Top Shelf Productions



June 1, 2008

Guest blog by our man Rob Venditti, writer of the graphic novel The Surrogates:

"This past week, Chris Staros, Brett Weldele, and I were invited to visit the set of the upcoming SURROGATES movie, currently filming in Boston. It was a trip for the ages, and I left having learned a lot about what goes into the making of a big-budget film. What surprised me more than anything else was the sheer enormity of the production, which involves hundreds of cast and crewmembers, as well as multiple sets scattered around the metro area.

"I was equally surprised at how much they went out of their way to make us feel welcome. I expected us to spend the two-day visit scrambling to stay out of everyone’s way and keep our nuisance quotient at the lowest possible level, but the people we met were genuinely interested in showing us what’s in store for the film adaptation. On the first day, the location scouts took us on a tour through the various sets in downtown Worcester—it’s crazy what the set dressers are able to accomplish in a relatively short time, taking a run-down room in an abandoned building and turning it into a fully realized space. I couldn’t see for certain who the artists were, but some of the local concert posters hanging on the wall in one set smacked heavily of the Fort Thunder crowd.

"On the second day we visited the main production office in Woburn, where the production designers were bent over their drafting tables, sketching out concepts for sets and props that are yet to be built. The level of detail they’re going into is beyond reason—one of the particularly impressive props we saw was about the size of a phone booth. I stepped closer for a better look and saw a small sticker, maybe twice the size of a business card, on which were typed the user instructions, as though the prop were a real mechanism and not something created for a film set. I can’t imagine that it’ll be filmed close enough to actually read the instructions or even notice them, but they’re there anyway. That’s just one example of how carefully the designers are thinking this thing through.

"We spent a good amount of time watching the actual filming as well. We saw Bruce Willis do dialogue. We saw him do action. Even better, we saw him do the quiet moments where it’s just him and the camera as he pieces together the film’s mystery. Everything we saw only reinforced what I’ve said from the beginning—Willis is THE guy to play Greer.

"To the slater who let me work the 'sticks,' thank you. To craft services, who kept us in cookies, pizza bagels, and bottled water, thank you. To the lunch caterers—I went in expecting chicken strips and tater tots, and you gave me shrimp scampi and shepherd’s pie—thank you. To everyone who took the time to show us around, thank you. Our visit was every bit as enjoyable and informative as a school field trip, except instead of visiting the planetarium, we, you know, saw our story getting turned into a feature film.

"The question I’ve been asked more than any other over the past year is: 'Does it feel like this is really happening?' Hollywood is always in such a state of flux that it’s hard to ever know definitively where things stand. So it never really felt real—not after seeing the screenplay, or even after hearing that Bruce Willis had been cast in the lead. But when I was on set and saw the slate, on which were the words SURROGATES and beneath that DIRECTED BY JONATHAN MOSTOW, PHOTOGRAPHED BY OLIVER WOOD, that was a different story. Now it feels real."

Robert Venditti

(And here's the cover for the upcoming sequel graphic novel, Surrogates: Flesh and Bone.)


6-10 PM
David Chelsea will appear at Floating World Comics, in Portland’s historic Chinatown district, celebrating the release of his book 24x2, published by Top Shelf Productions. 24x2 collects two 24-page stories, each created over the course of a 24-hour period!

The party will also celebrate the opening of a gallery show at Floating World, featuring the art of legendary alternative cartoonists Peter Bagge, J.R. Williams, and Mats!?. The show will run through June 30th.

David Chelsea is a Portland-based cartoonist and illustrator. His graphic novels David Chelsea in Love (1992) and Welcome to the Zone (1995) have earned him a cult following. His hybrid graphic novel / textbook Perspective! For Comic Book Artists (1997) has helped cartoonists create realistic worlds for over a decade. His illustrations for the “Modern Love” column greet readers of the New York Times every week.

But perhaps his most unique achievement is his history with the 24-hour comic book — a complete 24-page comic book story, created from start to finish in 24 hours. Since his first 24-hour comic experience in 2004, Chelsea has returned again and again to this comic-book crucible, completing his stunning TENTH 24-hour comic on April 5, 2008.

Now, Top Shelf Productions presents the cream of Chelsea’s crop: two hand-picked 24-hour comics from the reigning champion of the form.

WHO: David Chelsea, Peter Bagge, J.R. Williams, Mats!?, and the public!
WHAT: Gallery show, opening reception, book release party for David Chelsea’s 24x2
wWHEN: Thursday, June 5, 6-10PM
WHERE: Floating World Comics
20 NW 5th Ave #101
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 241-0227

• I recently picked up one of the coolest books EVER. Hats off to editor Charlie Kochman at Abrams for spearheading a stunning collection of the brilliant old-school Wacky Packages stickers. Featuring an interview with art spiegelman, who worked on these waaaaay back in the day, and an afterword by contributing artist Jay Lynch, this tight little tome showcases every single Wacky Packages bubblegum card of Series 1-7 back in the early 70s.

Holy crap, this is a seriously fun blast from the past. Highly recommended!!!

• Finally, i'm leaving for Montreal in just a few days (on route to MoCCA in New York City)... i'm hoping to post a list of items i'll be seeking out from the current Diamond Previews before i leave. There is a freaking boatload of great stuff coming out this Summer!