|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 6 January 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:
Titles by Craig Thompson include:
Titles by Andy Runton include:
Titles by Jeffrey Brown include:
Titles by James Kochalka include:
Titles by Alex Robinson include:
Titles by Nate Powell include:
Titles by Renée French include:
Titles by Jason Hall include:
Titles by Matt Kindt include:
Titles by Jeff Lemire include:
Titles by Nicolas Mahler include:
Titles by Tom Hart include:
Titles by Rich Koslowski include:
Titles by Tony Consiglio include:
Titles by Dan James[disambiguation needed] include:
Titles by Max Estes include:
Titles by David Yurkovich include:
Other titles by various authors include:
Top Shelf has risen to become one of the comics industry’s most respected publishers
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.
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.