Hey Bartender!

September 20, 2014

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The Great $3 Sale continues, though there is now less than one week left. And here’s the thing… there’s a lot of amazing feature length graphic novels that can be yours for only a buck a pop! Hot diggity, jump on this!

A few favorite hidden gems of my own.

Cicada, by Josue Menjivar. A devastating and beautiful rumination of love and loss, that aches with humanity. Josue’s comics are slices of the human condition, stripped down to the bones.

Banks/Eubanks, by Tom Hart. More heart-wrenching despair, by one of comics’ foremost minimalists. Matt Fraction, in a review said, "Hart's subtleties, humanity, and gentle-yet-uproarious humor [are] compelling and satisfying.” If you don’t trust me, trust Matt Fraction!




Beach Safari, by Mawil Witzel. Truly one of my very favorite comics, that toes a strange line between an anthropomorphic rabbit, and a bevy a beautiful young women, all basically just frolicking on a beach. Words cannot describe how gorgeously drawn and delightful this book is.









September 18, 2014

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Y'know, it's just not in this bartender's nature to toot his own horn. I've always believed that to a great extent, the work we shepherd into the world, in conjunction with amazing craftsmen, cartoonists, and storytellers, should speak for itself. And i still still do.

Be this whole $3 Sale?... are you kidding me? Who the f*ck has sales this awesome? This discounted? This cheap? Brand spanking new front-list tiles are HALF OFF! Seriously?

And then we have some absurdly cost effective deals for you, our dear fans and readers. Essex County and Infinite Kung Fu, for 10 bucks each! That's almost a thousand pages of incredibly well-conceived and produced comics for $20... that's 2 cents a page, people!

And how about our $3 titles... Jeff Lemire's heart-wrenching Underwater Welder. THREE dollars!

How about this underrated GEM:

That Salty Air, by Tim Sievert. Tim had made a rough version of this book as a school project while attending MCAD. (Minneapolis School of Art and Design.) I was blown away, when Kevin Cannon (Far Arden and Crater XV) showed it to me years ago, and when i asked Tim if he could expand it into a more-or-less feature length book, he knocked it out of the park. At turns tender and sweet, other times harsh and brutal,That Salty Air is a stellar example of the type of book we've longed to produce at Top Shelf; filled with heart and subtext, diving into and explore what it means to be human. I cannot recommend this book enough.

A few other people felt the same...

"An amazing, strong, well-paced graphic novel about relationships and what we must be do to keep them on course while we are submerged in the complexities of life."
Booklist (starred review)

"A confident debut that portends more good things to come from this creator ... Sievert has fused tragic loss with imagination ... It's a beautiful thing."
—Web Behrens, Playboy

"A deeply felt parable for the author, and one that can touch anyone faced with the inexplicability of loss." —Paul Gravett, Author of Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life

"An example of comics at their most literate and intelligent."
—Kevin Church, Comic Book Resources


From the Veeps Archives

August 25, 2014 / More →

Here's Bill Kelter’s guest article on Politico July 31, 2008.

Will it be the Rust Belt governor who eats chili dogs with the guys at the John Deere factory or the rock-ribbed senator with a quarter-century of statesman’s gravitas? The quadrennial pageant is upon us, and for all the hoopla, you’d think our vice presidential hopefuls were auditioning for the second-most-powerful job in the country.

Would that it were so. The old saw goes that Americans vote for president, not vice president, and history bears that out. Voters gave George H.W. Bush the White House in 1988 in spite of his still-mystifying VP choice of Dan Quayle. The junior senator from Indiana accepted his nod like a child receiving a puppy on Christmas morning — and then gaffed his way to having his head handed to him by Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in one of the most memorable live television moments since Alexander Butterfield divulged the Oval Office taping apparatus.

With rare exception, the American vice presidency has long been our national afterthought, a place where naked ambition goes to die — and a heartbreaking 8 feet from the finish line.

The office has been so ill regarded that, for the first 176 years of its existence, America went without a sitting vice president for an astounding total of 37 years.

Given the rickety caliber of many of the men to hold the office, it isn’t surprising that, until the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, the country placed so low a priority on how its unexpectedly departed vice presidents were replaced.

Everyone knows the story of Vice President Aaron Burr being indicted for murder in two states for the dueling death of Alexander Hamilton, but few of his successors proved to be men of appreciably greater character or capability.

Thomas Jefferson chose for his second vice president former New York Gov. George Clinton. Clinton had been circling the drain for eight years before he became Jefferson’s VP. He was hard-pressed to complete his gubernatorial farewell address in 1795 because he had “been so long in dealing in speeches that I found it extremely difficult to draft one for the last session without committing plagiarism.” New Hampshire Sen. William Plumer said of Clinton: “He is old, feeble and altogether uncapable. ... He has no mind, no intellect, no memory.”

Nonetheless, Clinton was selected again for the second slot by Jefferson’s successor, James Madison, and in 1812 became the first VP to die in office.

Madison followed his puzzling choice of the ancient Clinton with the brittle Elbridge Gerry and, in 1814, earned the distinction of being the first and only president to have two of his vice presidents die in office.

Gerry’s successor, Daniel Tompkins, under President James Monroe, was beset by personal financial difficulties and was so frequently inebriated that he couldn’t attend to his minimal duties. Noted one Senate observer, “He was several times so drunk in the chair that he could with difficulty put the question.”

President Abraham Lincoln’s disgruntled first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, abandoned Washington and returned to his native Maine, ultimately enlisting in the state’s Coast Guard. While Lincoln was putting himself in harm’s way visiting Gettysburg and Antietam, America’s second-highest officeholder was serving his riven country on plebeian kitchen duty.

Richard Nixon passed on Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller to tap unknown first-term Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew as his running mate. A Washington Post editorial called the selection “the most eccentric political appointment since Caligula named his horse a consul.” Agnew was driven from office when it was disclosed that he had carried into the White House a kickback deal made with a Maryland building contractor, accepting bundles of money in meetings with his liaison at his office in the Old Executive Office Building.

There were well-intended picks who wouldn’t have survived a modern vetting. President Franklin Pierce’s vice president, William Rufus DeVane King, brought to the office his purported longtime romantic relationship with the man who would become the nation’s only bachelor president, James Buchanan. The foppish and flamboyant King was referred to in Washington as “Buchanan’s better half,” “his wife” and “Miss Nancy.” To applaud Pierce’s choice as a pioneering stand for diversity would be giving him too much credit, and in any event, he overlooked the crucial issue of King’s health: King was dead of tuberculosis before he could even take his seat in Washington.

Some of the best picks have known how far beneath their pay grade the office was. Theodore Roosevelt made plans to enroll in law school, as he was certain he would have little to do in his official capacity. President Woodrow Wilson’s VP, Thomas Riley Marshall, quipped as he neared retirement, “I don’t want to work. I wouldn’t mind being vice president again.”

The nominees’ VP picks are going to fall very soon, but like the proverbial tree in the forest, don’t be surprised if they don’t make a noise, no matter how many of us are waiting to hear it.


Catching up on Veeps!

August 22, 2014 / More →

I posted an article titled "A Shared ‘Vice’" on my Tumblr blog, Chez Brett.

"It’s their boyish enthusiasm that engages you first. Despite being nearly into middle age, they have a youthful zeal that’s infectious–no matter how oddly directed it turns out to be..."

The same article can be read on the Veeps blog here.

Also posted, Bill Kelter's post on vice president nominee from the past, Sarah Palin.

Finally, since Alison Hallett is leaving the Portland Mercury, i thought this might be a good time to pull out her interview with Bill from August 23, 2012. They talk about Joe Biden and then nominee with Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan. As the mid-term elections loom closer, we're no doubt going to start hearing more about potential presidential tickets. Here comes the circus!


Final Courtroom Sketch Art

August 14, 2014 / More →

The last in our three part series on Wayne Shellbarger's courtroom sketch art. Excerpted from Kevin Bohahnis' cover feature article on Wayne in Courtroom Sketch Artist magazine.

Part 1
Part 2

"Wayne would go on to enjoy the apotheosis of his career in 2009 with his unprecedented selection to sketch his own trial—“like getting to pull the switch on your own electric chair” he marveled in a 2010 interview for the documentary, Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance and the notoriety for his subsequent misdemeanor conviction for the attempted assassination of the Vice President-elect."

Wayne is traveling from San Francisco to Portland in just a couple short weeks, and will be in attendance at our Veeps movie premier at Cinema 21, as part of the Portland Film Festival. Learn more and buy tickets here. Come on out and rub elbows with the courtroom sketch artist tasked with sketching how own trial!














More Courtroom Sketch Art

August 13, 2014 / More →

As promised, here are more of Wayne Shellabarger's terrific courtroom sketches.

(Read the first installment in this 3-part series here.)

From Kevin Bohahnis, writing in Sketch Art Monthly magazine"

"Wayne achieved even greater renown within the courtroom sketch art community in 1999 when a hardware store owner in Omaha appealed his 1998 conviction of fraud and elder abuse on the grounds that his depiction by the courtroom sketch artist for the Omaha World Herald had made him “look like Liberace” and unfairly biased the jury of 9 men and 3 women against him. Though he didn’t know Wayne’s name, he gave clippings of Wayne’s previous sketches to his attorney and asked that he petition the judge to assign Wayne to sketch his appeal. The judge denied his request, but this was the first and only known motion of its kind in the history of American courtroom sketch-related jurisprudence."






Courtroom Sketch Milestones

August 12, 2014 / More →

Wayne Shellabarger, the graphic mastermind behind the portraits in Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance, has unearthed some of his courtroom sketches.

(Excerpted from Sketch Art Monthly.)
"Wayne made his mark early in courtroom sketch art. He was just 22 when he was tabbed to sketch the trial of a “Mayor McCheese” from a Cos Cob, Virginia McDonaldland who assaulted four teenagers who had been taunting him and trying to steal his sash and pince-nez. In a courtroom reveal that made national headlines, the “Mayor” turned out to be a 3-time Tony Award-winning Shakespearean actor who had crumbled under the duress and humiliation of moonlighting anonymously as fast food and minor league sports mascots to make his exorbitant monthly alimony payments."







Wayne Shellabarger, on how he got into courtroom sketch art: “That Perry Mason episode was there for me, every day, and in some ways, became my mother.” (Excerpted from the film of the same name.)

Tomorrow we'll take a look at more from Wayne's weathered sketchbook.

To learn more about the venerable and, unfortunately, dying art form of courtroom sketch art, check out this excellent video.


Life at Top Shelf Productions.

August 7, 2014 / More →

Well good golly, i wish i could have been at ComicCon, if for no other reason than to buy Pete Sickman-Garner — one of the longest tenured Top Shelfers — a couple rounds at the bar. His heartfelt cartoons really capture life at the busy Top Shelf Empire. Life doesn’t get better than this, folks.





Don’t forget to vote for your favorite nominated comics in the annual Harvey Awards. (Deadline is August 18.)

Top Shelf scored 4 nominations:
Best Artist - Nate Powell, MARCH: BOOK ONE.

Best Graphic Album - Original - MARCH: BOOK ONE.

Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation - MARCH: BOOK ONE, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.

Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers - MONSTER ON THE HILL, by Rob Harrell.


ComicCon is in full swing, baby!

July 25, 2014 / More →

If ya didn’t know already, rock star cartoonist Nate Powell is attending ComicCon. Nate was nominated for yet another Eisner award for his is exquisite artwork in March: Book One. He’ll be talking about his work on the Top Shelf panel in about an hour from now.

Friday July 25, 2014 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Room 32AB

I was there with Nate and his mom & dad when Swallow Me Whole won the Eisner for Best Original Graphic Novel! That was super fun.

There’s a lot happening with March, so try to keep up. And check out the gorgeous cover just announced for March: Book Two! (That's some sweet cover design by Nate and Chris Ross, eh?)

- The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Columbus OH will be displaying some of Nate Powell’s stunning artwork for March in their exhibit, The Long March: Civil Rights in Cartoons and Comics. August 16 – November 30, 2014. The show features roughly 25 of Nate’s pieces-- most of which are from March: Book One. A 4-page sequence from March: Book Two is included, plus the color "burning bus" piece from the front cover.

"The exhibit… explores the tensions, struggles, and victories from multiple perspectives, including mainstream daily newspapers and the black press.

"The public is invited to a free curator’s program on the opening day, August 16, with Jared Gardner, followed by a book signing in the BICLM lobby with the illustrator of March, Nate Powell."

Also, on Monday, September 15, Congressman John Lewis, Nate Powell, and Andrew Aydin, will be discussing the Civil Rights Movement and the experience of telling Congressman Lewis’s story in the graphic novel March, as part of Remembering the Act: Archival Reflections on Civil Rights, on display at the Thompson Library Gallery from September 15, 2014 – January 4, 2015. More news forthcoming.

Thompson Library
1858 Neil Avenue Mall
Columbus, OH

- Here’s a terrific segment on CNN with Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aiden, talking about March: Book 2.


ComicCon goes full-time today!

July 24, 2014 / More →

And damn, i wish i could sit in on THIS panel tomorrow afternoonl: Top Shelf Productions Featuring Kevin O'Neill and More!

Top Shelf will we be covering some general news, and Kevin O’Neill will be there too, talking about his work with Alan Moore on League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

Friday July 25, 2014 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Room 32AB

Plus Eric Orchard (Maddy Kettle), Pete Sickman-Garner (Hey, Mister), Jeffrey Brown (A Matter of Life), and Van Jensen (Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer) will be at the show signing books and talking shop.



Added bonus!


ComicCon starts TOMORROW!

July 22, 2014 / More →

Nerds of the universe, i will miss you in all your geeky glory.

If you do happen to make it down to San Diego this weekend, there’s lots of Top Shelf goodness happening. For example:

The panel titled God Is Disappointed in You with Shannon Wheeler & Mark Russell

God Is Disappointed in You is the tongue-in-cheek "condensed" version of the Bible you never knew you needed-hilariously modern, but surprisingly authentic-with illustrations and gags by New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man). Wheeler and writer Mark Russell join together for an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate "ten-minute Bible.”

Thursday, July 24 • 10:00am - 11:00am
Room 32AB

When not hanging with Top Shelf, booth #1721, Shannon will be at booth K13, and will be selling original art from the book.

The audible book version of God Is Disappointed in You comes out TODAY!

Note also, Shannon will be teaching a comic book art class at Portland State University August 18 - September 11; attending the Boise Library convention September 5th and 6th; Small Press Expo September 12th-13th; Alternative Press Expo October 4th-5th


Chris Sheridan's Motorcycle Samurai

July 21, 2014 / More →

Chris Sheridan has been working steadily on his serialized, “guided-view” digital-comic book Motorcycle Samurai for about a year now, and damn if it ain’t cool as heck, mixing a heady blend of various genres into one rad cocktail; there’s Motorcycles and Samurais of course, but also Elvis, Westerns, Crime, Post-Apocalypse, and Girl Gangs. All lusciously drawn, colored and executed in a psychedelic pop-art style.

Motorcycle Samurai has been favorably featured on several podcasts, including Comics Alternative, Comics Squee, Stash My Comics, and 11 O’Clock Comics.

Adrockington at Animockery says, "The art is very loose and incredibly appealing. Sheridan’s color choices and backgrounds are spot on… The panel transitions are some of the best I’ve experienced. Sheridan combines strong images in unique ways… The story is wonderfully intriguing and loaded with subtle humor."

Pipedream Comics interviewed Chris about the genesis of Motorcyle Samurai.

Here's a taste of the wildly imaginative developmental art and pitch material Chris worked up in the early stages.


















Start experiencing Motorcycle Samurai from the beginning right now!

And here, Comics Alliance ran a long art set of material, including this sweet Star Wars art.


Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something

July 3, 2014 / More →

Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something is off to the presses very soon, and it’s no secret how much i love this stuff. I’m too old to have grown up with The Transformers, and so Change-Bots was my initiation into that world. He provided your gracious bartender with some great process photos of an interior spread in the new book. Thanks, Jeffrey!



Here’s the final cover, and a wicked cool trailer from the original book can be seen here.

Jeffrey was interviewed by Robots with Coffee not too long ago; a quick and fun read.

Meanwhile, it’s not too late too late to order Two Point Something Something from your trusty LCS (Local Comics Shop). Do it, or admit fealty to the dreaded Fantasticons!

Incredible Change-Bots #1

“…wonderfully silly… genuinely childlike and playful… Just plain delightful.”
Booklist

Incredible Change-Bots #2

“...really clever… [Jeffrey Brown] clearly knows his source material well… a delight to read.”
Wired.com GeekDad

Finally, here's a sweet promotional spot illustration and cover art from the deluxe hardcover editions of the first two books.





In which i catch up with the authors of God is Disappointed in You, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

June 24, 2014 / More →

Really cool news! Pre-orders are available for the “audiobook” of God is Disappointed in You. Soon you’ll be able to hear the Voice of God, and he sounds like Dr. Venture (voice actor James Urbaniak) from The Venture Bros. The official release date is July 22nd.

Shannon is currently at work on a new 32 page Too Much Coffee Man story for Dark Horse Presents, running as 4-8 page chapters, which they’ll eventually collect in one volume. Check out this old-school cross-hatching!

Shannon has also done 20 pages of breakdowns for a short story he’s drawing, written by Mark, called Traveling to Mars for Fun and Profit.

Finally, Mark recently had a terrific essay published in Stir Journal, titled Are the New Atheists Committing the Old Mistakes?

If you haven't read God is Disappointed in You, well... shame on you! It's not too late, AND it's available in a plethora of formats too.


June 10, 2014

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Top Shelf's Humble Bundle steal of a deal ends soon. Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want, DRM-free package deal for some sweet-ass digital books. Frankly, your Luddite bartender still reads his comics on paper, but if you prefer digital devices, who am i to hold you back from a smashingly good deal.

This particular Humble Bundle deal — which expires in just under 24 hours — contains five rad Top Shelf titles: From Hell, The From Hell Companion, Wizzywig, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, and March.

Um, yeah… From Hell alone is worth the price of admission, as thick, chewy, and all-consuming as that is. Plus you get Eddie Campbell’s wonderfully written From Hell Companion book, a DVD-style, behind-the-scenes “making of” recounting one of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time.

March: Book One has been the talk of the town, and with good reason. A #1 New York Times Bestseller. A #1 Washington Post Bestseller. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Need i go on? Needless to say, besides that it’s gorgeously drawn with compelling storytelling, it one of those “important” books, co-written by legendary sitting Congressman John Lewis.

Years ago Ed Piskor — currently an Eisner nominee for his recent book Hip Hop Family Tree — started self-publishing Wizzywig, the epic tale of Kevin "Boingthump” Phenicle, and his world of phone phreaks, hackers, and scammers. I read the first two volumes and fell in love. I think this is Ed’s magnum opus, and the deliriously lush design by Chris Ross makes this book sing.

"Extremely pleasurable... A gripping story with lots of good, meaty forbidden knowledge and insight into the hacker mindset.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Too Cool to Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson’s most recent masterpiece, is most known for it’s time-travel conceit, which send its protagonist Andy Wicks back in time, to relive, well… heck, i won’t spoil it. Anyway, what always stuck with me the most was the way in which Alex expertly handled the death of Andy’s father. Powerful. I cried. The stuff of life.