Oni Press, the crosswordese-named company who published hits like Scott Pilgrim, Whiteout and Queen & Country, has released a new logo, only somewhat less terrifying than the last.
Oni Press has branded itself as “comics for people who like to read books… the real mainstream.” This amounted to revolutionary talk in 1997’s largely superhero-dominated market. Today’s more complex opportunities for graphic novels suggest that time has caught up with Oni’s approach.
It’s Dave Gibbons logo, however, that sent a different message. With his usual clear lines and unflinching realism, Gibbons drew an oni, a Japanese demon, from a toy model in the publisher’s offices. Students of Japanese culture could tell you all about the actual significance of the facial features. But I can’t help but see sorrowful, damned eyes, staring out over the parody of a smile, NOOO, DON’T COME AFTER ME, EVIL SPIRIT! I’LL CHANGE MY WAYS, I SWEAR!
The letterforms of “ONI” and the border’s half-rounded corners suggested the elaborate brushstrokes of Japanese calligraphy. Most of Oni’s offerings come from Western hands, but it may have been a good move for Oni to align itself with manga, which in 1997 was still chiefly for the avant-garde.
But now we’re in a more cyber-driven than manga-driven age, and Oni needs a logo to match. The company’s art director, Keith Wood, has been working with several executives to modernize the logo. Here’s what jumps out:
It’s squarer. No sign of brushstrokes here. The “ONI” is now nothing but parts of squares, and even the “PRESS” looks more geometric, less organic.
It’s wordplaying-er. The letters in “ONI” reappear in “Revolutionize Comics,” turning a fairly generic slogan into something more Oni-flavored. Alternate slogans, probably not considered: “Antagonize Comics,” “Demonize Comics,” and “Admonish Comics.”
It has a URL. If I asked you to guess what Oni Press’s logo is, without looking, do you think you could do it accurately? So then, you wouldn’t think this URL serves much of a purpose in the logo? That’s what I thought. It could’ve been worse, though: they could have replaced the upper left image with a QR code.
It’s zoomier. We zero right in on the eye of what’s presumably still an oni, but this logo is more openly aggressive, instead of laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. Its tightly-framed close-up recalls the San Diego Comic-Con logo, which even has a similar expression, but still looks “friendlier,” because it isn’t part of some harrowing hellbeast that wants to eat you. Probably.
It’s talking to you. Like the ill-fated Zuda brand, the logo has a stylized tail at the bottom, making it into a sort of word balloon. Who would be shouting “RevolutiONIze Comics” and then chant a URL is left as an exercise for the reader.
It’s exhausting. After reviewing all these elements, I’m too pooped to read any actual Oni comics. But the version on comics covers replaces “Revolutionize Comics” with issue and price information. Other PR is using bits and pieces of the logo as appropriate. So the design may settle into a more streamlined form, in time.
In any case, if you’re brave enough to read something with a warning label that indicates it may be possessed by a demon, more power to you.