops are suffering the most
Established in 1997, Oni Press is a premier comic book and graphic novel publisher of thrillers, romances, and realistic drama, with avoidance to superheroes unless interesting creators approach these concepts from an unusual angle. Founded in 2011, Lion Forge is known for its slogan “Comics for Everyone” and its focus on culturally diverse creators, characters, and stories. Post-merger, the publishing will take place in Portland, Oregon, current home of Oni. Oni’s publisher, James Lucas Jones, will be the president and publisher of the new venture. Mainstream audiences are most likely familiar with Oni through the film adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.