Chat Transcript: Oni Press' James Lucas Jones

Tuesday night here at CBR we held one of our now regular creator chats. This time around Oni Press Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones braved the CBR Chat Room for a little over an hour and answered any and all questions posed by those in attendance. CBR Chat Moderator Brian Cronin presided over the chat.

Brian Cronin: Hello folks, welcome to the James Lucas Jones chat.

jameslucasoni: So, how do you usually run these things? What are we talking about?

Cayman: Courtney Crumrin

jameslucasoni: Heh. What about her? She's pretty cool for a goth chick.

JimmyDee: Can I start? Tell us a bit about "Local." That seems to be your guys' big push right now. Is this a bigger event than we usually see from Oni?

jameslucasoni: Jimmy, it's certainly an ambitious project. I like to think that we love all our books fairly equally.

JimmyDee: I can say I'm really looking forward to it. It's nice to see Brian working with you guys again.

Brian Cronin: When promoting a book, do you try to pick one standard promotional method for all books, or do you try unique things for each title?

jameslucasoni: We're giving "Local" a big push, but no more than say, "Scott Pilgrim," or the aforementioned "Courtney Crumrin."

jameslucasoni: One of the things about "Local" is that Brian is such a good self-promoter, especially in the online arena.

jameslucasoni: There are some things that we do standard, but we try and do unique things for the books, too. For example we did a big thing with "Sharknife"-themed fortune cookies for last year's APE.

JimmyDee: How about "Everest?" What's the latest on that? It seems like forever since we first heard about it.

jameslucasoni: Jimmy, "Everest" will happen...Eventually. Scott Morse has a baby now and has a new career at Pixar. Greg has been co-orchestrating the biggest thing to hit the DCU in 15 years. They're just busy guys whose schedules haven't quite meshed.

JimmyDee: OK, that makes total sense. Good to know that all parties are still interested, though. It just sounds like an awesome project.

Brian Cronin: What work has Ryan Kelly done that I am missing out on?

jameslucasoni: Ryan Kelly hasn't had a real break-out before now, but at the same time is a seasoned talent. He did "Giant Robot Warriors" with Stuart Moore and has been doing finishes over Peter Gross on Lucifer for years though.

Brian Cronin: What was your very first convention experience for Oni like?

jameslucasoni: It was interesting. The first con I worked was San Diego 2000. I'd literally been working in the office for two weeks at that point.

Jonah Weiland: Damn, trial by fire!

jameslucasoni: I was a little star struck, a little awestruck, and a lot overwhelmed.

jameslucasoni: I'm also going to get lynched tomorrow if I don't introduce my work-wife, Oni Managing Editor Randy Jarrell.

RandyOni: Howdy folks!

Brian Cronin: Is that an official title?

jameslucasoni: It's what's on his business cards!

Ronald Bryan: What is the day-to-day working day like being an Editor-in-Chief? What goes on, and are there things you wish you could do but can't do to your position?

jameslucasoni: It's never the same twice in a row.

jameslucasoni: It's also going over schedules and work-flows, overseeing design and production issues, and some mailing and developing promo material.

Brian Cronin: What kind of schedule is it daily?

jameslucasoni: We're in the office about 8 or 8:30 until 6 or 7. I often work from home, too. Talking with creators in different time zones and getting reading done I can't fit into the office time.

RandyOni: Since there aren't that many of us, we end up doing everything it takes to produce, publish, promote, and sell our books.

RandyOni: When we are away from the office, we are also constantly reading proposals, scripts, etc...

JimmyDee: Sounds like an insane 24/7 type schedule. You guys get to take vacations at all?

jameslucasoni: Not really. We're pretty good about sharing the workload to the point that each one of us can take a short break every 6 months or so.

RandyOni: They let me have 2 days off this year

jameslucasoni: Um, I believe SOMEONE just took a three day weekend last weekend?

Scott King: Has someone already asked what the big new things coming up at Oni are?

jameslucasoni: Nobody has!

jameslucasoni: Most of our "big deal" projects were announced at San Diego.

RandyOni: We have tons of great projects coming up. For October we have "Armageddon & Son" by John Layman and newcomer Dave Dumeer. This new OGN is a hilarious deconstruction/destruction of the spy genre.

[Editor's Note: Look for an interview with Layman about "Armageddon & Son" shortly here on CBR.]

S_Robins: Hey guys...Hiya James!

jameslucasoni: Hey, Scott.

Brian Cronin: Here is "Other Scott"!!

jameslucasoni: Scott Robins really is the other Scott from "Scott Pilgrim."

Scott King: I know on the website it says you all no longer take unsolicited submissions but do you take query letters if going to a con isn't something people can do?

jameslucasoni: Scott, yeah and we just opened art subs up for a chunk of the summer and will probably do so again in the fall.

Scott King: Now you say "art subs" ...does that imply then that at this point in time you really are not looking for production teams with pitches and done pages to show?

jameslucasoni: Um, not via mail. It's very rare that we take a full project through any type of unsolicited sub, though.

jameslucasoni: I think the last book we took from an unsolicited sub was "One Plus One."

Gail Simone: Just wanted to say thanks to James for being a great editor and friend during "Killer Princesses." It would not have happened without him.

jameslucasoni: Like, Gail for instance I wanted to work with from her YABS work. I'm pretty sure I asked her and Lea to pitch something...

Gail Simone: I just thanked you, James!

jameslucasoni: I noticed. ;) Thank you as well. :)

Hovy: Daniel Krall and "Follow Me Closely?" Ray of hope anywhere?

jameslucasoni: Dave, There are glimmers of hope. I kind of hope to have news following SPX-- I plan to bring Daniel home in my suitcase and chain him up in my basement.

JimmyDee: Another question from the "Local" thread ... "Local's" a long-form monthly, yet for the last couple of years it seems you guys have been specializing in OGNs [Original Graphic Novels]. Are more long-form monthlies to be expected from you guys?

RandyOni: Although we may be known for OGN's, we have consistently published serialized "floppies" all along. In fact, many of our books that people may think of as OGN's are really just collections, ala "Killer Princesses."

JimmyDee: Sure, but "Local's" 12 issues, right? Not many indy publishers do long-form mini-series anymore

RandyOni: We do. We did a 12-issue run of "Love Fights." "Queen & Country" is still trucking along.

jameslucasoni: Long form minis are a risky proposition, especially for new talent. Brian's professionalism and talents make it less so for "Local."

Brian Cronin: The "Queen & Country: Declassified" by Antony Johnston, was that all Greg's choice?

jameslucasoni: I think I was lamenting to Greg that it would be nice to give him a break, but we can't because Greg is the only guy who can write Q&C. There's nobody else.

jameslucasoni: And then we started talking "Declassified." Things outside the regular series.

jameslucasoni: Still nothing.

jameslucasoni: The next day he called me at like 9PM and said, "You know, Antony could pull off Poole."

Ronald Bryan: Is the comic supposed to go back to "regular" arcs after the next "Declassified" and the second novel?

jameslucasoni: The current plan is to pick up with 29 early next year.

Scott King: Will Oni be at SPX? I glanced at the list today and didn't see Oni Press listed.

jameslucasoni: We were a late addition but we will be there.

Brandon Hanvey: I bet I can guess the question everyone has been asking.

Brandon Hanvey: "When is the next 'Scott Pilgrim' coming out?"

RandyOni: New "Scott Pilgrim" in December.

Gail Simone: I love "Scott Pilgrim."

Brian Cronin: "Scott Pilgrim" is like awesomeness personified.

Brandon Hanvey: "Scott Pilgrim" is my version of addiction.

Hovy: What is on tap for Dec, other than "Scott Pilgrim?"

jameslucasoni: "Local" #2, "Polly" #3, and "Little Star" #6.

Hovy: I hope everyone is reading "Little Star." Best Andi Watson work to date.

RandyOni: In November, we also have "Off Road" by Sean Murphy. Did anybody check out the 50+ page preview that CBR ran?

Brian Cronin: Sean Murphy is amazing

BrianDomingos: "Off Road" is going to rule.

Hovy: Heh. "Off Road" will dethrone "Scott Pilgrim." Thus I predict.

Brian Cronin: Bold claim.

Hovy: Pilgrim Kung-Fu v. a Jeep? No contest. No contest whatsoever

BrianDomingos: what about the parka + apathy combo?

Hovy: The parka doesn't count-- it's Wallace's after all... or I bet it is.

jameslucasoni: But what if Envy Adams is revealed to drive a JEEP in volume 3?!?

Hovy: Then Houston, we have a problem. Then I suggest a Battle Royale with Sharknife as judge

Scott King: I know it was mentioned earlier that Oni has a small staff, but how many people actually make up the staff?

RandyOni: We have James (EIC), Joe (Publisher), Randy (Managing Editor), Maryanne (Marketing Director), and our awesome designer Keith.

Scott King: You weren't kidding about a small staff! I write for an independently owned newspaper in a tourist town and even we have a bigger staff than that. I'm impressed that such a small crew handles so much quality work. Thanks for the effort you guys put forth. :)

Paploo the Ewok: Will we ever see more "Once in a Blue Moon?"

jameslucasoni: Without a doubt.

Nunzio DeFilippis: Hey all. Just came to harass James!

[Editor's Note: Don't miss the transcript from Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir's chat here at CBR last month.]

Brandon Hanvey: You can harass your editor? Wow the benefits of being a pro.

Nunzio DeFilippis: And, yeah, as James said, more "Once In A Blue Moon" is definitely going to happen.

Paploo the Ewok: Is Jen Quick still drawing it?

jameslucasoni: No, she won't.

jameslucasoni: Nunz, I'm touched you could pry yourself from your deathbed to make it. ;)

Gail Simone: When do we get more "Hopeless Savages?"

jameslucasoni: Gail, it's going to be a while. Jen is currently working on a new OGN for us unrelated to the Savages.

Paploo the Ewok: James-- How did the Oni Comics Talent Search go?

jameslucasoni: It's still going as we're still reviewing, but so far I'm pretty pleased. We've already hired at least one person from it.

RandyOni: We got over 6 million entries. We were running out of space in the office, so we had to get rid of our desks and chairs. We just sit on piles and piles of talented submissions. We are slowly working our way down to the floor.

Paploo the Ewok: So I take if you guys won't be accepting submissions for awhile.

jameslucasoni: We will probably do another one late fall

Ronald Bryan: Has the talent search been an enjoyable experience overall?

RandyOni: The talent search has been great. It is amazing to see so many people with a burning desire to work in comics. There have been some real gems.

Scott King: Obviously the artist talent search has been a big endeavor... any plans in the future to do something similar for writers?

jameslucasoni: Honestly, we've talked about it and if anything the artist talent search convinced us we probably shouldn't.

jameslucasoni: We got so many submissions and art samples are really a lot easier to review than scripts.

jameslucasoni: We'll always take stuff at shows though

Brandon Hanvey: Does Oni plan on being at both ECCC and APE in 2006? Even though they are a week apart?

jameslucasoni: They were a week a part the first time I did ECCC, so I would imagine we still will.

jameslucasoni: Seattle is just too easy to do and APE is a staple.

Brandon Hanvey: I hope to table at both cons next year.

jameslucasoni: Are you self-publishing or do you have a pub? I still have your one self-pub book [Editor's Note: "Stereos: In The Garage"] sitting on my desk...

Brandon Hanvey: I'm self-publishing right now.

Paploo the Ewok: Are you guys going to Anime Boston next year?

RandyOni: We don't have plans to go to Anime Boston. Sorry

Ronald Bryan: Has there ever been a comic that was submitted to you that you really wanted to publish, but could not due to circumstances?

jameslucasoni: I'm sure there has been. There's definitely been books that other publishers have done where I think, "God, I wish that would have been my project"

Hovy: How's "Sharknife" Vol. 2 coming along?

jameslucasoni: It's coming. PENG is at the printer.

Hovy: The PENG cover is just-- damn. Love it.

RandyOni: PENG is pretty awesome. It is the best kickball comic I have ever read.

Scott King: Will Oni be at the Baltimore Comic-con in a few weeks?

RandyOni: We won't be at Baltimore Comic-con, but we will be at SPX.

Brian Cronin: How important are cons for Oni? Is it a major priority, making appearances and spreading word of mouth?

jameslucasoni: We like them. They're more a part of our promotion strategy than our revenue strategy, but the better we do the more shows and promotion we can afford to do

Ronald Bryan: Following up on Brian's question, how important are interactions with the fans period?

RandyOni: We would be out of a job if it weren't for the fans and the people that keep buying our books. That's one reason we love the cons we go to-- it gives us a chance to meet the people that actually read the books

Brandon Hanvey: What printers does Oni use?

jameslucasoni: We print the bulk of our stuff is printed at either Quebecor World or Webcom.

Gail Simone: I'm off. Night, guys!

jameslucasoni: Thanks, Gail! Don't kill any of my favorite childhood heroes tonight!

jameslucasoni: And sleep well. ;)

Gail Simone: I'm killing all your favorites!

jameslucasoni: I KNEW IT! ARGGGG!

Scott King: What is the biggest error people submitting make?

jameslucasoni: Just a lack of professionalism.

RandyOni: Biggest errors people make when submitting: 1) Not leaving any contact info. 2) Not following instructions.

RandyOni: You'd be amazed at how many pitches I have looked at that had no e-mail or phone number.

jameslucasoni: And when Randy says that, he's not talking about Joe Schmo off the street. He's talking about working, semi-professionals!

Scott King: And what is the biggest advice someone interested in making a submission should take to heart?

jameslucasoni: Read Read Read and I don't mean comic books.

Ronald Bryan: Here's a "get you in trouble question," who is the one writer and one artist from any medium you would love to get to do a book with?

RandyOni: I'd love to publish something by Douglas Coupland. Never going to happen, but I like the guy.

jameslucasoni: That's really really tough. There are people who I love who I don't think could handle the medium jump. Art wise I'd have to say Philip Bond. Writer-wise, I'd say Wes Anderson.

RandyOni: Yeah! Wes Anderson!

Hovy: Am I mis-remembering, or does Sam Keith have any project in the pipeline for Oni other than "Ojo?"

jameslucasoni: One every year or so for the next 6 years.

RandyOni: If you look at the back of the "OJO" TPB, Sam has outlined the next 10 stories he is planning on doing.

jameslucasoni: The next one is called "It's Happening."

Scott King: I can only guess at how stressful your jobs can be at times, but do you enjoy it or are actually happy with where you are at?

jameslucasoni: Scott, Randy thinks it's the best job ever. Most days I agree with him, but I'll cop to moments of weakness or despair.

RandyOni: I love the job!

Ronald Bryan: Do you really, Randy? Or does James have a gun to your head?

RandyOni: I love working at Oni. I have met some amazingly talented people. I get to help publish books that I am very proud of. And at the end of the day, when my kid gets old enough to ask about what I do, I'll be able to show him all the books we have published. It is pretty cool.

RandyOni: And I get to work with James!!!

Ponda: Will Oni be doing any reviews at SPX?

jameslucasoni: Ponda, if we're doing them onsite it will literally depend on our time/space constraints and level of exhaustion...

Ponda: Okay, and if I work on something between now and then, would it be any advantage to draw one of the scripts from the talent search, or does that not matter anymore?

jameslucasoni: I'd actually prefer to see the talent search scripts, yeah.

Scott King: How hard is to balance art/creative side of your jobs versus the pure business sides?

jameslucasoni: It's fairly difficult. I don't like the business side. I like to focus on the work and leave that stuff to the appropriate people.

Scott King: Now Mr. Jones, I spent a while trying to Google your name earlier today looking for interviews, I was really curious as to how you got into editing to begin with. Did you secure a journalism degree and work at newspapers before switching to comics or what?

jameslucasoni: I did study communications in college and worked on various campus papers and a free weekly.

jameslucasoni: but immediately preceding Oni I was working in tech.

Brandon Hanvey: Information Technology?

jameslucasoni: Yeah.

Scott King: Tech as in computer systems and programming type stuff? If so that's completely different.

RandyOni: James is a computer god. And a math wiz!

jameslucasoni: By the time I left IT was doing more training and planning than hands on setup.

Paploo the Ewok: Is Vera working on anything for you guys?

jameslucasoni: Not right this second but we still talk with her.

Paploo the Ewok: Likewise, is Bill Mudron?

jameslucasoni: Bill is not at this point, no.

Scott King: What advice could you guys give to someone interested in editing comics versus writing or art?

jameslucasoni: I think a background in film would be beneficial

jameslucasoni: I don't think we have enough formal education on storytelling as a medium.

RandyOni: Advice for editing comics: 1) attention to detail. 2) don't drink too much soda. 3) learn to play poker. 4) read books besides comics!

Ronald Bryan: How much soda is too much?

RandyOni: I drank a 2 liter today. That's too much.

Kirk G: When you start feeling the chest pains from caffeine, that's too much!

RandyOni: You mean you're not supposed to feel chest pains?

Brandon Hanvey: I heard that Oni is looking to do more series. Why the shift to more episodic work?

jameslucasoni: I think we've always approached it on a case by case basis

jameslucasoni: Different projects and/or creators benefit from different formats.

Ponda: Out of curiosity, is there anything special that Oni does distribution-wise to get their graphic novels on the same shelves as manga (whereas the similarly sized "Marvel Age" books are not) at stores like Media Play? I think that's pretty clutch that you're the only American books I've seen in settings like that.

jameslucasoni: Well, I think part of it is we're not just doing the digest thing. Our content is more varied and more comparable to the scope of manga than Marvel's is.

Brian Cronin: How big of a hit does Oni take if a series fails commercially? I presume you guys keep the costs down, so does it not hurt as much?

jameslucasoni: We do, but it still hurts. A single book tanking wouldn't kill us, but it is sure not good, either.

Scott King: What about actual carrier advice for someone to try and get an editing job? Working in the print medium is probably the best and then just a matter of applying? Or is there more a person can do?

jameslucasoni: I think you nailed it.

jameslucasoni: That and doing things like this. Starting dialogs with working professionals. Build relationships.

Paploo the Ewok: So it's all in who you know?

jameslucasoni: Not all, but definitely some. It's just like anything else in life.

Brandon Hanvey: At cons like APE. I try to go around and meet as many people as I can.

jameslucasoni: Brandon, me, too. Randy probably thinks I act like a social butterfly a bit much at cons, but it is part of the deal.

Kirk G: APE?

Brandon Hanvey: Alternative Press Expo. The best con ever.

Kirk G: Where is APE held?

jameslucasoni: Kirk, APE is in San Francisco, California.

RandyOni: APE is a fun show

Scott King: Is APE better than SPX?

jameslucasoni: I don't know. I really enjoyed SPX the one time I've gone previously.

jameslucasoni: Back to the relationship thing, we have a book that looks like it's going to happen, writer and artist who have done most of their pro work for DC or Vertigo, who I've been talking to for like four years and it's just now coming together

Brian Cronin: Does J. Torres have any new projects coming up with Oni?

jameslucasoni: Both of J's upcoming projects are too early to announce. He conveniently also has "Love as a Foreign Language" out for us right now.

Paploo the Ewok: Isn't Vol.4 coming out soon?

jameslucasoni: #2 & 3 are both out.

Paploo the Ewok: I really like the format of "Love as a Foreign Language"-- somewhere in between a GN and a comic-- cheaply priced, and released regularly. Are you guys planning on doing more series in that format?

jameslucasoni: It is a neat format. We're kind of doing it on "Northwest Passage" and we might have another thing coming in that format, too.

Brian Cronin: Speaking of sales (which I was before...promise!), is there any particular project that you thought would go over really well that didn't?

jameslucasoni: I was actually really freaked by the initial sales on "Scott Pilgrim." It took a bit of time to catch fire, but now it's blazing tall.

Paploo the Ewok: What does it take to catch Oni's eye? Constantly improving your work?

RandyOni: When looking at projects, it helps if it is a "good fit" with Oni. You'd be amazed at how many wildly inappropriate projects and proposals we look at.

Ronald Bryan: Are there lots of porn projects?

RandyOni: Yeah, we get porn submissions

RandyOni: Furverts.

Ponda: That's a funny thing about submissions. I was reading the submission rules for a card company once and they had to specify "no naked vampires" as a rule. I hate to imagine what their submissions pile must have looked like.

RandyOni: I probably shouldn't say this, but I was talking to a guy at San Diego who asked, "What is Oni looking for?" I told him, "anything but vampires and superheroes." He actually laughed and gave me a proposal for a vampire-superhero book.

jameslucasoni: That pitch is on my desk!

jameslucasoni: I think B. Clay gave it to me.

Brian Cronin: So Oni is cool with zombies, though?

RandyOni: Oni friggen loves Zombies!

Paploo the Ewok: Giant Robots?

Ronald Bryan: Space monkeys?

RandyOni: What about a giant robot zombie space monkey comic?

Hovy: Banana Sunday in Space! The sequel just begging to happen.

Brian Cronin: You know what would be awesome? Greeting cards from Andi Watson.

Brian Cronin: He knows how to hit the right emotional notes so well.

Hovy: That would be divine, Brian. Hell, just anything by Andi Watson.

jameslucasoni: Did you see the stationary he did for Dark Horse?

RandyOni: Do they make "slice-of-life" cards?

Paploo the Ewok: Maybe Oni should make greeting cards of their own? I'd buy em.

RandyOni: We have plans to-- right after we buy DC and Marvel.

jameslucasoni: We did patches at one point. And buttons.

Hovy: More Watson after "Little Star?"

RandyOni: We hope to always be publishing Andi Watson. The guy rocks!

jameslucasoni: Andi's not sure what he's going to do next, but in the meantime check out "Paris" from Slave Labor Graphics.

[Editor's Note: Look for an interview with Watosn about "Paris" shortly here on CBR.]

Paploo the Ewok: Is he drawing that? Or just writing?

jameslucasoni: Just writing. Simon Gane is drawing.

Brian Cronin: Thanks to James, and special bonus chatter Randy for stopping by to answer so many questions!

jameslucasoni: Thanks for having us. It was fun.

RandyOni: if you have any more questions, come by our website. We have a forum set up where we answer your questions everyday!

Brian Cronin: http://www.onipress.com/

Brian Cronin: Just for those who didn't know. :)

jameslucasoni: Hear that, Randy? Someone finally knows who you are.

Ronald Bryan: Randy expects a raise now.

RandyOni: I expect James going to kick my ass for invading his chat.

RandyOni: Okay guys. Thanks for chatting!

jameslucasoni: G'night!

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