By Matt D. Wilson

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s has become such a pivotal part of American history that sometimes we forget that some of the brave people who were around to participate in the sit-ins and boycotts that directly led to big changes in how Americans view race are still here to tell their stories. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia not only knew Martin Luther King Jr., but also marched, sat in, spread the word about non-violence and organized.


This week marks the release of The Surrogates: Case Files #1, from writer Robert Venditti and artist Brett Weldele from publisher Top Shelf Comix as a 25-page digital exclusive. Many of you will remember the basic premise of the series: in The Surrogates universe, scientists and big business have perfected technology that allows people to transfer their consciousness into artificial bodies. No one has to look old or unattractive (if you can get one of the top-notch bodies out there).

It also means that actual murders are a rare occurrence, and when they do happen, the cops have to find a perpetrator who likely wasn't even there in the flesh. That's what rookie detective Harry Greer will find out as we open Case Files #1 as he works his first murder case alongside veteran cop Ray Townsend. Read More...

Jeff Lemire's been tearing it up as a writer at DC on "Animal Man" and is just getting started on "Justice League Dark". But with his creator-owned, future classic "Sweet Tooth" coming to an end, we could be concerned about experiencing a severe lack of Lemire art, but thankfully, his long-awaited return to long-form storytelling as both writer and artist, "The Underwater Welder" hits in August, and you can pre-order and get a sneak peek at the 224-page graphic novel right now!

Ed Piskor's 'Wizzywig' Trailer

Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle is the invention of writer and artist Ed Piskor in the sprawling hacker serial, Wizzywig. In the release, Piskor traces Kevin's less-tan-legitimate career as a phreaker, cracker, and hacker from his earliest scams stealing long distance calls from Ma Bell, to high tech embezzlement during the consumer Internet era. The book collects Piskor's comic which he originally released online and has curated and collected here acts as a sort of illustrated history of hacking, an amalgamation of some high-profile Internet outlaws of the last three decades. It's thrilling/funny/hearbreaking stuff and definitely worth checking out.

Here's the synopsis:

They say What You See Is What You Get... but Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle could always see more than most people. In the world of phone phreaks, hackers, and scammers, he's a legend. His exploits are hotly debated: could he really get free long-distance calls by whistling into a pay phone? Did his video-game piracy scheme accidentally trigger the first computer virus? And did he really dodge the FBI by using their own wiretapping software against them? Is he even a real person? And if he's ever caught, what would happen to a geek like him in federal prison?

With the book coming out in July, we thought we might pick Piskor's brain about what makes his hacker tick.

MTV Geek: What was the genesis of Wizzywig?

Ed Piskor: Computer hacking is something that's always captured my imagination, mostly because of what I've seen in the media on the subject. I was drawing a 150 page comic for Harvey Pekar called Macedonia, and I found a 20+ year archive of this hacking/civil libertarian radio show, "Off The Hook," which kept me at the drawing board throughout the production of the book. The show is broadcast out of Manhattan, hosted by the enigmatic, Emmanuel Goldstein, publisher of 2600 magazine (The Hacker Quarterly). Because of his privileged position in the hacker world, Goldstein would be host to many hacker guests on his program.

Consuming each and every show in the archive, I was witness to some sprawling, epic, dramas that would peak and valley over the years. Read More...

By Danica Davidson

Any time a new Alan Moore graphic novel comes out, comics fans take heed. The bestselling "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century" trilogy will be releasing its third book this June from Top Shelf Productions.

The previous two books, which were written by Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, have both been Diamond Comics’ #1 bestsellers in the United States and the series has made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. Going in with this record, Top Shelf has high hopes for this trilogy-ender. Read More...

About a quarter of a way through writer Robert Venditti and artist Mike Huddleston's political thriller OGN The Homeland Directive, I started thinking about the classics in the same vein like Three Days of the Condor or The Marathon Man. The premise of this Top Shelf release, involving CDC researcher Laura Regan finding herself inexplicably targeted and on the run from shadowy elements of the government in the midst of a sudden, mysterious outbreak, moves along quickly while having, at its core, one of those sort of John Birch-bred conspiracies that seemed to be the stock of, I don't know, 70's pulp espionage novels maybe? After they stopped being all suave and debonair and moved more into the Mack Bolan territory--and then the plot is about how the government just has to do this one monstrous thing and everything will be alright? Maybe that's not accurate, but it feels like as good a point of comparison as any.

Venditti's story leaps past skepticism and right into full-bore cynicism when it comes to our political institutions: on the one side, there's the hawkish, grizzled Homeland Security Chief, a veteran from the last, presumably right-wing administration, and on the other, the politically calculating but spleen-less new, faceless guy in the Oval Office who talks a good game about national security, but isn't willing to entertain the methods of his predecessor. So the book then becomes about "National Security," complete with the scare quotes back there and a pretty dim view of those men and women tasked with protecting us. The Homeland Chief is one of those old guys who speaks with certitude: if only the idiot suits would just listen to him, he could save us all, dammit--why can't you see that it takes a couple of dead baby chickens to make a secure omelet or something along those lines.

[Update: Fixed the link to the sale at the bottom of the post]

Argh, the From Hell hardcover is $25 and I just bought the softcover!

Old school flips and kicks coming to you in comic form.


Enjoy nine pages of the new book from Top Shelf and writer/artist Ludovic Debeurme!


In his new OGN from Top Shelf, graphic novelist and musician Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) would like for you to consider how kids play and how they go to war. In the lyrical Any Empire, Powell takes several snapshots in the lives of a group of small-town children, with much of the focus on the quite, introverted, and war-obsessed Lee, whose story weaves in and out of the goings-on of the other characters in the novel. At times poignant, at at others surreal, Any Empire is an engaging, never preachy work about childhood, centering on those secret currents that define our youthful rivalries and the games we play. It's also a great looking title, too.

Powell spoke to MTV Geek by e-mail about the book, its origins, and our increased national obsession with war.

MTV Geek: What was the genesis for Any Empire? When did you start writing it?

Nate Powell: I started writing the book in spring 2007, while I was inking Swallow Me Whole. The notable seeds at that time were Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, On Killing by Dave Grossman, and the movie Children Of Men. It had hit me pretty hard at the time that abstract images of warzone rubble broadcast on the news was, in fact, former buildings and former neighborhoods—that, in 100 or 150 years, our city streets could reasonably be someone else’s broadcast rubble. Another major focus at the time was that a sovereign state’s preservation of itself is historically a much higher priority than representing or even protecting its citizens or their vital interests—that there’s a deep history within the U.S. of the state using force against its own citizens in different contexts. 2007 was also the first year that I started to acutely feel the dangerous authoritarian-right shift in many Americans’ political alignment, and that real debate, real discourse, was basically down the shitter. We’ve become immersed in a culture of fear and distrust, and when any shit actually does hit the fan, I fear that disenfranchised rednecks and authoritarian evangelicals might well be shooting their neighbors in the streets. Read More...

Publisher Top Shelf has for a few years been running its Top Shelf 2.0 initiative, with daily releases of installments of titles by indie creators like Emi Lenox (Emitown), Edward J. Grug III (Glorious Bounty), and J.D. Wilkes. And now you can add Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin to that mix, whose Gingerbread Girl is being serialized via TS 2.0, leading up to the May release of a print edition of the story.

Tobin and Coover were kind enough to talk to MTV about the series, the value of the digital platform, and the eventual collected edition of the story.

MTV Geek: How did the concept of Gingerbread Girl come about? And what brought it to the Top Shelf 2.0 platform?

Colleen Coover: We like to always have something of our own in the works while we are also making our living doing work for hire. We started Gingerbread Girl a little before we started getting regular work at Marvel Comics. I think Paul had the original idea after he read a book about neurobiology, which is where he learned about the concept of the Penfield Homunculus, the parts of the brain that correspond to the sense of touch at various parts of the body. Like most of his scripts, the story germinated from that little seed.

Paul Tobin: It originally wasn’t [part of Top Shelf 2.0], but as [Top Shelf publisher, production manager, and art director] Brett Warnock was talking to us about how to go about best presenting the project, we discussed how the “online” element had done so well on Matt Kindt’s Super Spy, and the online idea began to be very alluring. Serializing it online allows us to gain a wide readership, and also, in effect, present a great advertisement on a twice-weekly basis. Everybody wins.

Geek: Was the story originally being written with the kind of short, discrete chapters it has now?

PT: Absolutely. Because there are so many varied narrators it was, from the start, presented in bite-sized chunks as each of the narrators makes their point. When we made the “online” decision, Colleen and I sat down with the expectation that it would take us the whole night to decide where each online chapter would begin and end. A half-hour later we were done. It was simple. We probably then frittered away the rest of the night watching soccer, playing video games, or solving universal secrets. Time well spent, assuredly.

Geek: Tell us a little about the story itself.

PT: It’s a mystery story revolving around the central character, Annah, who believes she has a twin sister that was crafted from her Penfield Homunculus, a roughly human-shaped section of the brain that is responsible for the sense of touch. There is, however, no evidence that Ginger (the sister) exists, other than Annah’s personal claims. A series of narrators (female lovers, male lovers, a pigeon, bulldog, store clerk, magician, etc) then discuss if the “Ginger” claims are true… or if they have something to do with the trauma of the divorce of Annah’s parents, which coincidentally happened at the same time Ginger was “born.”

Geek: Could you tell us a little about Annah and the visual design of the character?

CC: I picked up on some of Paul’s descriptions of her from the script, in particular when she says her face is freckled and her knees are bony. From that, and her character as a whole, I envisioned her as fair-skinned, maybe a strawberry blonde. She’s feminine, bit with a bit of tomboy in her. Read More...

If graphic designer/comic writer Eric Skillman’s name isn’t immediately familiar to you, his work on the covers of some of high-end film restoration company the Criterion Collection’s titles might be. His design work has adorned the covers of film classics like Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well. But increasingly, the artist has been making more and more forays into writing, bringing his love of noir to his EGG: Hard-Boiled Stories anthology and in May he’ll be releasing his first OGN, Liar’s Kiss through Top Shelf.

Mr. Skillman was kind enough to talk to MTV Geek about his latest project, his graphic design work, and how to pick a good artist.

MTV Geek: Could you give our readers a rough sketch of the plot of Liar’s Kiss?

Eric Skillman: Without giving too much away—it is a whodunit after all—the book is about a private detective, Nick Archer, who spends his nights with the woman he's supposed to be surveilling on behalf of her jealous husband. But when the husband turns up murdered, his cheating wife is the prime suspect and it's up to Nick to clear her name… and even in those two sentences I've already lied to you at least once. Sorry, it's just that kind of book.

Geek: It seems like the story wears its noir inspirations proudly. Were there any particular stories that fed into Liar’s Kiss?

ES: I'm a big fan of all the classics, from Dashiell Hammett to Richard Stark to Sjöwall & Wahlöö, and all that's in there somewhere, I hope. But probably the most direct inspirations were, first, Allen Baron's fantastically bleak film Blast of Silence, the DVD release of which I was privileged to art-direct, with the great Sean Phillips providing cover art. As part of that package, we put together a little 4-page comic adaptation of the opening scenes of the film, which I broke down into comic script form for Sean to draw—just about the best first-comics-writing experience I can imagine, really. The process of putting that together was what first put the "noir comics" bug in my brain.

The second major inspiration was one of my favorite books, Richard Aleas's Songs of Innocence. "Aleas" (a pseudonym for Hard Case Crime founder Charles Ardai) manages to use genre conventions not just as stage dressing but as a way to play with your assumptions and expectations as a reader, in a way that really gives the book—the ending, in particular—a powerful emotional punch. If Jhomar and I have been able to achieve even a fraction of that, I'll be thrilled.

Geek: What caused you to make the leap into the full-length OGN format?

ES: Honestly it hardly occurred to me to do otherwise—it's really a pretty brisk jaunt from cover to cover, I imagine most people will wind up reading it through in one or two sittings. Even if practical considerations had forced us to serialize, it was always conceived of as one start-to-finish story, and I'm glad Top Shelf agreed that this was the best way to present it.

Geek: How did you end up bringing the project to Top Shelf?

ES: I've done a few design projects for the Top Shelf guys—Eddie Campbell's seminal ALEC omnibus, Eddie and Daren White's The Playwright, and the AX manga anthology—and really enjoyed working with them. Combine that with one of the best track records of any comics publisher and I guess it's obvious why Jhomar and I would want to work with them… I'm just thankful they were excited enough about the book to want to work with us!

Geek: Could you tell our readers a little about your background in graphic design?

ES: I've been designing packaging for DVDs, books, albums, posters, etc—you know, all that fun dead tree stuff that people used to buy before iPads—for about 10 years now, the majority of that time on staff at the Criterion Collection, where I've been privileged to work with and learn from some truly great designers and illustrators. Read More...

By Nick Nadel

Just in time for Black History Month, Top Shelf Productions has announced a project of truly historical proportions. In 2012, the indie comic book publisher will be publishing “March,” a graphic novel memoir penned by U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia. The partnership marks the first time that a sitting member of the House of Representatives has penned a comic book. It’s the best news for fans of comic book/government crossovers since Senator Patrick Leahy’s introduction for the “Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest” collection.

Cowritten with Andrew Aydin, “March” will explore the Civil Rights Movement in America through the lens of Lewis’ firsthand experiences. As Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was front-and-center during one of the most turbulent times in America’s history. In a statement, Congressman Lewis said:

“I am very pleased to be participating in this effort. This is something I really wanted to do some years ago and there is no better time to do it than now. It is not just a story of struggle; it is a story of involvement. It shows the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs of a movement."

The news comes at an interesting time for Top Shelf, which has recently been named the only comic book publisher to be certified by the House Committee on Standards. Publisher Chris Staros said of the collaboration, “As a proud resident of Georgia, and a long-time fan of the honorable Congressman, this is truly a deep honor. To bring, not only his life’s story, but that of the Civil Rights Movement to the comics medium is truly exciting.” Read More...

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