2007 marked Top Shelf‘s
Can you sum up the
Staros: Brett Warnock, my partner both started in the industry in
1994 with zines and small publications. Brett is a cartoonist and did mini
comics. I published The Staros report which covered worthwhile stuff published
in industry. It was like a printed ComicBookBin.com.
I was also representing folks in the industry.
We both met in the late 1990s and saw that we complemented
of each other and had the same taste in comics.
We started publishing under Primal Groove Press but we
changed the name to Top Shelf which Brett felt was better.
What are some of the accomplishment of Top
Staros: We brought a lot to the table. We’re not the only ones but
part of a movement to reshape the comic book trade. Literary material has
changed the opinion of comics. We publish exclusively graphic novels – no
serialization. It is an early thing that they did which contributed to redeem
We helped make independent press more accessible and a friendly
operation. As people try our books they find indy press is cool too. We bridge the
gap from other comic books like super heroes, which we like. Independent comics
are not just about odd and weird alienated stuff.
What would be some of your failures?
Staros: It’s hard to say, because the company is so geared towards
survival that maybe failure is not a huge wide success. Our struggle to keep an
independent press alive is an everyday fight. It is financially costly for a
publisher trying to discover new cartoonists and publish them with smaller
quantities of books. We publish books we absolutely love. Some are Critical
darlings that are well received but sometimes they are not well sold. The key is
to continue fighting.
How market changed in the ten years since
the beginning of Top Shelf?
Staros: There have been lots of changes in last 10 years. The world
and technology have changed.
important to stay on top of things and changes. Just when you think you have
everything mastered there is more change.
One change is the Internet and Hollywood’s interest in comics
and book trades. The Internet is good to get the word out. The Internet press offers
big benefits and is a favourite source of information.
The book trade and Hollywood have lots of interests. It’s not
only the direct market anymore but stores like Borders and big distributors like
Ingram, libraries and school. They have allowed us to grow and have a few more perennials
is the relationship with partner Brett Warnock
Staros: We still run the company day to day. He lives in Portland,
me I’m in Georgia.
We developed a
working relationship, where we both our specialities complement each other.
Also, the P.O Box, Fedex and the Internet help
things. We have a great partnership.
never had a fight. Even on publishing plans we both agree on everything and get
it out there.
What place does Top Shelf occupy in the
Staros: Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quaterly and Top Shelf are the
three big independent presses with a bunch more like Slave Labor Graphics.
Our job is to bring talent and try new things.
Top Shelf prides itself on good story contents and editing to make sure our
books are as good as possible before release. Comics are evermore a literary
medium outside of the industry. We make our world accessible and make comics a cool
In the 90s comics grew as a full and rich medium.
We contributed to that.
The last few years, we have released books for
kids to bring them into comics. If they pick up comics while being young they
will stay with comics later. We are glad to be part of that wave too.
How about digital comics?
Staros: We have not crossed this just yet because the economic model
has not materialized yet. The key for anything is to have the contents that
people want to buy. Print form is important too. We have not made jump to the delivery
of digital comics but we could go quickly if we wanted to, in as little as
What’s in store for Top Shelf’s future?
Staros: There are tons of stuff coming down the road. Next week, our
seasonal sampler of 2008 for books planed for 2008, 2009 and 2010 will be
available for people who see us at shows to get.
We have an all ages push with Owly James Kochalka and Nickelodeon.
There will be an Owly special for Free Comic Book Day. We have new guys coming
to the Top shelf family like Tim Sievert
Nate Powell who has been doing great comics last years – like
Swallow Me Whole is working on a full
length graphic novel. He’s working hard on the story to make it tight.
Alex Robinson has a book called Too Cool To Be Forgotten.
Liz Prince who wrote Will You Still Love Me If
I Wet The Bed?
Has a new book called Delayed
We have Super Spy by Matt Kindt and Lemire’s third volume on
Essex County will come out this year.
Marshal Law and The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman Volume
III are coming. We have more books by Craig Thomson, Bacchus by Eddie Campbell,
The Surrogates’ sequel which will tie in with the movie and lots of different projects
are coming up.
The Hey Mister After School Special was the first book we
published. Pete Sickman-Garner , the original creator will do Hell Hound in