INDUSTRY: IDW Publishing Acquires Top Shelf Comics

idwtop-shelfIndependent Comics house IDW Publishing announced in a press release today that they had completed the acquisition of indie publisher Top Shelf Comics, creator of such noted literary comics works as From Hell and Essex County.

With consolidation being the name of the game these days, following the acquisition of Archaia by BOOM! Studios last year, IDW becomes the latest publisher to make a move to expand its offerings and market share. “IDW has been interested in pursuing an acquisition(s) for some time…” said IDW CEO and publisher Ted Adams. “Top Shelf, as it turned out, was by far the best of these and Bill [Schanes] facilitated the “matchmaking” early on. Once the companies got to know each other better, the rest was, as they say, history.”

IDW appears committed to retaining the management talent which has helped guide Top Shelf since its inception in 1997, stating that co-founder Chris Staros would join the restructured organization as Editor-in-Chief of the Top Shelf imprint. When asked about the rest of the existing staff, Adams stated that “While Chris’ long-time friend and business partner, Brett Warnock, has decided to retire from the world of comics and explore business opportunities through his newly launched food and nature blog, the rest of the Top Shelf staff will remain in place to continue Top Shelf’s indy-focused operations: Leigh Walton as Top Shelf’s Publicist & Marketing Director; Chris Ross as Lead Designer & Digital Director; and Zac Boone as Warehouse Manager.”

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The following is a Q&A that was distributed with the press release:

Will Top Shelf retain its own brand identity?
Absolutely. It will remain a distinct imprint within the IDW family of books.

How will IDW Publishing’s new ownership role directly impact Top Shelf?
IDW’s main role will be the support and management of Top Shelf’s infrastructure — production, sales, marketing and promotional initiatives. IDW will also provide additional funding to secure new breakout projects so that Top Shelf can direct their full attention to producing fan-favorite award-winning books.

IDW will use its 15 years of publishing experience to further enhance Top Shelf’s incredible line-up and ensure that the backlist is always available to an expanded retailer and consumer base.

What role will Chris Staros have going forward at Top Shelf?
Chris Staros will join the company as Editor-in-Chief of Top Shelf Productions and will expand his role as one of the most innovative editors, marketers and new talent scouts in the industry. Therefore, Top Shelf’s fans can expect the same independent editorial approach that has yielded first-rate books and garnered industry-wide awards.

What about the rest of The Top Shelf staff?
While Chris’ long-time friend and business partner, Brett Warnock, has decided to retire from the world of comics and explore business opportunities through his newly launched food and nature blog, the rest of the Top Shelf staff will remain in place to continue Top Shelf’s indy-focused operations: Leigh Walton as Top Shelf’s Publicist & Marketing Director; Chris Rossas Lead Designer & Digital Director; and Zac Boone as Warehouse Manager.

How does this acquisition affect Top Shelf’s independent creators?
Top Shelf publishing agreements will be honored in full, with all creator rights and deal points continuing as they are currently written. IDW will also be able to ensure that Top Shelf’s extensive catalog stays in print, and all creators receive royalties on the solid schedule IDW is known for.

How will this transition affect retailers?
We anticipate a very smooth transition, as both IDW and Top Shelf use Diamond Comic Distributors and Diamond Book Distributors as their exclusive distribution partners for both the comic book specialty market and book market. The entire Top Shelf inventory is already being warehoused by Diamond in the same location as the IDW inventory.

How did the transaction come about?
IDW has been interested in pursuing an acquisition(s) for some time and earlier in 2014 retained industry veteran Bill Schanes (former VP of purchasing for Diamond) as a consultant to thoroughly investigate acquisition opportunities. Top Shelf, as it turned out, was by far the best of these and Bill facilitated the “matchmaking” early on. Once the companies got to know each other better, the rest was, as they say, history.

Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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