Top Shelf Productions
|Parent company||IDW Publishing|
|Predecessor||Primal Groove Press|
|Founder||Chris Staros and Brett Warnock|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Marietta, Georgia|
|Key people||Chris Staros, Leigh Walton|
Top Shelf Productions is an American publishing company founded in 1997, originally owned and operated by Chris Staros and Brett Warnock and a small staff. Now an imprint of IDW Publishing, Top Shelf is based in Marietta, Georgia.
Top Shelf publishes comics and graphic novels by authors such as Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, James Kochalka, Andy Runton, Jeffrey Brown, Nate Powell, Eddie Campbell, Alex Robinson, Jeff Lemire, and Matt Kindt.
The company was founded by Chris Staros and Brett Warnock after discussions between the pair at the 1997 Small Press Expo. Previously, Warnock had used the Top Shelf name as the title for a self-published anthology, whilst Staros had worked in the industry representing Eddie Campbell in the United States and self-published a number of comics-based zines. The partnership evolved from combining Warnock's design skills and marketing abilities with Staros' talents for editing and book-keeping. The duo started publishing under the name Primal Groove Press, but soon changed the name to Top Shelf.
The first title to be published by the new imprint was Pete Sickman-Garner's Hey, Mister: After School Special, a collection of Garner's previously self-published comic books along with two new tales. Works by James Kochalka followed, and then in 1999 the company published Good-bye, Chunky Rice, a work which saw its creator, Craig Thompson, win a Harvey Award and which helped establish Top Shelf's reputation for publishing works of merit, with it being chosen as a book of the year by The Comics Journal (#220) alongside the Top Shelf-distributed From Hell.
Staros and Warnock have aimed to give their imprint a style "that is quite hip, but also quite endearing", and Staros regularly signs correspondence with the tagline "Your friend thru comics". The company launched at a recessional period for comics, and saw themselves as, together with Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, and the now-defunct Highwater Books, attempting to "change the public perception and face of comics altogether". In 2000 Staros delivered the keynote speech at the Ignatz Awards, and argued that the industry must focus more on content, and that more works of the merit of From Hell and Jimmy Corrigan would help the public re-evaluate their perceptions of the medium.
In April 2002 the collapse of the bookstore distributor LPC caused severe financial problems for the company. A $20,000 check the distributor had issued bounced. Investigation by Top Shelf revealed an LPC filing for Chapter 11, a move which left Top Shelf in a perilous state: The company had issued checks based on the LPC check clearing. The company called upon the goodwill it had previously established in the comics market and issued a communication asking for help. They asked former customers to "find it in your hearts to each spend around fifty bucks ... this would literally pull us through". The communication swiftly spread across the internet, with both Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis disseminating the appeal through their online presences. The move created such an atmosphere that rival publisher and fellow LPC client Dark Horse felt moved to issue a statement to the effect that they were "in a profitable position."
Top Shelf were unprepared for the response, with a volunteer drafted to help pack the orders. A second communication was issued a day later, declaring "Top Shelf Saved by Comics Community Record 12 Hours." The move was greeted with envy by rival publishers, Tom Devlin of Highwater told The Comics Journal that although he viewed the move initially as maybe "a little pathetic", he later realized it as "the most remarkable marketing scheme", although qualifying that he didn't feel "there was a cynical moment" in Top Shelf's actions.
Top Shelf have slowly expanded their line and typically aim to launch works at conventions in order to generate a buzz. The 2004 Comic Con International saw the company launch eight books, of which two were immediate sell-outs. This has at times caused unrest with retailers, particularly when Blankets was launched at the 2003 Comic Con International. The company also followed this route with Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls, launching it at the 2006 Comic Con International. The work had long been on the schedules of Top Shelf, initially intended as a three volume affair scheduled for a 2002 release. The eventual publication proved controversial, with Moore himself describing the work as "pornography" and Chris Staros admitting that publication was "putting the whole company on the line". Before publication, fears were raised that the book would prove hard to sell given its nature, and that there may be legal implications. However, the work received good reviews and the initial print run sold out in one day. The work has yet to be distributed in the United Kingdom, as the Great Ormond Street Hospital currently owns the copyright to Peter Pan. Top Shelf agreed not to distribute the work in the UK until after that copyright expired at the end of 2007. They do, however, refute that the work breaches the copyrights held.
On January 6, 2015, IDW Publishing announced that it had acquired Top Shelf Publishing. Top Shelf co-founder Warnock announced his retirement from comics publishing, while Staros stayed on as Top Shelf's editor-in-chief.
Titles by Pete Sickman-Garner are:
Titles by Alan Moore include:
- Lost Girls (with Melinda Gebbie, 2006)
- From Hell (with Eddie Campbell, 1999)
- Voice of the Fire (1996)
- The Mirror of Love (with Jose Villarrubia)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century (with Kevin O'Neill, 2009)
- The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic (with co-writer Steve Moore and artists including Kevin O'Neill, Melinda Gebbie, John Coulthart, and José Villarrubia, 320 pages, hardcover, 2009, ISBN 978-1-60309-001-8) 
Titles by Craig Thompson include:
Titles by Andy Runton include:
- The Way Home
- Just A Little Blue
- Flying Lessons
- A Time To Be Brave
Titles by Jeffrey Brown include:
- Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me
- I Am Going To Be Small
- Be a Man
- Feeble Attempts
- Incredible Change-Bots
Titles by James Kochalka include:
- Monkey vs. Robot
- American Elf
- Pinky & Stinky
- Magic Boy and the Robot Elf
- The Perfect Planet
- The Johnny Boo series
- Glork Patrol
Titles by Alex Robinson include:
- Box Office Poison
- Bop! - More Box Office Poison
- Too Cool To Be Forgotten
- Alex Robinson's Lower Regions
Titles by Nate Powell include:
Titles by Renée French include:
Titles by Jason Hall include:
Titles by Matt Kindt include:
- 2 Sisters
- Pistolwhip (with Jason Hall):
- The Yellow Menace
- Mephisto & The Empty Box
- Super Spy
Titles by Jeff Lemire include:
- Essex County Trilogy:
- Tales From The Farm (Top Shelf Productions, 2008)
- Ghost Stories (Top Shelf Productions, 2008)
- The Country Nurse (Top Shelf Productions, 2009)
- The Collected Essex County (Top Shelf Productions, 2009)
- Contains the three main stories "Tales From The Farm", "Ghost Stories" and "The Country Nurse"
- Added short stories "The Essex County Boxing Club" and "The Sad and Lonely Life of Eddie Elephant Ears."
- Bonus materials, such as: unused promotion art, a deleted scene, character designs and so on.
- The Underwater Welder
Titles by Nicolas Mahler include:
Titles by Tom Hart include:
- Hutch Owen:
- The Collected
Titles by Rich Koslowski include:
Titles by Tony Consiglio include:
Titles by Max Estes include:
Titles by David Yurkovich include:
Other titles by various authors include:
- AX: alternative manga edited by Sean Michael Wilson
- Barefoot Serpent by Scott Morse
- Cigarette Girl by Masahiko Matsumoto
- Comic Book Artist magazine edited by Jon B. Cooke
- A Complete Lowlife by Ed Brubaker
- Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel
- Cry Yourself To Sleep by Jeremy Tinder
- Dang! by Martin Cendreda
- Discovered by Savannah College of Art and Design’s Sequential Art Program
- Grampa & Julie: Shark Hunters by Jef Czekaj
- Keyhole by Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld
- Korgi by Christian Slade
- March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
- Moving Pictures by Kathryn and Stuart Immonen
- Regards From Serbia by Aleksandar Zograf
- Same Difference & Other Stories by Derek Kirk Kim
- Second Thoughts by Niklas Asker
- Speechless by Peter Kuper
- Spiral-Bound by Aaron Renier
- Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag
- The Surrogates by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele
- Tales From The Farm by Jeff Lemire
- Tales Of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre
- That Salty Air by Tim Sievert
- Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? by Liz Prince
- World War 3 Illustrated by various
- Contino, Jennifer M. (February 2002). "Take It From The Top". Interview with Chris Staros. Sequential Tart. Archived from the original on September 18, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2007.
- St-Louis, Hervé. "Interview With Chris Staros of Top Shelf Comix". Comic Book Bin. (January 6, 2008). Retrieved December 2, 2008.
- von Busack, Richard (March 4–10, 1999). "Georgia's small publisher Top Shelf Comics delivers the graphic goods". Metro. Metro Publishing Inc. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
- "Top Shelf Expands Its Relationship With Diamond" (Press release). Comic Book Resources. August 2, 2002. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
Top Shelf has risen to become one of the comics industry’s most respected publishers
- various (February 2000). "TCJ Books of the Year". The Comics Journal. 1 (220): 14–26. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Clough, Robert (October 5, 2000). "Interview: Chris Staros". Savant Issue 21. Savant. Archived from the original on October 20, 2006. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
- Spurgeon, Tom (September 30, 2000). "News: Ignatz Awards 2000". The Comics Reporter. Tom Spurgeon. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
- Dean, Michael (May 2002). "LPC's Chapter 11 and Top Shelf's Near-Death Experience". The Comics Journal. 1 (243): 3–8. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Warnock, Brett (January 24, 2006). "convention season is upon us". company blog. Top Shelf Publishing. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
we are obligated to launch certain books at conventions. This not only helps cover up-front costs, but i would posit that it ultimately helps retailers by building buzz around certain books. Buzz that might turn a one-time sale into a perennial seller.
- Arnold, Andrew D. (July 30, 2004). "The Other Big Convention". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
- Staff writer (July 31, 2003). "Innovative Graphic Novels Debut at San Diego". icv2.com. Milton Griepp. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
Sales of Blankets at the Top Shelf booth were strong enough to draw retailers' ire, since the title was so new that it hadn't been distributed to stores.
- Schindler, Dorman T. (August 7, 2006). "Alan Moore leaves behind his Extraordinary Gentlemen to dally with Lost Girls". Science Fiction Weekly. Archived from the original on August 11, 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2006.
- Wolk, Douglas (May 1, 2006). "Alan Moore's 'Literary' Pornography". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
- Gravett, Paul (October 1, 2006). "Moore's aim is to 'create a work of sufficient sensitivity that it might begin to redefine pornography as a beautiful, safe arena'". The Independent on Sunday. p. 35. Archived from the original on November 8, 2006. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
- "'Lost Girls' Sold Out". icv2.com. Milton Griepp. September 7, 2006. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
- "Top Shelf Settles 'Pan' Copyright Issue". icv2.com. Milton Griepp. October 27, 2006. Retrieved February 10, 2007.
- Melrose, Kevin. "IDW PUBLISHING ACQUIRES TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS," Comic Book Resources (January 6, 2015)
- Scad's Sequential Art Program
- Going Inside SCAD's Discovered[permanent dead link], Newsarama, April 2, 2008
- Official website
- Brett Warnock's Blog
- Top Shelf Productions at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)
- Podcast Interview with Chris Staros
- Interview with Brett Warnock at The Wright Opinion, from January 21, 2008
- "Independent Propaganda - INTERVIEW: Top Shelf's Chris Staros Part 1 of 2". Archived from the original on July 15, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2009.