IDW Publishing, the San Diego-based publisher of original series such as Locke & Key and 30 Days of Night and licensed comics including My Little Pony and Transformers, has acquired Top Shelf Productions, the publisher best known for literary works by authors such as Jeff Lemire, Craig Thompson, and James Kochalka, plus many of the recent works of Alan Moore, including League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls.
Top Shelf co-founder Chris Staros will remain with the company as editor-in-chief, and the publisher will retain its identity as an imprint of IDW, and its base in Marietta, Georgia. Staros’s business partner Brett Warnock has announced his intention to retire from comics.
In a statement on the IDW website, publisher Ted Adams noted, “The acquisition of Top Shelf is a milestone for IDW. We looked a very long time for a company that would complement our own publishing line-up, and in Top Shelf we found the ideal match. The addition of Top Shelf’s library further positions IDW’s leadership role among the top powerhouses in comics.”
Founded in 1997, Top Shelf has a reputation as a home for alternative artists and literary works ranging from Jeff Lemire’s slice-of-life Essex County series to congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel series March, with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. The publisher almost went out of business following the loss of its bookstore distributor LPC in 2002, and held a rush sale to keep itself afloat. The strategy worked, and inspired the company to hold a now-famous annual sale of back stock with prices as low as $3.
IDW was created in 1999 as a publisher for licensed properties, including Transformers, G.I. Joe, Angel, 24, CSI, Silent Hill, and Star Trek. Its first original property was 30 Days Of Night, by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, in 2002. In recent years the publisher has also become known for its high-end, archive-quality ‘Artist’s Edition‘ collections of classic works, including some works originally published by Marvel, DC, EC, and Dark Horse.
The merger offers obvious advantages to both companies, with Top Shelf likely to benefit from IDW’s infrastructure and media relationships, and IDW better able to position itself as a home to original works. The deal is reminiscent of Boom Studios‘ acquisition of Archaia in June 2013, which also saw a specialist in licensed properties take over a publisher with a rich portfolio of original works. That merger seems to have gone hand-in-hand with Boom’s growth as a major name in the contemporary comics scene. IDW is already one of the industry’s top five publishers by market share, but this merger undoubtedly reflects ambitions for further growth.