Indie publishing mainstay Top Shelf has started the year out with some new partners. Long run by the two-man brain trust of Chris Staros and Brett Warnock, the publisher has added two partners, new media entrepreneur John S. Johnson, and independent film producer Anthony Bregman who together will own 33% of the company.
Under the deal, Johnson will join Top Shelf's board, while Bregman's Likely Story production company will have a first look development deal, the first fruit of which is putting Alex Robinson's Too Cool To Be Forgotten into development. The deal has been framed as "a supportive investment," leaving Staros and Warnock as majority stockholders.
Over the years, Top Shelf has established itself as a home for some top cartoonists, and has certainly become known for being a small, hands on operation. Staros stresses that the new partners aren't a move towards becoming a more complicated, Hollywood-focused operation—it's more a mingling of like-minded independent spirits, he says. Bregman's company has produced such films as Synecdoche New York and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindand has two films in this year's Sundance Film festival. Johnson's projects include such things as EYEBEAM, a lab for artists, engineers and hackers and The Screenwriters Colony, a Nantucket retreat for emerging screenwriters.
"They are kindred spirits," said Staros. "John and Anthony really have the right mindset fur us—they want us to keep doing what we are doing." The deal doesn't really mark a chage in howTop Shelf does business, but does give them funding for continuing with the kind of books they've been publishing, he stresses and more connections with new media opportunities. "If there's something that can be adapted into film and it's a good opportunity then it can happen, but that's not what we're thinking, and not what Anthony is thinking about." Although Bregman will have a first look deal, Top Shelf will keep its existing relationships with CAA and agent Jason Grode.
The move doesn't mean a big expansion either —2010 will see Top Shelf continue with its normal slate of 20-25 books, including new and returning authors. Offerings from Top Shelf regulars include a collection of James Kochalka' superhero spoof Superf*ckers and a new Johnny Boo book; Matt Kindt's Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers; and Undeleted Scenes, a collection of short pieces by Jeffrey Brown.
April will see what Staros dubs "The Swedish Invasion" with several books from the burgeoning scene: Hey Princess by Mats Jonsson, The 120 Days Of Simon by Simon Gardenfors, The Troll King by Kolbeinn Karlsson and US distribution for a second volume of the anthology From The Shadow Of The Northern Lights (Vol 2) and Swedish Comics Historyby Fredrik Strömberg. The books will be supprted by a tour with a launch party at Rocketship in Brooklyn, appearances at MoCCA and C2E2 in Chicago, with a party at Nerd City in Chicago. Staros has been a guest at the Swedish small press show and hopes to reciprocate that hospitality in the US.
In July, a new book by Eddie Campbell and Daren White debuts, The Playwright, which Staros describes as "the story of a playwright who really has trouble connecting with women but uses his failed experiences to write incredible plays. I was blown away by the script when I read it."
Finally, the next volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (Vol. III): Century is on the schedule for October, although Staros warns that is subject to change.