Brett Warnock began publishing graphic novels and comics in 1995 with the anthology Top Shelf. Created in the spirit of promoting the careers of up-and-coming cartoonists, the anthology has since grown in scope and size, garnering critical accolades, as well as Best Anthology nominations from both the Harvey and Ignatz Awards. Publication of several other books followed, and Top Shelf began its reputation as a leader in discovering and showcasing the vanguard of the alternative comics scene.
During this time, Chris Staros was gaining his own acclaim as the American agent for several international cartoonists (such as Eddie Campbell and Gary Spencer Millidge), as well as for being the author of The Staros Report; an annual hundred-page industry resource guide dedicated to discussing the most intelligent and innovative comics in the industry. The Staros Report also garnered a Best Comics Related Periodical nomination from the Harvey Awards, as well two nominations from the prestigious Eisner Awards.
Brett and Chris first became friends, and then, at the Small Press Expo (SPX) in 1997, decided to become publishing partners in the newly formed Top Shelf Productions, Inc. Since that time, Top Shelf Productions has published over 350 award-winning and critically-acclaimed graphic novels and comic books that have helped to revitalize interest in comics as a literary art form. Most notably, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell's March, Alan Moore's From Hell (with Eddie Campbell), Lost Girls (with Melinda Gebbie), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (with Kevin O'Neill), Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Jeff Lemire’s Essex County and The Underwater Welder, Jeffrey Brown's Clumsy, and Kim Dwinell’s Surfside Girls -- all of which have garnered accolades from the likes of CNN, NPR, MSNBC, The Late Show, The Daily Show, Time, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, and the New York Times. Several have been made into major motion pictures, with TV shows of Surfside Girls and Essex County coming in 2022 and 2023.
In 2015, Top Shelf joined the IDW Publishing family, and Top Shelf publications are now distributed worldwide by Penguin Random House (PRH).