Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is This the Ghost of Robin Williams -- Or Just a Printing Error?

Please see the follow-up to this article, Ghost of Robin Williams Is Haunting eBay Again.

A cover of TIME magazine purportedly showing the late Robin Williams as a ghost is being offered on eBay at a starting bid of $10,000.

There are no bidders so far in the auction, which ends Friday.

"After Robin Williams' tragic death, Time Magazine honored the beloved actor/comedian in the August 25, 2014 issue," says the description provided by "warnecathe," a newbie eBay seller. "This particular copy bears a mysteriously misprinted cover that features a ghostly Robin Williams. During his life, Robin Williams was known for his practical jokes, so it is typical of him to continue his jestful ways by appearing as a ghost on the cover of Time Magazine."

The ghostly copy was mailed Periodicals class to a U.S. address. The design is exactly the same as a regular cover except what is black on the regular cover is gray on the haunted cover.

I'm calling on my fellow printing geeks for an explanation, but I'd say it was a simple case of the black ink missing. It's not unusual at press start-up for some of the colors (the other inks used in four-color printing are cyan, magenta, and yellow) to start appearing before others do, though pages that are missing colors are supposed to be discarded.

But these probably aren't start-up copies because TIME presumably prints its time-sensitive newsstand copies before the mailed subscriber copies. So maybe a mischievous spirit from the planet Ork snuck into the printing plant while the press was at full speed and stole the black plate.

Or perhaps Williams was doing one final impression -- of what Time Inc. looks like after Time Warner recently sucked out all the cash and jettisoned the former subsidiary. Or maybe the socially conscious comedian was showing us what will happen to Time Inc.'s reputation if it keeps blurring the lines between journalism and advertiser-friendly content.

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Anonymous said...

Magazine printers usually have a policy in place regarding the removal of customer property. Remember the BusinessWeek insider trader cases? It happened twice.

Anonymous said...

I worked customer service for years in facilities that prints TIME.
To comment on the statement "these probably aren't start-up copies because TIME presumably prints its time-sensitive newsstand copies before the mailed subscriber copies." These still could be a start up covers. There is a version change going from the newsstand to the mail version for magazines. The barcode must be removed and a address block must be added. The press could have also started back up after a web break. I do know they printed black in the first unit so it is strange that this unit didn't turn on before the others. Running out of Blk ink would be surprising as well. Huge ink tots supplied a press room of 4-6 web presses. Its not like someone wasn't filling the ink pan. I'm not a pressman and I always looked to the pressman to determined what happened with print errors. For it to be a print error it is a nice clean looking cover. I've seen a lot worse.

Anonymous said...

$10,000!? Yeah, good luck with that. It's nothing but a misprinted cover.

Anonymous said...

This looks like black ink missing. Copies like this can occur after a wash-up. Printers do their best to discard bad copies, but sometimes they slip through. As a magazine production director, I've seen many things similar to this over the years.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be JUST the cover. Even if it's a startup or makeready peice, there would still be other imposed pages along with that one. So, how is it that only the cover was bound and finished. Are you saying that that substrate had no loss of black anyplace else in the signature.

Um, I don't think so.

D. Eadward Tree said...

To Anonymous who said "It wouldn't be just the cover": Because TIME's cover is printed separately from the body pages, the only other page that would be affected by missing black ink is the back cover. I guess you'll have to put in your bid on eBay to see whether the back cover was starved for ink.

Anonymous said...

Definitely no black ink. As noted by others, a start/stop scenario (whether form/zone change or a web break is beside the point). It could be at the end of the form and slowing down, taking the units off impression,instead of a start-up copy.
I am a bit surprised that they backed up the text "Robin Williams..." with CMY instead of just black.

Anonymous said...

It looks to me that the black image is missing or possibly washed out.
Look at the watch, it's blue as the rest of him.
Although the type with his name appears as a light black,this leads me to think it's washed out, too much water on the plate.

Anonymous said...

I see Walsh & Serafin cooking up a trip to Merced.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the aftermath of a blanket wash on the fly in the black unit of the printing press.