Oni responds to employee layoffs and "wildly sensationalistic rumors" surrounding them

Oni Press logo
(Image credit: Oni Press)

Two days after canceling its San Diego Comic-Con 2022 booth, which has since been filled by the Japanese toy company Good Smile Company, indie publisher Oni Press has laid off four senior staff members. 

Sales manager Henry Barajas, who joined Oni Press in August 2021, as well as senior editors Jasmine Amiri and Amanda Meadows – both of whom survived a round of layoffs in 2019 (more below) – have tweeted about being laid off.

Additionally, Newsarama has confirmed that senior vice president of sales and marketing, Alex Segura, has been laid off from the company after being hired in May 2021.

These layoffs come two weeks after Oni laid off publisher James Lucas Jones and vice president of creative and business development Charlie Chu, as originally reported by The Beat. Oni Press has two senior figures remaining at the time of writing: senior vice president of games and operations, Steve Ellis, and associate publisher Michelle Nguyen. Its two planned panels for SDCC, which would have been moderated by Jones and Chu, are listed as canceled on the convention website.

Some hours after former employees tweeted about the Oni Press layoffs, the publisher released a statement on Twitter. It reads, in part, "With wildly sensationalistic rumors circulating and false information spreading, we'd like to reiterate that recent personnel changes at Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group were made with the sole purpose of evolving the company and brand, and positioning it for long-term success."

Meanwhile, current Oni Press creators have expressed what could be described as confusion and frustration via Twitter over the nebulous status of their projects. Writer Jim Zub wrote, "Wondering if the rumored 'skeleton crew' being kept on [at Oni Press] will include people working on the project we were set to announce next week. At this rate I feel like I'm going to find out via Twitter..." 

In a follow-up tweet posted six hours later, Zub added, "I've been told my current Oni project is 'secure', though it obviously won't be announced at an SDCC panel as originally planned. Fingers crossed. Our team has been working hard."

Black Mage co-creator and artist DJ Kirkland tweeted, "No emails about next steps regarding all of the creators that now no longer have a editor to report to have been sent out. This whole situation is messy at best and shows a lack of integrity to the mission y’all clam [sic] to have." 

Kirkland also noted a similar experience in 2019, writing, "This is NOT the first time y'all have done this. I literally went through this with during the production of Black Mage during the 'merger'. This commitment to 'diversity and inclusion' are mere buzzwords and empty promises at this point."

In 2019, Oni Press was acquired by Polarity LTD, an entertainment media company. At that time, Oni Press and fellow indie publisher Lion Forge merged to become Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group, LLC, under the Polarity banner. 

During the 2019 acquisition/merger, Oni Press and Lion Forge laid off nine members of its collective staff, including several marginalized employees and prompting significant blowback. This news followed earlier layoffs by Lion Forge in 2018 during a company-wide restructuring.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story.

Disclosure: The author of this article, Newsarama editor Samantha Puc, was laid off from her position as Managing Editor of The Beat by Polarity LTD in 2020.

Samantha Puc
Editor, Newsarama

Samantha Puc (she/they) is an editor at Newsarama and an avid comics fan. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School.