Sometimes there’s a topic that probably should lead off, but it doesn’t simply because I just do not feel like talking about it first. This is one of those weeks. Instead of starting with my frustration, let’s begin my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics with a resurgent publisher that’s doing interesting things.
1. Oni Press, Doing Things!
I’ll be honest, when Oni/Lion Forge was unceremoniously clearing house of so much of the staff and leadership that made Oni Press a special place, I thought that was it. I believe I even said that at the time, saying something along the lines of even if the publisher survives, it would be as a zombie version of itself, acting as Oni in name only.
So, with all that said, I am pleased to say something I’m rarely happy to say: It seems as if I was wrong.
Not only has Oni survived under new leadership – which includes Publisher Hunter Gorinson and Editor-in-Chief Sierra Hahn – but it’s seemingly doing well while maintaining that classic weirdness the publisher has always had. It’s also doing so through some atypical approaches, several of which were highlighted in recent news from the publisher. Like, Kickstarting a graphic novel about the Wu Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring talents like Mike Del Mundo, Ronald Wimberly, Damion Scott, and more. Or, honestly quite bizarre partnerships like The NacelleVerse, which means they’ll be publishing comics based on toys and animation like Biker Mice from Mars and RoboForce. Or much more interesting ones, like the 2025 collabo between Oni and Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision production company, one that will result in a pop up imprint called High Strangeness that’s all about eerie paranormal phenomena (with Malachi Ward delivering the promo art with that excellent piece you can see above, with an Oni Mask that hearkens back to previous publisher logos on it).
Will all of these work? Probably not. That NacelleVerse one feels like a version of nostalgia without the market necessary to make it pop. But I can see the logic behind all of them, and they each bring that classic Oni edge to it. Pair that with the varying comics they’ve been publishing of late and I’ll say this: I am cautiously optimistic about what they’re doing over there after the roughest possible stretch leading up to it. We’ll see where it goes from here.
2. DSTLRY, Officially Digitally Enabled
After not being ready for the publisher’s initial three launches in The Devil’s Cut #1, Gone #1, and Somna #1, DSTLRY’s new digital platform – nicknamed White Dog – launched in beta (desktop only, though, as mobile is not quite there yet) this week with The Devil’s Cut the only product available for purchase as of now. As a reminder, the digital platform was always part of DSTLRY’s hook, as every comic you buy was something you own in your library but you can also later resell it on a digital marketplace, if you so desire. That’s important, because each of the publisher’s releases are only available for a week before closing sales forever, meaning there’s a theoretical, time-based cap to how much inventory will be out there. That’s the hook, and a big part of the “whoa!” factor to DSTLRY. So, the question is, how does it work?
I bought The Devil’s Cut to find out. It was only $1 for the first 24 hours before ramping up to $6.66 after that, so I figured why not sample the wares and take in a flight of this concoction they’ve made. I’ve read the comic before, so that’s nothing new, but how was the experience reading it?
And the answer is: really nice! It’s simple, intuitive, and really emphasizes the art, especially if you have a large monitor, most particularly one that can rotate into a vertical orientation. You just use a keyboard and a mouse to get around in the simplest meaning of that description. Press right and you turn the page. Press left and you go back a page. Double click to fit to your monitor width. There’s even a walkthrough on controls when you open the comic. It results in what is truly a phenomenal reading experience, one where you can really drink in the details.
The only negatives are that individual pages take a while to load, especially if you click through quickly, and that there’s no clear way to route back to the beginning or wherever without having to go through each page individually. Or, at least there isn’t in the instructions, nor is it obvious how to do so. I only discovered that you can look at thumbnails to skip to specific pages if you single click on the screen by accident when I failed at double clicking to expand to full page width. But, again, this is a beta so tweaks to the walkthrough will certainly happen, and the slow load may have something to do with my paltry Alaska internet. I’m sure they’ll be paying attention to these elements as they head towards the full version.
It’s clear there’s a ways to go, if only because mobile will likely be a huge part of this experience and it’s not even live yet. But this is a strong start, and will assuredly be a welcome addition to DSTLRY’s mix if you live in an area where these comics are not accessible. I’ll be interested to see how the digital marketplace works next, but it sounds like that won’t hit until the mobile version does, with that being at some point in 2024. So, TBD on all that, but good start, Team DSTLRY! It’s looking pretty slick!