Tagged: Top Shelf

Tweeks Review March Book One by John Lewis

While we were off school for MLK Jr. Day, we decided to spend some time honoring the incredible Congressman John Lewis and his March graphic novel trilogy with a review of the first book & rebuke to some decidedly unpresidental tweets



Mike Gold:  Electronic Comics – The Next Generation

iPad ComicsThe distribution system that provided us with books, magazines, newspapers and comics started falling apart some 60 years ago. The term “newsstand” is no more relevant today than the term “buggy whip,” newspapers are folding so fast it’s affecting fish sales, and magazines are mostly sold at the bookstore chains that are going out of business faster than a speeding bullet. So it’s no surprise that I think the tablet computer is the greatest thing to happen to the publishing industry since Guttenberg learned how to spell.

The problem with comic books is that, while they look better and read better on tablets, for the past 20 years or so we’ve repositioned comic books into collectibles, with a half-dozen collectible covers and multiple printings and all sorts of folderol. Do people buy comics for the stories any more?

Well, yes we do, but more and more in the form of trade paperbacks, omnibus editions, and electronic downloads. The average sale of a traditional 32-page pamphlet comic book, even those featuring most major characters, is embarrassing. Sales have been growing lately, but a publisher wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning if he or she had to justify all that expense and lousy cash flow strictly by pamphlet sales.

History has shown us comic book readers like to keep their comics around. I don’t know why; the idea that you’ll want to refer to them in the future is enticing but impractical. Nonetheless, we usually keep our comics around for a while.

This is why I think last week the comic book medium quietly entered a critical new phase. ComiXology, the leading distributor of electronic comics, has entered into agreements to allow you do keep your downloads on your computers and sundry storage media. You will no longer be dependent upon access to decent Wi-Fi to get the comics you paid for, you will no longer live in fear that the electronic distribution service might go out of business and obliviate your collection.

In other words, you get to keep your comics. You pay for it, you keep it.

Initially, only a handful of publishers are allowing ComiXology to sell their comics DRM-free. That’s “digital rights management,” for those of you who are merely semi-nerds. The initial participating publishers are Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenoscope Entertainment, Thrillbent, Top Shelf and MonkeyBrain. These are not outfits that publish out of their garages.

All of these outfits already have dabbled in DRM-free distribution, but in their brief existence ComiXology has sold upwards of a quarter-billion digital comics. That’s one powerful distribution service. So big, in fact, that Amazon bought the company last April.

Will Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW, Archie and the rest join in? I’m dubious about Marvel and DC because their parent companies, Disney and Warner Bros (and maybe soon Rupert Murdoch) react to bootlegging the way slugs react to salt. They conflate electronic distribution with bootlegging. Of course, iTunes and the rest sell a hell of a lot of DRM-free stuff and it’s actually easier to bootleg it for free than it is to enter all that information. But people pay for millions of digital downloads every day. Why should comics be any different?

Of course, that tablet will change just like every other electronic toy. Smartphones are getting bigger, “laptop” computers are getting lighter and thinner, and it won’t be long before there’s another game-changer device that will be better and cooler. I’m thinking direct chip implants to the brain. So the question is, even if comics sales thrive on tablets and computers, will they adapt to whatever’s next?

I sure hope so.



Now available for pre-order from your local comic shop is Top Shelf ProductionsNEMO: HEART OF ICE, a new, standalone, thrill-ride By Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill from the world of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! This one’s an absolute blast, so get your pre-orders in now and don’t miss it.

About Nemo: Heart of Ice
Co-Published by Top Shelf Productions & Knockabout.

In the grim cold of February surfaces a thrilling new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book: NEMO: HEART OF ICE, a full-color 56-page adventure in the classic pulp tradition by the inestimable Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

It’s 1925, fifteen long years since Janni Dakkar first tried to escape the legacy of her dying science-pirate father, only to accept her destiny as the new Nemo, captain of the legendary Nautilus. Now, tired of her unending spree of plunder and destruction, Janni launches a grand expedition to surpass her father’s greatest failure: the exploration of Antarctica. Hot on her frozen trail are a trio of genius inventors, hired by an influential publishing tycoon to retrieve the plundered valuables of an African queen. It’s a deadly race to the bottom of the world — an uncharted land of wonder and horror where time is broken and the mountains bring madness. Jules Verne meets H.P. Lovecraft in the unforgettable final showdown, lost in the living, beating and appallingly inhuman HEART OF ICE.

A 56-page full-color hardcover graphic novel!

Coming in February 2013!

Top Shelf’s Annual Sale Going Through Sept. 28

Top Shelf is having its annual $3 web sale. When you visit the site, you’ll find 170 graphic novels and comics on sale — with over 100 titles marked down to just $3 & $1! Shipping & handling is a flat fee regardless of how much you order, so load up and save big!

Head honcho Chris Satros said, “Each year we use these funds to help clear the decks on our current amazing releases, and ‘kick start a full rollout for next year.”

But here are a few sample sale items:

— Slashed Prices: The Underwater Welder, Lost Dogs, League 2009/1969, and more!
— Slashed Prices: From Hell, Blankets (HC&SC), Carnet de Voyage, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Wizzywig, Lovely Horrible Stuff, Any Empire, Clumsy, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Chester 5000, SuperF*ckers, Moving Pictures, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Alec, American Elf, The Ticking, Far Arden, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Owly, Korgi, Johnny Boo, Dragon Puncher, and more!

— $3 Titles: Ax, Lucille, Undeleted Scenes, and more!
— $3 Titles: Gingerbread Girl, The Homeland Directive, Liar’s Kiss, and more!
— $3 Titles: Incredible Change-Bots, Night Animals, Underwire, and more!
— $3 Titles: Voice of the Fire, The Playwright, Fingerprints, and more!
— $3 Titles: BB Wolf, Three Fingers, The Surrogates (V1&V2), and more!
— $3 Titles: Pirate Penguin, Okie Dokie Donuts, Pinky & Stinky, Yam, and more!

— $1 Titles: Sulk (Vols 1, 2, & 3), SuperF*ckers #1-#4, and more!
— $1 Titles: The Surrogates #1-#5, The Sketchbook Diaries #1-#4, and more!
— $1 Titles: Lower Regions, Feeble Attempts, Conversations #1 & #2, and more!
— $1 Titles: Comic Diorama, The Man Who Loved Breasts, Doublecross, and more!
— $1 Titles: Tales/Great Unspoken, Black Ghost Apple Factory, Dang!, and more!
— $1 Titles: Mephisto & The Empty Box, Hey Mister, Yearbook Stores, and more!
**Please note that Top Shelf accepts PayPal (as well as Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and Discover — all secure), and that this sale is good for retailers as well (and comic book shops will get their wholesale discount on top of these sale prices).

Martha Thomases: Pekar’s Cleveland

The Avengers opens today. As near as I can tell from the Internets, I’m the last person in the world to see it. The New York Daily News reviewed it on Monday, since apparently everyone in the city has the option of going to a screening.

I hope to catch it this weekend, like a rube from the sticks.

Which brings me to the graphic story that has me most excited right now. Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland. Written by Harvey with fantastic art by Joseph Memnant, was just published by ZIP in collaboration with Top Shelf.

Cleveland, Ohio is a large, midwestern city, and, like many large midwestern cities, is a shadow of its former self. Unlike Chicago, it is not the City of Big Shoulders, nor is it the Hog Butcher of the World. It’s not like San Francisco, Miami or New York, a portal to the international scene. Cleveland is kind of schlubby, most famous these days for the fact that the Cuyahoga River caught fire… over a dozen times.

To me, Cleveland was the Big City. Growing up in Youngstown (about an hour and a half away), Cleveland to me was a place that was big where my town was small: the airport, the art museum, the library, the department stores. My father’s work took him more often to Pittsburgh (also about an hour and a half away), and he liked the Pirates and the Steelers. My mother liked the shopping better in Pittsburgh.

For me, there was no comparison. Cleveland was the city where Superman was born. Cleveland was the more rock’n’roll town, and had the best radio stations to prove it.

Pekar loved Cleveland for some of these reasons, and more. It’s his hometown, where he grew up and worked and married. He revels in the seemingly contradictory traditions of progressive politics, union membership, and racism.

The mix of history and personal reminiscence is both seamless and magical. Reading this book, you feel Cleveland as a place, not just a spot on a map, but a city where people live and work, dream and comfort each other. You root for the mass-transit system and the used book stores.

I was lucky enough to meet Harvey a few times, although never in Cleveland. I don’t have that chance anymore. Still, there’s a chance we might be able to keep more than his spirit in the city he loved. If you haven’t chipped in on this project, think about it. I’m told they could use more money.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Top Shelf to Publish Graphic Novel co-written by Georgia Representative

Top Shelf to Publish Graphic Novel co-written by Georgia Representative

February 7, 2010

Atlanta, GA – Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Top Shelf Productions have signed a publishing agreement. Top Shelf Productions has agreed to publish the graphic novel March, coauthored by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, tentatively scheduled for release in 2012.

“I am very pleased to be participating in this effort,” said Congressman John Lewis. “This is something I really wanted to do some years ago and there is no better time to do it than now. It is not just a story of struggle; it is a story of involvement. It shows the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs of a movement.

“It is my hope,” said Congressman Lewis, “that this work will be meaningful and helpful to future generations to give many people here in America and around the world the urge, the desire, to seek, to build, their own world, their own future.”

A meditation in the modern age on the distance traveled, both as a nation and as a people, since the days of Jim Crow and segregation, March tells the first hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights.

The publishing agreement is an historic first, both for the U.S. Congress and graphic novel publishing as a whole, marking the first time a sitting Member of Congress has authored a graphic novel. Top Shelf Productions is the first and only graphic novel publisher to be certified by the House Committee on Standards.

“As a proud resident of Georgia, and a long-time fan of the honorable Congressman,” adds publisher Chris Staros, “this is truly a deep honor. To bring, not only his life’s story, but that of the Civil Rights Movement to the comics medium is truly exciting. This will make this historical and timeless message accessible to an entirely new generation of readers.”

An artist has yet to be named for the project though candidates are being actively considered. (more…)

Diamond Suspends Book Shipments To Borders Due To Non-Payment

According to an email obtained by ComicMix, Diamond Book Distributors has suspended further  book shipments to Borders stores because Borders suspended payments to its suppliers earlier this week. Diamond handles distribution for Image, Oni, Dark Horse, Dynamite, and IDW, which distributes trade paperbacks to ComicMix.

The email (with redacted email addresses) follows:

Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2011 17:08:22 -0500
From: “Tom Sadowski”
To: “Tom Sadowski”
CC: “Bill Schanes”, “John Wurzer”, “Roger Fletcher”, “Kuo-Yu Liang”, “Joshua Hayes”

January 12, 2011

Dear Diamond Book Distributors Client,

This email is to confirm reports in the news that Borders is suspending
payments to its suppliers, inclluding [sic] Diamond. As a result, we have made
the difficult decision to stop shipping them and put their account on
hold, as of last week, until such time as they are able to resume payment.

DBD is actively seeking a resolution to this issue and will work with
Borders to get shipments moving again provided that we can craft a
solution that proves to be in the best interests of both DBD and our

If you have anyy [sic] additional questions or concerns, please feel free to
drop me an email or give me a call.


Bill Schanes
Vice President of Purchasing
Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc.

Borders has been in trouble for a while, with many of their current problems stemming from a 2005 $250 million stock buyback. The chain confirmed on December 30 that it was delaying payments to vendors while it works on restructuring its debt. On New Year’s Eve, Calvin Reid of Publishers Weekly reported that “at least one of the “big six” New York houses has suspended shipping books to Borders, a troubling sign for the company as it attempts to find lenders to refinance its debt and provide enough liquidity to get the national book retail chain through to early 2012. Borders carries about $450 million in trade payables on its balance sheet and many publishers are anxiously waiting to see which houses will be paid and which will not be.”

There are 509 Borders superstores and 168 Waldenbooks stores in the U.S., making Borders a significant segment of the retail market;  ICv2 estimating that over 20% of manga sales in the bookstore channel are through Borders.

For those industry people who remember the LPC bankruptcy in 2002, back when LPC was the exclusive distributor of trade paperbacks and graphic novels into bookstores for Image, Oni, Dark Horse, Top Shelf, Tokyo Pop, Drawn and Quarterly, Highwater Books, Alternative Comics, Humanoids Publishing, CrossGen, and AiT/PlanetLar, which helped bankrupt CrossGen and nearly took out Top Shelf, this is turning into a very nervous time.

PW reports that tomorrow Borders and publisher representatives will be meeting, hoping to hear “about the retailer’s new finance and turnaround plan from the Borders’ team. Publishers were unimpressed with the presentations made by Borders last week and the sense is that if Borders expects publishers to accept their proposal for publishers to exchange missed payments for notes, they need to hear a much more robust plan.” Borders also confirmed that it will officially shut its LaVergne, Tenn. warehouse by mid-July, cutting 310 jobs. Of course, by the end of tomorrow we could be hearing about a lot more jobs being lost…

Review: ‘Dragon Puncher’

Review: ‘Dragon Puncher’

[[[Dragon Puncher]]]
By James Kolchalka
Top Shelf, 40 pages, $9.95

James Kolchalka is an inventive cartoonist who likes to have fun with his subject matter and his artwork. In his latest offering from Top Shelf, this whimsical children’s tale mixes photography with simply drawings in an appealing way.

In his own words, the book is “about a cat in a battle suit that punches dragons, basically.” The title character is a figure with a picture of his family cat in place of a face, while his seven year old son Eli plays the eager Spoony E and the artist himself lends his face to the fierce dragon.

This is certainly a fast-moving story about good versus evil and friendship, making it an engaging children’s book. The art and photography are not seamless but play nicely with one another, with the figures set against green grass and blue skies. His offbeat humor comes through as the hero does not want a sidekick and Spoony E remains eager and oblivious to the cat’s distaste for him.

Together, the two have endure the dragon’s stinky breath and slimy drool. There’s a simplicity and an originality to the book that should enchant the parents who read this to their children or the children using it to launch their own imaginations.

ComicMix QuickPicks – January 8, 2009

ComicMix QuickPicks – January 8, 2009

Today’s installment of comic-related news items that wouldn’t generate a post of their own, but may be of interest…

* Heidi MacDonald checks in with comics pros for her annual year end survey: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The big themes: recession, online comics, comic book movies– and how gangbuster movie sales don’t translate into gangbuster comic sales. (Disclaimer: I’m one of those people included.)

* Asylum Press, having offered free comics for anyone signing up for their online newsletter within the first twelve days of December, has extended their offer. Anyone who signs up at asylumpress@aol.com before Jan. 31 will receive three free comics.

* Brian Cronin says "Comic book writers appear to have more of a presence on the internet than comic book artists." As the webmaster for Peter David’s weblog and all the work I’ve done over here… no kidding.

* Uclick has revealed an all-new mobile Web application for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch at the Macworld Conference & Expo event in San Francisco. By navigating to www.uclick.com on the iPhone and iPod touch, the Safari browser now displays the Uclick archive of 400,000 comic strips, single-panel comics and editorial cartoons. Currently the iPhone-optimized site features comic strips and single-panel cartoons, including Doonesbury, Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, Close to Home, and many more. Hat tip: Macworld UK.

* Top Shelf’s Leigh Walton and Comic Foundry’s Laura Hudson launched Cereblog, a dual critical analysis of every issue of Cerebus. In the same vein, Tom the Dog has been running weekly retrospectives of every appearance of GrimJack.

* And sadly, Cheryl Holdridge, one of the original "Mickey Mouse Club" Mouseketeers, died January 6th after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 64.

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.