Hey Bartender! pg. 4

December 11, 2012

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Lizz Lunney is the BEST! Not only does she produce wonderfully odd, funny, cute & charming comics and stickers and postcards and stuff, but she always sends out THE best promotional holiday gift package ever. And damn, how gorgeous is this cover to her new mini, At the... End of Your Garden.

Comics Lifestyle

December 7, 2012 / More →

Old pal John Weeks has been busy! He's made his new issue of Quick Draw available on many digital platforms. John is one of those awesomely wonky comics brains we should all be paying more attention to. Here's what he has to say:

"I've released QuickDraw #6 as an early holiday tidbit for 'Free Comics Friday', in English and Khmer. If Amazon and the iBookstore are going to hold such a large amount of the playing field I'm going to suit up and get in their face. (I'm using the site 'BookBaby.com' as a one-stop shop for digital distro.)

"Very keen to get some translated Khmer comics online, this first foray is a test run for translated Khmer comics.
E-Comics aren't terribly lucrative, but they seem like a good angle coming from Cambodia where shipping overshadows print costs."


November 29, 2012 / More →

Folks, i've gotta say i'm getting really really really fucking stoked for the launch of James Kochalka's insanely funny SuperF*ckers on Cartoon Hangover! James has been busting balls, as evidenced by this outstanding interview at Verbicide Magazine.

I know this has been trotted out in dozens of places, but if you haven't seen the trailer yet, feast your eyes!

• Also, make sure to read this terrific David Lasky interview at The Comics Journal. He talks about his new book The Carter Family, and also name-drops myself, and my attempts to coerce him in publishing a Boom Boom Omnibus.

Glorkbot's Mini-Adventure

November 1, 2012 / More →

October 17, 2012

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APE was this last weekend. I know, i was there. It was also New York Con as well... Leigh and Leah were there. That's right, represent!

• Moving right along, how cool is this swell Cleveland Library Card, drawn by Joseph Remnant!

• And oh how sweet is this wonderful drawing James Kochalka made for a forthcoming edition of digital American Elf!

October 5, 2012

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Cartoonist Diana Thung and designer Chris Ross are really working together well, and producing some real sweet covers for Diana's work.

August Moon

Requiem for a Golum
{Coming soon as a digital exclusive}

Splendour in the Snow
{Coming soon as a digital exclusive}

September 26, 2012

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"James Kochalka, mark my words, is our Proust."

• SPX was amazing this year. I hadn't been since the 2008 election cycle, and the return trip was energizing. My thanks to Warren Bernard, Kevin Panetta, Mike and the crew. I FINALLY met two of the people i publish, in Jennifer Hayden and Jess Fink (NSFW!), both of whom are super cool. It really is an honor to work with so many authentic and exceptional people.

Also got to meet and hang with Andrew Aydin, who is co-authoring March, with Congressman John Lewis.

Top Shelfers Grant Reynolds, Tom Hart, and Nate Powell were all on hand, either at the booth or their own tables. (Look how fancy Nate looks here with Andrew Aydin and Rep. John Lewis. Nice suit, m'man!) And of course, Leigh Walton and his girlfriend Leah rocked the booth all weekend.

Saw a lot of people briefly: All of the Fantagraphics crew (Groth & Thompson, Eric Reynolds, Jacq Cohen, and newbie Jen Vaughn), Tom Galambos, Jim Rugg, Dan Zettwoch, Theo Ellsworth, and man, so many more people. Current intern Joyana McDiarmid, former intern Andy Kettler, Jesse Reklaw, Hazel Newlevant, and on and on. If only there was more time. Sigh...

Had the very good fortune of fine conversation with: Annie Koyama, Sean T. Collins, Tom Spurgeon, Chris Pitzer, Ethan Rilly, Renee French, Warren Craghead, Tom Neeley, Sam Arthur (NoBrow), Jim Dougan, Chris Duffy.

Gratitude to everyone with whom i crossed paths.

Nate Powell's Frech Edition of Any Empire looks pretty rad, i'd say. And did you know, he's been publishing comics for twenty years! WTF?!

I've been immortalized in another diary comic, this time in Jennifer Hayden's Rushes blog.

• How gorgeous is Garret Izumi's Chinese Calendar. (I know know, 2012 is almost over… it's not my fault! My sister had been holding onto this for months. Really. You can ask Garret.)

Scott Allie with an outstanding blog on comics storytelling.

September 11, 2012

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Ai carumba, it's our $3 Sale!

• And in other news, Minneapolis-based collective Paper Darts is releasing the 4th swanky issue of their gorgeous magazine! "More than double the size of Paper Darts’ previous print magazines, Volume Four is obscenely huge, featuring a swelling handful of authors, artists, and musicians who have made a blood oath vowing to explore nonconforming perspectives of art and culture."

These folks are full-up with enthusiasm, their previous issues blew my mind with killer art and writing, and... I'M IN this new issue! Whoo hoo! (Full disclosure: I have a super crush on the founders of this magazine. But let not this dissuade you from tracking down the new issue.)

They're having a swell launch party October 11. Learn more here. Wish i could attend!

I heart Paper Darts!

September 5, 2012

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Diana Thung's graphic novel August Moon is headed to press, and while it's been a long time coming (thank you for your patience, Diana), this is a book i'm very very proud to be associated with. I've been a fan of Diana's work ever since i saw her debut, Captain Long Ears. (Published by Slave Labor.) There's something about her art, ideas, and stories, a wonderful magic realism that speaks to me. I'm reminded of Miyazaki especially.

Also, big ups to Diana and Chris Ross on a gorgeous cover. This is a real beauty.

• And now, for you Kochalkaholics! One terrific review of two Dragon Puncher books.

• And check it; with SPX looming, and the digital release of Tom Hart's Hutch Owen: Let's Get Furious imminent, we'll be doing a swell protest poster to help spread the word. Tom designed the front, and Chris Ross did the back (with all the text).

August 30, 2012

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Oh, yeah... Veeps are all the rage right now, as the internet is all aflutter with Paul Ryan's bullshit acceptance speech, riddled with lies and mistruths, last night at the RNC. Yeesh, what a douchebag. (Don't get me wrong, i'm equal opportunity in my loathing of 99% of our politicians... but man, those GOP types are extra special douchy.)

Check out this Bill Kelter / Wayne Shellabarger interview on the Unnamed Sources podcast, available at iTunes.

Meanwhile, man, we are totally closing in on finishing our Veeps film, fours years later... more to come.

Stephen Theaker gives James Kochalka's Monkey vs. Robot some love (for the digital edition) at Theaker's Quarterly. Now, i'm one of Kochalka's biggest fans, and for my money, Monkey vs Robot sits up there in my own pantheon of favorites, alongside Pinky & Stinky (all-ages), SuperF*ckers (decidedly not all-ages), and American Elf. So if you have some sort of digital reader and a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, give this terrific, timeless parable a chance.

Veeps in the City!

August 24, 2012 / More →

That would be here in Portland, OR. Veeps author Bill Kelter is interviewed in the newest issue of the Portland Mercury, to be more accurate, courtesy of Alison Hallett. (Thanks Alison!)

Bill talks a little about GOP Veep candidate Paul Ryan. "We're early in the game, but Paul Ryan could seriously disrupt our entire franchise. Teddy Roosevelt and Walter Mondale were fairly sober and serious men, but there was just enough to glean from their regional affects to support the two centuries-strong thesis of the peculiar nature of the American vice president. Like [Ryan] or not, even many Democrats concede that he's smart, articulate, and fit. It's very un-vice presidential."

They also briefly discuss the Veeps movie. (It's SOOOOO close to being in-the-can.) Meanwhile, here is Veeps artist Wayne Shellabarger's sweet poster!

August 17, 2012

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One month later... oh, Summer time! The heat has finally reached the normally temperate climes of the Pacific Northwest, and so there's been much hibernating in air-conditioned coffee-shops and trips to the river. I hope all y'all out there are doing what you can to stay frosty.

• Nate Powell is (no surprise here) one helluva busy man.

Follow this link to see a bounty of penciled pages galore on his forthcoming books! What a treat!

Also, digital-fans, Nate's mammoth comics collection Sounds of You Name is slated for release on September 19th!

• Craig Thompson is selling the original cover art to his recently remastered and reformatted edition of his epic classic graphic novel Blankets, to benefit people hit hard by monsoons in the Philippines. Learn more here.

• Finally, Jess Smart Smiley's forthcoming Upside Down: A Vampire Tale has been nominated for an Arty Award... kind of a big deal in Utah. Check out a preview of his terrific all-ages book here. Learn more and vote here at Salt Lake City Weekly.

July 20, 2012

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• ComicCon is once again in the rear-view mirror, and here is a bitchin' video from (of all sources) Red Bull, featuring lots of the Top Shelf posse!!

(Side note: As always, THE best source for reading all about comics news, including ComicCon links galore, is Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter.)

• Here is James Kochalka's most recent American Elf cover for the digital editions. I'm so proud that he won an Eisner this year. James is a fucking nation treasure, people, so get with the program already!

• Miscellaneous note: Veeps writer Bill Kelter was interviewed on a CNN podcast!! How cool is that? The link to the podcast is on the left side of the page.

Former Top Shelf intern Hazel Newlevant was awarded a Xeric grant for her comic, Ci Vediamo, in the very last round of grants from the esteemed organization. She's hoping to have it printed up by the end of Summer.

• Finally, i just dropped $25 on a Kickstarter campaign for one of my favorite local bands, The Blackberry Bushes String Band, from Olympia, WA. This is one infectiously fun and crazy talented ensemble, worthy of your support.


July 11, 2012 / More →

Hello, and Happy Summer, true believers! You trusty bartender writing in after a crazy long spell. I still haven't been entirely up-to-speed since the flood in my house back in the Spring. So yeah, here it is, ComicCon time and me not attending for the second year in a row. I certainly don't miss the heat & chaos, the sheer numbers, the Hollywood feeding frenzy, and that same dude dressed like Wolverine year in and year out, but at the same time, i sure wish i could spend some quality time with my friends who will be hanging at the Top Shelf booth, and the people close to me otherwise. The industry might be in a constant state of unease, but the community of comics is something that very few other entertainment industries can match. Meanwhile, i'll be spending this weekend with my kid Cfunk outside Eugene, Oregon, at the world's biggest hippy festival, The Oregon Country Fair.

Back to ComicCon, there is no dearth of Top Shelf related things-to-do this year. Our booth number is #1721. Here is a list of who will be in attendance, besides our own Top Shelf stalwarts Chris (@chrisstaros) Staros, Leigh (@leighwalton) Walton, Andy (@owly) Runton, and Chris (@chrisross) Ross. And if you're not already, follow Top Shelf on Twitter! @topshelfcomix

• Jeff (@JeffLemire) Lemire will be on hand primping his brand spanking new OGN Underwater Welder. Signing schedule follows below. We'll also have the newly designed and superbly remastered (by Chris Ross) edition of Jeff's raw, powerful debut, Lost Dogs for sale. The Beguiling will be selling original artwork, and Jeff will be selling this rad exclusive bookplate.

• Ed (@EdPiskor) Piskor will be signing copies of his hot new book Wizzywig. He too will have a sweet print available, what i believe to be an abandoned early concept for the Wizzywig cover.

James Kochalka's long overdue 4th volume of American Elf is out. And we'll be releasing the entire backlist of American Elf as part of our digital program, one year at a time.

James writes, "I’ve been drawing my daily diary comic strip since October 1998. I just completed another sketchbook… so I stacked them all up rather dangerously to try and get a perspective on how much I’ve accomplished so far. That’s like 4500 pages of comics."

We'll have copies of SuperF*ckers, Johnny Boo, and Dragon Puncher on hand, and James will also have some of his incredibly neat Little Paintings for sale at the show.

• Joseph (@JosephRemnant) Remnant will be around, signing copies of his gorgeously drawn Pekar book, Cleveland.

Eddie Campbell makes his return to ComicCon, and, frankly, he's the main reason i personally am bummed i can't attend this year. I love this man. And his latest, The Lovely Horrible Stuff, is just one more testament to his incredible comics storytelling. His magnum opus pseudo-biograohical Alec is also a real life "must read," if you fancy yourself a true comics fan.

• It's a little surreal — and entirely awesome — to consider that our very first hire at Top Shelf, Robert (@robertvenditti) Venditti, was brought on to work in our warehouse doing pack & ship. Now he's a bonafide rock start comics writer! With his bitchin' new run on Valiant's new X-O Manowar, i'd wager he'll be signing comics at a Valiant booth, but i also suspect he'll be slinging copies of Homeland Directive, and Surrogates, with the cats at the Top Shelf booth.

(And if you haven't read it already, go back and read this feature interview with Rob and Tom Spurgeon.)

Nate Powell will of course be doing his thing, charming the socks off of any passerby who happens by. When he's not on a panel, grabbing a bite to eat, signing copies of Any Empire & Swallow Me Whole, or going to the bathroom, chances are you can find him at the Top Shelf booth most of the show. Full schedule follows.

Oh yeah, the news broke today that Nate will be drawing our forthcoming memoir of Congressman John Lewis! There are a handful of preview mini-comics at the show... grab one if you can!

Jeffrey Brown — world-reknowned for his Girlfriend Trilogy and the spoof/homage Incredible Change-Bots — will have a new mini-comic which chronicles the making of his first foray into feature film writing, Save The Date, from when producer Jordan Horowitz first emailed him, up to the film getting into the Sundance Film Festival. He'll have a little bit of original art (as will the Scott Eder Gallery at Booth #4515) and hand drawn trading cards, but will mostly be signing Darth Vader and Son.

• Matt (@mattkindt) Kindt will be busy at the show… pretty sure he'll be signing Mind Mgmt with Dark Horse, but also chillin' at the Top Shelf booth, signing copies of this & that and the other thing… all brilliant, of course.

• A little birdie told me that Craig Thompson will be around on Friday only, starting at 10:30 am.… He'll have this wicked beautiful Habibi print on hand, screen printed by Pete McCracken.

Finally, we also just announced some incredible news on digital releases. Big ups to our "digital guy" Chris Ross for making our digital program nothing less that a resounding success!

- Wednesday, July 11
6:00-9:00 pm

- Thursday, July 12
2:30-4:30 pm

- Friday, July 13
10:00 am-12:00 pm
6:30-7:30 pm Spotlight on Jeff Lemire with Scott Snyder. (Room 5AB)

- Saturday, July 14
10:00 am-12:00 pm
2:00-4:00 pm

- Sunday, July 15
1:30-2:00 pm Top Shelf/Underwater Welder panel (Room 4)

- Thursday, July 12
3:00-4:00 pm "Graphic Novels: The Bookstore Crowd" panel with Alison Bechdel, Kate Beaton, Brecht Evens, Jennifer and Matt Holm, Jason Shiga. Moderated by Tom Spurgeon. (Room 23ABC)

- Friday, July 13
11:00am-12:00pm Signing at First Second Booth (#1323)
2:00-3:00 pm Nate Powell artist spotlight panel (Room 9)

- Saturday, July 14
1:00-2:00 pm-- Top Shelf panel (Room 4)
2:30-3:00 pm Signing at First Second Booth (#1323)

- Sunday, July 15
10:00 am-12:00 pm Signing at MacKids booth (?!) for Year Of The Beasts. (#1220)
12:15-1:45 pm CBLDF Benefit Rock Art Jam w/ Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. (Room 5AB)


Design Process: WIZZYWIG

May 16, 2012 / More →

We started with about eight thumbnails from Ed. All of them have different variations of the main character, Kevin, in different situations. The one that we all liked the most was the one with the Macintosh on the cover.

I like going in different directions, trying to discover colors textures and other design elements. Here are some early variations cover that I came up with. Most were rejected, but it's when we got to the spine or we all agreed it was an neat idea. It's funny being a contrary designer, because you end up finding things that later work on later projects (the rough "used" idea I later used with Jeff Lemire's THE UNDERWATER WELDER, and some of the type treatments I'm using on a TOP SECRET PROJECT.

Matt Kindt did a variation using photographs, and we liked parts of the composition when Ed integrated the drawn version. Here's Matt's version:

I also did a variation with photographs using the MacPaint window, as well as one that looked like old computer manuals from my childhood (see above). I usually like mocking out the book in 3-D program so I can get a sense of the whole book. Ed liked the rainbow spine, and also wanted to use a green/interlace motif. He later used this on the back cover.

Brett and I wanted the main character to be on the back cover holding the barcode like he's posing for a mug shot. So Ed came up with this:

While Brett, Ed, and I were thinking about the back cover, Ed brought up designing the end papers.

Brett and I thought about the endpapers as being inside of a computer, as though you were opening a computer when you opened the book. I thought it would be interesting to have schematics or a hand-drawn version of a motherboard that was extremely detailed One of the endpapers Ed provided was inverted. This gave me the idea that it would be interesting to print white ink on black paper, reminding me of blueprints. There was a concern that the white ink wouldn't look right on black paper, so we asked the printer to provide samples. The white ink actually made the paper look almost pearlescent.

Ed and I came up with a rough idea of the entire cover spread, with updates on the back that he was noodling on. I starting building variations with Kevin standing in front of the backcover "screen" were the blurbs would go.

Ed and I tightened the back cover. I refined the spine and his design of the back, including varying the placement of Kevin, creating and sharpening the olive logo, and moving things around.

This was the tight rough after the art came to me from Ed. A lot of what I do is take a design I worked on (usually with an author) and prepare it for print—sort of like taking a wrench and tightening the design.

I then worked with Ed to nudge the backcover, tighten up the spine (again!), and to note gloss and deboss. Ed and I were simpatico with what we both felt were important areas to gloss and deboss, and I added a slight screen glare and interlacing to the back cover. Then off to press!

You'll notice on the version below that it seems empty around the outsides—this is because I have to design books that wrap around the boards of the book and tuck under the endpapers. You'll see a mirror image on the keyboards that will fool your eye—it's something you'll never see, but like Steve Jobs' father said, we know it's there.

And now it's off to comic book shops, bookstores, ebooks, etc.


—Chris Ross