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One of the most successful independent comic companies in
the industry, Oni Press produces a wide variety of comics that are all creator
owned. Meaning, Oni makes no claim to the ownership of the characters or their
rights. That Scott Pilgrim movie that didn’t do so well in the box office,
but that no one could stop talking about? Nothing to do with them. That White
Out movie that tanked in the box office? Nothing to do with them. That
free mix tape from Adam WarRock about their books? Nothing… oh wait that did have
everything to do with them.
One of the big differences between Oni and the rest of the comic market is that as they’ve grown over the year they’ve never sought to become that mainstream company that produces “X” amount of monthly titles. In fact they’ve produced very few monthly titles and even them most of them end when they’ve told their story. Books like Queen and Country, Wasteland and The Sixth Gun. Since starting in 1997, Oni’s bread and butter have been monthly mini-series that is then collected into trade paper backs and original graphic novels. You have to look no further than the best-selling Scott Pilgrim for evidence of their success in the original graphic novel department.
In fact, Scott Pilgrim has become synonymous with Oni Press. If the company ever took a second mascot it would definitely be Mr. Pilgrim himself. But before Scott Pilgrim there were plenty of highly successful series, such as Judd Winick’s The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius or Greg Rucka’s White Out: Meltdown and many more. You may know Winick and Rucka from their work at DC comics, but both became very well known for afore mentioned titles at the time of their releases.
Oni Press actually has worked with a lot of top names in comics over the years ranging from legendary comic writer/artist Frank Miller (Bad Boy), to up and coming legend Brian Michael Bendis (Fortune and Glory). The great thing about Oni is that you never know which creator they’re working with could become the next big name in comics.
Personally, what makes Oni Press stand out for me as a reader is the variety of their publications. Things like Super Pro K.O. and Stumptown co-exist and even succeed in the same market space and that’s not something you’ll find at too many other companies. Sure there are other companies that pump out a ton of books ranging from Sci-fi to licensed material, but they can rarely say that both types of books sold similar. Oni Press can. Looking at the company you would never think that they have a kid’s line of books, because they don’t. They do however put out all-age material that is perfect for children and yet manages to fill that gap between kids and adults with material that is interesting for both with books like Polly and the Pirates.
But what’s Oni Press’ history? Well back in 1997 Bob Schreck and Joe Nozemack founded Oni (Japanese Demon) in Portland, Oregon. Their mission statement was simple, put out a book that they would want to read and over a decade later that’s still their goal. Oni’s had plenty of chances to “sell out” and yet they remain true to their humble beginnings and their not afraid to change or try something new. Look no further than the Oni Press Mix tape for evidence of that. Rapper Adam WarRock creates a song for different Oni Press titles and basically tells the story of the book. How many other comic companies do you know would encourage and help a project like that? Just one… Oni Press.
You can look for the companion piece to this series next week in which I will spotlight books from Oni that you should read. If you’re interested in more of what Oni’s future holds check out our coverage from Wonder Con about Oni’s upcoming title releases.