Top Shelf Asks the Big Questions

I bought this chunky volume for two inclusions: the Cobweb story that DC wouldn’t publish, and a cartoonists’ tribute to Peanuts.

The former is about what I expected — a profile of a wizard that mentions L. Ron Hubbard in ways DC found disturbing, interesting to me only for historical reasons — while the latter was a touching surprise that helped me understand why Charles Schulz’s passing was such a tragedy.

Top Shelf Asks the Big Questions cover
Top Shelf Asks
the Big Questions
Buy this book

Also included is a long interview with David Chelsea that touches more on his recent illustration work, leaving me with questions about his comics. The interviewer is obviously familiar with them, but since one of the major pieces came out from Eclipse in the 80s, I would have liked more information on them, having never seen one. That I’m curious enough to want to track them down — especially his book on perspective that’s favorably compared to Understanding Comics — shows that the interview accomplished at least one of its purposes.

The rest of the book… there were a few pieces that stood out. I liked the monkey and crocodile folktale by Rob Goodin, done in delicate linework. Jesse Reklaw’s short piece about toilets and “Democracy” is both thought-provoking and artistically involving, with its repetition and varied characters. The rest of the book is mostly people I’m unfamiliar with, many from outside the US, working in the expected artsy styles.

An acquaintance called this anthology “Top Shelf Cleans Out Its Slush Pile”, and there is a junky closet feel to the book, especially since it includes two different previous covers. It’s a very mixed bag, and I found the price high, given how little of it I really liked. I don’t think it’s overpriced, given the color sections and sheer width, but my value for money wasn’t as high as I would have hoped for. No wonder I’m burnt out on anthologies!

This was the last such anthology volume from the publisher. Top Shelf is now putting a variety of comics online with the text “This section is, in effect, the continuation of the now-defunct Top Shelf print anthology.”


6 Responses to “Top Shelf Asks the Big Questions”

  1. Nat Gertler Says:

    For the Dave Chelsea material: Dave Chelsea In Love, which is (I presume) the Eclipse material you mention, was reissued in TPB a few years back and thus may be findable. The Perspective book is still in print, although I doubt it will be as of-interest to non-artists as Understanding Comics is.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, this is an old review — I’ve since read (and been disappointed by) David Chelsea in Love. It’s a shame that Reed Graphics, the publisher, didn’t last longer than it did. Thanks for the Perspective link.

  3. Bill Burns Says:

    I picked this up for three bucks at one of the Top Shelf online sales. That’s a lot of comics for three bucks!

    I think I had about the same reaction you did, but I also really enjoyed the Mack White “Weird West” piece.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Oh, yeah, on that much of a sale, it’s a great deal.

  5. Lea Says:

    The Perspecive Book is fantastic. It cut through my ADD when it comes to understanding perspective and really improved my work!
    I didn’t discover it until 1998, which shows there’s ALWAYS something new and exciting to learn about making comcis.

  6. Dan Says:

    Interesting Lea, I always thought your panel perspective was really spot on. Cathedral Child came out in what, 1999, and It looks like you’ve got a solid grip on perspective. (Got a copy of the trade sitting in my lap :)) Of course you were probably drawing this around the time you were first reading The Perspective Book so that might be what I’m seeing.




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