Likely Story inks Top Shelf deal

Bregman's shingle acquires 33% stake in comic publisher

Top Shelf Prods. is the latest comic and graphic novel publisher to set up ties to Hollywood, creating a capital investment deal with new media entrepreneur John S. Johnson and indie producer Anthony Bregman's shingle Likely Story.

Johnson and Likely Story have acquired a 33% stake in Top Shelf. Johnson will now join the board of Top Shelf with Likely Story, getting a first-look deal for all new Top Shelf publications.

The deal also puts into development the first title, "Too Cool to Be Forgotten," by Alex Robinson. The well-reviewed graphic novel -- it landed on Amazon's list of Top 10 graphic novels of 2008 -- tells the story of a fortysomething father of two who undergoes hypnosis therapy to quit smoking, only to transport back to 1985 and his formative years as a gangly, awkward teenager.

The seeds of the deal were planted years ago when Bregman, the producer behind movies like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Friends With Money," introduced Johnson and Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros to each other.

Johnson, the founder of funding org Pacific Foundation, art and tech center Eyebeam as well as the Nantucket-based Screenwriters Colony, had been to Bregman about going into graphic novel publishing. Staros sought Bregman's advice on various investment opportunities that would come up over the years for the Atlanta and Portland, Ore.-based publisher, whose titles include Alan Moore's "From Hell" and "Lost Girls" as well as "Jeff Lemire's "Essex County."

The three men eventually decided to work as partners.