If you’re a fan of independent press and small press comics, you are most certainly a fan of both Lion Forge and Oni Press.
According to George Gustines and the New York Times, Lion Forge and Oni Press are to announce their merger today, in an attempt 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.’ Lion Forge just announced they are part of Polarity, a new animation studio looking to adapt Lion Force titles, and one would assume Oni Press titles.
Gustines reports this strategic move capitalizes on the recent growth of the comic book industry. “Avengers: Endgame,” crossed the $2 billion box office threshold in less than two weeks. “The Walking Dead,” a hit for AMC with another spinoff coming, is based on an Image Comics series. And Netflix is streaming “The Umbrella Academy,” about a dysfunctional family of heroes from Dark Horse Comics, and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” about a teenage witch from Archie Comics. These adaptations have fueled growth in the comic book industry. Sales in 2018 rose $80 million from the previous year.
“There’s a lot of alignment, and we were going down the same path,” said David Steward II, who founded Lion Forge in St. Louis with Carl Reed in 2011. Polarity is moving quickly to establish new distribution channels. On Monday, the company announced the formation of an animation studio to produce content for movies and TV. It seems that more than ever, comic books are where larger media project start. James Lucas Jones, publisher of Oni, will be president and publisher of the new enterprise.
“So many potential partnership conversations that we’ve had in the past were really focused on looking at us as an intellectual property farm,” Mr. Jones said. He added that he still had an interest in other media ventures, but “at the end of the day, the mission is about publishing books.”
Scott Pilgrim, one of Oni’s biggest successes is the series of graphic novels, about a slacker in his 20s, written and drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley had a 2010 film adaptation, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” The movie underperformed at the box office, but it fueled interest in the source material. The final volume, which was released the same year, had a first printing of 100,000 copies.
Lion Forge’s slogan, “Comics for Everyone,” is apparent across its line of publications, which includes superhero comic books with an emphasis on diversity, an imprint for younger and middle school readers, and memoirs that delve into eating disorders and gender identity
Gustines reports that the merger was negotiated by Edward Hamati, the president of Polarity. And it is Lion Forge’s David Steward II‘s commitment to comics that saw Oni sign up to that deal, rather than other suitors who were more just about the use of the intellectual property.