Shake-up at Wizard

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Still playing catch-up, the BIG story today is the the shake-up at Wizard, with long-time EIC Pat McCallum let go in among other staffing changes, as tersely revealed in this press release:

Wizard Entertainment today announced several staffing changes, including the addition of several new hires to the publishing and Wizard World tour divisions. Recent additions to the company include; Marketing Director John Ko; General Manager Keith Patrick; General Manager for Dealer Relations Peter Katz; Programming Manager for Wizard Conventions Inc. Adam Dickstein; and Sales Account Executive Bart Sciarraba. Additionally, Wizard announced that Editor-in-Chief Pat McCallum and Wizard Entertainment have parted ways.

“In an effort to grow the company and evolve with our customers, Wizard has made a number of aggressive changes over the past nine months,â€? said Fred Pierce, president and COO for Wizard Entertainment. “We have had a record year for both the publishing division and the Wizard World tours, and these staffing changes will ensure even greater success in 2007.â€?

Throughout 2006, Wizard leadership has been making moves to strengthen the company. In March, toy industry veteran Jim Silver joined the company as Publisher, while Wizard’s own Rob Felton was promoted to Vice President and Associate Publisher. In September, Wizard introduced a new format for its flagship publication, Wizard Magazine, growing it from comic book size to conventional magazine size. In October, the recently re-launched WizardUniverse.com welcomed a record 2 million visitors. Additionally, the annual Wizard World tour closed its tenth year in November with record-setting attendance and a continuously expanding variety of exhibitors, adding such partners as Spike TV, Video Games Live and International Fight League. 2007 looks to be another exceptional year, with several planned pop culture crossovers in Hollywood, comics and anime, and another action-packed Wizard World tour.


Can YOU spot the discrepancy in paragraph 2, boys and girls? Companies having record years don’t usually fire half the staff.
McCallum was one of the original Wizard founders, a fixture at the company who was often seen at Wizard shows dressed as Galactus. Everyone we’ve talked to indicates his dismissal came as a complete shock. At Newsarama Matt Brady pointed out some of the actual facts behind the “record year:

The magazine itself has also gone through many changes over the past decade, with direct market sales numbers (which do not include subscriptions or newsstand sales, but can still be seen as a valid sales indicator) – which used to hover near the 100,000 mark in the late ‘90s, now coming in at approximately half of that, according to estimates….Some observers are viewing McCallum’s unexpected departure as perhaps one of the final steps of a de facto reorganization of the company, whose roots can be traced back to the hiring of Jim Silver as the new Publisher and Rob Felton being named Associate Publisher at the company in March of this year.


As every site pointing this out has mentioned, it has been a hard year for Wizard. Their convention attendance was down; magazine advertising is also way down (hardly unique in the print world, in all fairness) and their website re-launch has been an embarrassment. Insiders are speculating that McCallum, like convention personnel Stewart Morales and Gabe Fieromosco, was let go simply as a fall guy for the general moribund state of the business. Surely a high-level firing will shake things up, but you have to wonder if Felton and Silver have enough vision to guide what was really the last bastion of 90’s comics culture into the new century.

In the meantime, if you want to be part of the team, you can read the help wanted ad over at Media Bistro — you must register to read it all but it’s free. Here’s a sampling:

Job Requirements Editor In Chief (EIC) – Wizard Entertainment: Wizard, InQuest Gamer, ToyFare, Anime Insider
Job Requirements
SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES INCLUDE:
• Acting as a Brand Manager for Wizard Entertainment’s publications to all aspects of the company, as well as with all partners and stakeholders, with an empathetic knowledge of editorial’s role in helping each area to reach its individual and collective goals
• Consistently position Wizard Entertainment as a thought leader in its respective marketplaces, within its diverse communities as well as to outside media
• Facilitate/moderate public events that Wizard Entertainment sponsors and/or hosts in conjunction with other sponsors or content providers
• Proactively represent Wizard Entertainment at events/forums to ascertain trends, develop content ideas
• Insure the editorial mission and distinct messages of the various publications are achieved
• Oversee the entire online and print editorial process, ensuring that all publications are produced within budget and timelines
• Strategize, develop and manage all content creation for print, web and other rich media
• Proactively engage and manage both internal and external writing and journalism staff
• Draw positive attention to the publication through excellence in journalism, editorial content, print quality and overall media

Women in Comics

I know there was a firestorm of comment over Occasional Superheroine, and the harrowing story of Valerie D’Orazio, former DC and Valiant assistant editor. I’m still digesting it all, and Val’s story, which is very, very difficult to read. I worked with Val, and she’s kind, smart, creative and definitely a quirky individualist. She’s also someone with something to say. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but for now I’ll leave you with two images.

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Initial Minx thoughts

200611301331Like we said, we’re collating our thoughts on Minx, the new DC/Vertigo imprint aimed at teenaged girls, and other women and comics related matters. We will say that the story in the New York Times that broke the story did DC no favors in the comics industry with its PR like quotes, and Karen Berger has to explain one of them in an interview at ICv2 News:

[Q]: The first question is about the opening quote in The New York Times article, which was, “It’s time we got teenage girls reading comics.” Were you talking about DC comics? Because there are a lot of teenage girls reading comics.

[A]: Yes, exactly. It’s reading DC Comics. Teenage girls do read manga, obviously, and I made a big point of that when I was being interviewed–that the influence of manga in terms of getting teenage girls to read comics in general is amazing and wonderful–and I don’t think that came across that fully in the New York Times piece. Of course, teenage girls are reading comics, they’re reading manga. What that quote really means is that the point for us is that it’s time for teenage girls to be reading DC comics and also to be reading comics that are published by an American publisher because there’s nobody in the States who is doing anything in full force. Scholastic has done a number of books for teenage girls, and small press and self-publishers have, but in terms of the major imprints, there’s no American publisher doing it, and that was really my point.


The other beef against Minx is the lack of female creators. Male creator Aaron Alexovitch, who is working on CONFESSIONS OF A BLABBERMOUTH and KIMMIE66 for the line, sheds some light at
the Engine:

I’ve got two books coming out with Minx toward the end of next year, so I figured I’d throw in my two bits on the male/female question… I think the key difference between Minx and every other attempt by the “Big Two” to reach teen girls is in Shelly’s approach. Most of the “girl comics” I’ve seen give me the impression some editor spun their rolodex of artists, picked a name and said “Gimme sumpin’ ROMANCEY.” I mean, hey, Jack Kirby did “girl comics,” right? Anybody can do it!

But when Shelly was building the line, she specifically sought out people who were doing work that ALREADY appealed to girls. People like Andi Watson and Ross Campbell don’t have to “target” that market. They just do their thing and the audience is there. It seems like a pretty obvious strategy, yeah, but if you think about it, until fairly recently that would’ve been a pretty shallow pool of talent to build your line on.

Until Vertigo, manga, and the goth comics scene came along, it was extremely difficult to make a career for yourself without pandering in some way to the testosterone set. Not impossible, but difficult. And for the record, I know for a fact Shelly looked for more female creators (I mean… why wouldn’t she? The internet kvetchers out there need to provide a counter-theory here.), and that it still kind of bugs her that there aren’t more involved in the launch. I know she spent a lot of time going back and forth with a friend of mine over at SLG, for instance.

But you have to respect the fact that at the end of the day, she and Karen went with the ideas that appealed to them most instead of instituting some kind of quota system. They’re definitely still looking, though, and if the line does well enough, I’m sure it’ll attract more pitches from women.

More on Dave Cockrum

200611301313-1We gave not nearly enough coverage to the passing of Dave Cockrum while we were away, including posting a cover drawn by Gil Kane in our obit. To make up for that a bit, here’s the cover to X-MEN #102, the first X-men comics we ever read, in fact only the third Marvel comic we ever read — how we poured over each and every panel…we must have re-read it 10 times at least waiting for the next issue.

Cockrum received a heartening number of mainstream media obits, including a lengthy one from the Times.:

Mr. Cockrum majored in fine arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but left before he graduated to join the Navy. He was assigned to Guam, where worked as a captain’s secretary. He used his spare time to paint colorful emblems on fighter planes and to dream up interesting characters that later appeared in comic books.

200611301313Ms. Kline said Mr. Cockrum created and named Nightcrawler, who has blue fur, is acrobatic and can teleport, while on Guam. The character was first imagined as a demon dedicated to doing good deeds to avoid being sent back to hell. Another character, Storm, whose superpowers are flying and manipulating the weather, is played by Halle Berry in the X-Men movies.

After his discharge from the Air Force in the early 1970s, Mr. Cockrum moved to New York, where he worked as an inker, who refines the art of the original artist, called a penciller. He did this for Murphy Anderson, who created the modern look of Superman, Batman, Flash and other characters at DC Comics.


After taking some slags for tardy posting, Marvel has a nice obit up, with comments from editors and creators:

The artist laid the groundwork for an unparalleled comic book success story when, in 1975, he launched the “new” X-Men alongside writer Len Wein and editor Roy Thomas. GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 and the reinvigorated UNCANNY X-MEN grew to legendary status, the impact of which is still felt in today’s comic world. Cockrum’s first tour of duty with the characters was from 1975 to 1977, and he then returned to his creations from 1981 until 1983.


Most of the stories make allusion in some way or another to the way Cockrum struggled in his later years, and his settlement with Marvel, which the Times reckons as $200,000, according to the TCJ. Better late than never. As great an artist and gracious as man as he was, let’s hope there is never another Dave Cockrum — an artist who has to struggle to get any remuneration for a multi-million dollar franchise he helped create.

Making Comics – Chapter 5 1/2

200611301301
Scott McCloud’s brief Chapter 5 1/2 on web comics is up. We haven’t had time to thoroughly digest it yet — discuss!

MoCCA just gets bigger

Once again, we’re not going to run all the press releases we got while we were away, but this seems fairly newsworthy: demand for tables at the 2007 MoCCA-fest is so high they are adding a second floor of tables. The panels will be moved to MoCCA itself, which may be a bit problematic, but if you cut through the alley, it’s no further than the trip from the floor to a panel in San Diego — in fact it’s much closer.

Faced with an unprecedented flood of exhibitor applications for the 160 exhibitor tables filling the three ground floor ballrooms of New York’s historic Puck Building (295 Lafayette Street at Houston), festival organizers have decided to add space upstairs for more exhibitors. “We’ve never had this many applications this early before. When we started processing exhibitor applications at the beginning of November, it quickly became clear that the number of people who wanted to exhibit was going to greatly exceed our capacity,â€? says MoCCA President Ken Wong. “Within just a few weeks, we were officially sold out. But the applications are still coming in, so we decided we had to do something to accommodate more people.â€?

The solution that Art Festival organizers came up with was to convert the Puck Building’s elegant seventh-floor Skylight Ballroom from a lecture hall into exhibitor space. By shifting panel sessions to the museum itself (located just two short blocks west), festival organizers were able to instantly add another 60+ tables.

“There are so many talented and enthusiastic creators out there who deserve a place to showcase their work,â€? says Wong. “Knowing how many creators wanted to get in, we were thrilled to find a way to increase our capacity.â€? About the 2007 MoCCA Art Festival.

The 2007 MoCCA Art Festival will take place the weekend of June 23-24 at the historic Puck Building (295 Lafayette Street at Houston) in downtown Manhattan’s famed SoHo arts district. The festival will be open to the public from 11:00am to 6:00pm both days. Admission starts at $8/day or $10/weekend but is only $5/weekend for MoCCA members.

PREACHER to HBO

200611301245Although the rumor had previously been pooh-poohed by Garth Ennis himself, it seems that PREACHER is indeed in development as a mini-series at HBO.

The pay cable network is developing a one-hour series based on the popular 1990s Vertigo comics series. Mark Steven Johnson, the writer-director behind comic adaptations “Daredevil” and the upcoming “Ghost Rider,” is writing the pilot, while Howard Deutch is attached to direct. Johnson and Deutch will executive produce along with Michael De Luca, George Agusto, Chris Bender and JC Spink.
[snip]The series was created by Irish-born writer Garth Ennis and British artist Steve Dillon, who will serve as co-executive producers. Ken F. Levin, who reps the duo, also will serve as co-exec producer.

The series — which developed a rabid fan base — was known for tackling religious and political issues, its dark and violent sense of humor and its observations of American culture. It also was one of the series that helped define Vertigo, the adult-oriented line of comics from DC Comics.


While we’re thrilled that this is in the works, and excited to call Ennis and Dillon “producers” next time we see them, the involvement of Mark Steven Johnson is…not all that we had hoped.

Africa Comics exhibit impresses

200611301241We’re not going to spend a lot of time on links to stories that came up while we were away, but there are a ew that need some attention. The New York Times gives the Africa Comics exhibit a great write-up. This show kind of snuck into town with very very little fanfare, but it sounds like something that will open a lot of eyes to a little seen world of comics and artists.

“It’s intense,â€? said the security guard as I was leaving “Africa Comicsâ€? at the Studio Museum in Harlem after an hour or more of up-close looking and reading. She was right. That’s exactly the word for the stealth-potency of this modest, first-time United States survey of original designs by 35 African artists who specialize in comic art.

The Studio Museum in Harlem displays the work of 35 African cartoonists with a political bent, including Cisse Samba Ndar. The show runs through March 18.

Their work is intense the way urban Africa is intense: intensely zany, intensely warm, intensely harsh, intensely political. True, you could say the same of New York or New Delhi, or any major cosmopolis being shaped by globalism these days. Yet every place has very specific intensities. Africa does, and they are distilled in the art here.

There is no try

200611301236
Whee doggie…so much to catch up on. Having dodged radioactive spies across two continents, we’re back in the saddle to say: laugh away, Putty-put!

It does seem that our brief holiday managed to allow us to miss the biggest comics story of the year: a cartoonist/karate expert going commando and taking a city hostage. Or as the trailer guy might put it: “Jose Varela has been on the receiving end for years; But today, Jose Varela is deciding to get to the truth…and anyone who gets in his way is going to find out…Jose Varela is BUSTING LOOSE.”

We’ll be saving our comments on Minx and other matters until we’ve had time to collate a bit of the chatter. In the meantime, thanks to Spurge for the package. Much appreciated, amigo.

Also, this has been keeping us going since we got back: from Jack Beaver’s version of “Workaday World” to Jean Jacques Perrey to the squealing organs of Ethel Smith and Stanley Black…we’re a lounge fueled information hub. It’s the good stuff.

OH AND PS: If you emailed us over the last 10 days or so and never heard back, please resend. It probably got lost in the inbox, or even the spam filter, and we just don’t have time to wade through it all just yet. THANKS!

DC COMICS MONTH-TO-MONTH SALES: OCTOBER 2006

by Marc-Oliver Frisch

A whole range of upper- and mid-level sellers in DC Comics’ mainstream superhero line line were missing in October: New issues of All-Star Batman, Justice League of America, Batman, Teen Titans, Supergirl, Superman, Blue Beetle and Aquaman were scheduled for an October release but failed to ship, while Superman/Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern were on hiatus. For the third consecutive month, the entire set of the weekly “event” title 52 made the Top 10, meanwhile. Grant Morrison and Jim Lee’s Wildcats #1 made its debut after a six-week delay, accompanied by the relaunches of The Authority, Gen13 and Deathblow. And co-writers Geoff Johns and Richard Donner and artist Adam Kubert took over Action Comics.

Other notable October releases from DC Comics: the introduction of a new creative team in Nightwing #125; the debuts of Tales of the Unexpected, The Omega Men, Vertigo’s Vietnam War story The Other Side and WildStorm’s horror film adaptation Nightmare on Elm Street; the first Superman/Batman Annual; the return of Warren Ellis’ Desolation Jones with a new artist; the long-awaited conclusions to both Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers and Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary; and, as a footnote, the original Vertigo hardcover Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, which led the “Graphic Novel” chart with better sales than most of Vertigo’s monthly titles can manage right now.

Thanks to Milton Griepp and ICv2.com for the permission to use their figures. An overview of ICv2.com’s estimates can be found here.

2/3/4/6 - 52

05/2006: 52 Week 1  -- 140,971          [143,611]

05/2006: 52 Week 2  -- 128,393 (- 8.9%) [130,704]

05/2006: 52 Week 3  -- 123,982 (- 3.4%) [126,913]

05/2006: 52 Week 4  -- 121,440 (- 2.1%) [125,297]

06/2006: 52 Week 5  -- 111,895 (- 7.9%) 

06/2006: 52 Week 6  -- 110,028 (- 1.7%) [111,732]

06/2006: 52 Week 7  -- 110,188 (+ 0.2%) [112,618]

06/2006: 52 Week 8  -- 105,107 (- 4.6%) [108,775]

07/2006: 52 Week 9  -- 102,142 (- 2.8%)

07/2006: 52 Week 10 -- 100,779 (- 1.3%)

07/2006: 52 Week 11 -- 122,016 (+21.1%) [123,724]

07/2006: 52 Week 12 --  98,667 (-19.1%) [102,362]

08/2006: 52 Week 13 -- 119,507 (+21.1%)

08/2006: 52 Week 14 -- 118,259 (- 1.4%)

08/2006: 52 Week 15 -- 119,411 (+ 1.0%)

08/2006: 52 Week 16 -- 117,472 (- 1.6%) [118,624]

08/2006: 52 Week 17 -- 116,637 (- 0.7%) [118,775]

09/2006: 52 Week 18 -- 111,830 (- 4.1%)

09/2006: 52 Week 19 -- 111,611 (- 0.2%)

09/2006: 52 Week 20 -- 111,099 (- 0.5%)

09/2006: 52 Week 21 -- 110,350 (- 0.7%) [111,986]

10/2006: 52 Week 22 -- 108,624 (- 1.6%)

10/2006: 52 Week 23 -- 107,962 (- 0.6%)

10/2006: 52 Week 24 -- 107,413 (- 0.5%)

10/2006: 52 Week 25 -- 106,332 (- 1.0%)

The weekly assembly line “event” series continues to be a tremendous success. 52 so far in numbers: five months, 25 issues, and an estimated total of 2,871,985 copies sold in the North American direct market. Reportedly, a weekly follow-up series is already in the pipeline, so it seems that DC are viewing the book’s frequency as a major factor in its success.

[Read more…]

To Do 11/28, NYC – Rabid Rabbit

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No time for a real calendar of events, but tonight our pals at the Rabid Rabbit anthology are having a bash. Benjamin Trinh writes:
…the very first Rabid Rabbit comic anthology exhibition —SVA
Chelsea Gallery is hosting a show of our comics and illustration
original artwork! We’re also gonna be unveiling our newes

Reception: Tuesday, November 28, 6 – 8pm
November 27th through December 16th: Visual Arts Gallery
601 West 26 Street, 15th floor New York, NY 10001 tel- 212.592.2145

Marvel Month-to-Month Sales: October 2006

by Paul O’Brien
The CIVIL WAR crossover continued to sprawl across the Marvel line in October, but with the core book running late and other titles having to wait for it, there were several big names missing from the shelves. But every cloud has a silver lining, and with CIVIL WAR absent, some of Marvel’s other new launches had a clearer run. ULTIMATE POWER makes its debut, along with the latest version of ANT-MAN. The Max imprint continues its revival. The much-lauded CRIMINAL debuts under the Icon imprint. And the Dabel Brothers join the Marvel family, with their flagship title ANITA BLAKE.

Thanks in part to those new books, Marvel once again beat DC comfortably, despite missing some of their major books. In dollar share, Marvel take it by 37.8% to 34.2%. In unit share, it’s 42.7% to 37.3%. Closer than last month, but still a satisfying win.

Thanks as always to Milton Griepp and ICV2 for permission to use their figures for these calculations.

1.  NEW AVENGERS
10/01  #47  -  58,771
10/02  #59  -  53,772
10/03  #70  -  58,878
10/04  ---
======
10/05  #12  - 130,110  (  -3.0%)
11/05  #13  - 126,148  (  -3.0%)
12/05  #14  - 126,583  (  +0.3%)
01/06  #15  - 124,143  (  -1.9%)
02/06  #16  - 124,256  (  +0.1%)
03/06  #17  - 122,847  (  -1.1%)
04/06  #18  - 121,550  (  -1.1%)
05/06  #19  - 125,223  (  +3.0%)
06/06  #20  - 125,600  (  +0.3%)
06/06  #21  - 154,911  ( +23.4%)
07/06  #22  - 143,391  (  -7.4%)
08/06  #23  - 155,550  (  +8.5%)
09/06  ---
10/06  #24  - 136,811  ( -12.0%)
               6 mnth  ( +12.6%)
               1 year  (  +5.2%)
               2 year  (  ---- )
               3 year  (+132.4%)

With CIVIL WAR absent, NEW AVENGERS takes the top spot with its fourth crossover issue. In fact, issue #25 was solicited for October, but the book is running a month late, presumably because it’s waiting for the core title to catch up. This issue is focussed on the Sentry, one of the less marketable Avengers, which might explain why the sales drop back a bit. Even so, it’s comfortably ahead of the title’s normal range, which is pretty impressive to start with.

A second printing of issue #21 sells 12,286 copies to chart at number 138. As usual, the numbers are added in above.

[Read more…]

Homeward Bound

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Hello from the Brompton Cemetery, resting place of legendary sufragette Emmeline Pankhurst. We’ll be in transit back to the US tomorrow, but the DC month to month sales will be up to tide you over. We know we’ve missed a lot, and we’ll try to play a bit of catch up when we return to parts known.

Lou Fine

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R.I.P. Dave Cockrum


Dave Cockrum, legendary artist and co-creator of such characters as Storm, Nightcrawler, the Starjammers and many more, died on Saturday of complications from diabetes. He was 63.

Cockrum had been in ill-health for years, but continued to appear at conventions as a popular guest. Despite his lasting achievements in comics, Cockrum lived in poverty for a while, until the comics industry (incuding Marvel) rallied to allow him to spend his last years in a bit more comfort. We haven’t the facilities to link to the number of tributes on the web, but Clifford Meth, who was a great friend of the Cockrum family in later years, has a fine remembrance here.

Following the settlement, Dave’s last three years were spent in South Carolina. He and his wife Paty moved there, from upstate New York, to get away from the cold. Dave spent most of his days in a wheelchair watching television, rarely drawing, reading when he could. He had dialysis on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays—a four- to five-hour affair that always left him drained and exhausted. He knew that a new kidney might change his life, but hoping for one at his age (and in his condition) was like hoping to win the Lotto, and the odds were just about the same. So he had no illusions.
Despite the ailments and the lack of funds, Dave stayed happy. Not to say there weren’t bouts of depression, but following the comics’ industry tribute that all of you out there in comics land gave him, Dave felt somehow fulfilled. He knew he hadn’t been forgotten. Indeed, Dave discovered an entire new generation of fans on the web who were only too eager to talk with him. So when he could, he’d answer questions and make new e-mates across the i-planet. He refused to be bitter about anything. The nastiest thing I ever heard him say was, “I wish I had John Byrne’s money and he had my feet.â€?

Eddie Campbell blogs

Bookmark Eddie Campbell’s new blog post haste. First off, he explains why FROM HELL was out of print for a year:

This is just one more episode in the loony publishing history of this book, which has seen publishers, distributors and now a printer all go out of business. So, the problem was that there was no digital copy of this work in existence, and the only usable materials outside of the Preney shop was my collection of fine quality xeroxes. We had already advanced the printer a bunch of money for this printing, which he had (and still has) defaulted on. And in the meantime, I spent months making scans of my master xerox file, which in the final analysis proved unreliable in places and therefore unacceptable overall. Somehow Chris Staros had gotten the printer to sneak our From Hell negatives out of the factory when the receiver wasn’t looking, and store them in his garage. Chris then paid him to hire a truck and drive the whole lot to Ronalds Quebecor which is where the majority of comic books seem to be printed these days. The negs were given to a good prepress op. who proved that they knew their stuff by making excellent scans from them. It appears that the Preney negs (the one thing they were good at, remember) were better than their own print job, which means that the same materials on a better printing press have quite remarkably given us the best version of the work thus far. To seal the deal Top Shelf have put it on a better quality paper this time around. Another notable feature is the new colour painting on the front. I made this for the first top Shelf printing but the guys went into a panic about putting all that blood on the cover when we urgently needed a good display in the bigger bookstores, and they figured the buyers there would be wary. So that image appeared in black and white in the endpapers of the sixth printing (first Top Shelf).