Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions

Infobox Company
company_name = Top Shelf Productions
company_type = Comic publisher
company_slogan =
foundation = 1997
founder = Chris Staros and Brett Warnock
key_people =
location = Marietta, Georgia
industry = Comics
homepage = []

Top Shelf Productions is an American publishing company started in 1997, owned and operated by Chris Staros and Brett Warnock. The company 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, Alex Robinson, and Josh Simmons.


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. [cite web| url = | title =Take It From The Top | accessdate =2007-09-02 | last =Contino | first =Jennifer M. | authorlink =Jennifer M. Contino | year =2002 | month =February | work =Interview with Chris Staros | publisher =Sequential Tart | archiveurl = | archivedate =November 19, 2005 ] The name is a reference to the high-quality brands of liquor which are kept on the "top shelf" in a bar.

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, [cite news | first=Richard | last=von Busack | pages= | title=Georgia's small publisher Top Shelf Comics delivers the graphic goods | date=March 4-10, 1999 | work= Metro|publisher=Metro Publishing Inc. | url= | accessdate =2007-02-09 ] 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, [cite press release |title=Top Shelf Expands Its Relationship With Diamond |publisher= Comic Book Resources |date=August 2, 2002 |url= |accessdate=2007-02-09 |quote=Top Shelf has risen to become one of the comics industry’s most respected publishers ] with it being chosen as a book of the year by "The Comics Journal" (#220) alongside the Top Shelf distributed "From Hell". [cite journal | author =various | year =2000 | month =February | title =TCJ Books of the Year | journal =The Comics Journal | volume =1 | issue =220 | pages =14–26 | id =ISSN|0194-7869 ]

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, attempting to "change the public perception and face of comics altogether".cite web| url = | title =Interview: Chris Staros | accessdate =2007-02-09 | last =Clough | first =Robert| date =October 5, 2000| work =Savant Issue 21| publisher =Savant ] 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. [cite web| url = | title =News: Ignatz Awards 2000 | accessdate =2007-02-09 | last =Spurgeon | first =Tom | authorlink =Tom Spurgeon | date =September 30, 2000 | work =The Comics Reporter | publisher =Tom Spurgeon ]

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."cite journal | last =Dean | first =Michael | authorlink =Michael Dean | year =2002 | month =May | title =LPC's Chapter 11 and Top Shelf's Near-Death Experience | journal =The Comics Journal | volume =1 | issue =243 | pages =3–8 | id =ISSN|0194-7869 ]

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. [cite web| url = | title =convention season is upon us | accessdate =2007-02-10 | last =Warnock | first =Brett | authorlink =Brett Warnock | date =24 January 2006 | work =company blog | publisher =Top Shelf Publishing | quote =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. ] The 2004 Comic Con International saw the company launch 8 books, of which two were immediate sell-outs. [cite news | first=Andrew D. | last=Arnold | title=The Other Big Convention | date=July 30, 2004 | publisher=Time Magazine | url=,9565,674161,00.html | accessdate =2007-02-09 ] This has at times caused unrest with retailers, particularly when "Blankets" was launched at the 2003 Comic Con International. [cite web| url = | title =Innovative Graphic Novels Debut at San Diego | accessdate =2007-02-09 | author =Staff writer | date = July 31, 2003| work | publisher =Milton Griepp | quote =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. ] The company also followed this route with "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 Alan Moore describing the work as "pornography"cite web
url =| title = Alan Moore leaves behind his "Extraordinary Gentlemen" to dally with "Lost Girls"| accessdate = 2006-08-08| last = Schindler| first = Dorman T.| date = 2006-08-07| work = Science Fiction Weekly
] and Chris Staros admitting that publication was "putting the whole company on the line".cite news | first=Douglas | last=Wolk| title=Alan Moore's 'Literary' Pornography | date=5/1/2006 | publisher=Publishers Weekly |url=| accessdate =2007-02-09] 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.cite news first=Paul|last=Gravett|authorlink=Paul Gravett| pages=35 | title=Moore's aim is to 'create a work of sufficient sensitivity that it might begin to redefine pornography as a beautiful, safe arena' | date=October 1, 2006 | publisher=The Independent on Sunday | url=|accessdate=2007-02-10] [cite web| url = | title ='Lost Girls' Sold Out | accessdate =2007-02-09 | date =September 07, 2006 | work | publisher =Milton Griepp] The work has yet to be distributed in the United Kingdom, as Great Ormond Street Hospital currently own the copyright to "Peter Pan". Top Shelf have agreed not to distribute the work in the UK until after that copyright expires at the end of 2007. They do, however, refute that the work breaches the copyrights held. [cite web| url = | title =Top Shelf Settles 'Pan' Copyright Issue | accessdate =2007-02-10 | date =October 27, 2006 | work | publisher =Milton Griepp]


Alan Moore

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: " (with Kevin O'Neill, 2008)
* "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) []

Craig Thompson

Titles by Craig Thompson include:

*"Good-bye, Chunky Rice"
*"Carnet de Voyage"

Andy Runton

Titles by Andy Runton include:

** "The Way Home"
** "Just A Little Blue"
** "Flying Lessons"
** "A Time To Be Brave"

Jeffrey Brown

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"

James Kochalka

Titles by James Kochalka include:

*"Super F*Ckers"
*"Monkey Vs. Robot"
*"American Elf"
*"Pinky & Stinky"
*"Magic Boy and the Robot Elf"
*"The Perfect Planet"

Alex Robinson

Titles by Alex Robinson include:

*"Box Office Poison"
*"Bop! - More Box Office Poison"

Renée French

Titles by Renée French include:

*"The Ticking"
*"The Soap Lady"

Jason Hall

Titles by Jason Hall include:

*"Pistolwhip" (with Matt Kindt):
** "Pistolwhip"
** "The Yellow Menace"
** "Mephisto & The Empty Box"

Matt Kindt

Titles by Matt Kindt include:

*"2 Sisters"
*"Pistolwhip" (with Jason Hall):
** "Pistolwhip"
** "The Yellow Menace"
** "Mephisto & The Empty Box"
*"Super Spy"

Nicolas Mahler

Titles by Nicolas Mahler include:

*"Lone Racer"
*"Van Helsing's Night Off"

Tom Hart

Titles by Tom Hart include:

*"Hutch Owen":
** "The Collected"
** "Unmarketable"

Rich Koslowski

Titles by Rich Koslowski include:

*"The King"
*"Three Fingers"

Tony Consiglio

Titles by Tony Consiglio include:

*"110 Per¢"

Dan James

Titles by Dan James include:

*"The Octopi & The Ocean"

Max Estes

Titles by Max Estes include:

*"Coffee & Donuts"
*"Hello, Again"

David Yurkovich

Titles by David Yurkovich include:

*"Less Than Heroes"


Other titles by various authors include:

*"Barefoot Serpent" by Scott Morse
*"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 [ [ Scad's Sequential Art Program] ] [ [ Going Inside SCAD's "Discovered"] , Newsarama, April 2, 2008]
*"" by Jef Czekaj
*"Korgi" by Christian Slade
*"Please Release" by Nate Powell
*"Regards From Serbia" by Aleksandar Zograf
*"Same Difference & Other Stories" by Derek Kirk Kim
*"Speechless" by Peter Kuper
*"Spiral-Bound" by Aaron Renier
*"The Surrogates" by Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele
*"Tales From The Farm" by Jeff Lemire
*"Tales Of Woodsman Pete" by Lilli Carre
*"Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed?" by Liz Prince


External links

* [ Top Shelf Productions]
* [ Brett Warnock's Blog]
* [ Podcast Interview with Chris Staros]
* [ Interview with Brett Warnock] at The Wright Opinion, from January 21, 2008

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