News of Apple’s decision to ban SAGA #12 from any app-based storefronts spread like wildfire yesterday, prompting outrage and head shakes from those who believe having a single corporation controlling our access to entertainment—no matter how sexy and sleek that corporation—may not be a good idea.
First, some of the oddities of the matter:
As shown in our post, the images in question were undoubtedly adult in nature, depicting what appeared to be man-on-man oral sex. Funnily enough, these same pages had been posted in a preview on Comic Book Resources with nary a warning or complaint.
But even odder, the previous 11 issues of SAGA all contained lots of adult and explicit material, including a giant with a huge scrofulous nutsack bobbing all over the place—so it wasn’t just male genitalia that was the problem.
Issue #4 of SAGA—which I can buy right now in the Apple store—contains The Will’s trip to a pleasure planet where he observes all kinds of sex—gay, straight, and whatever. I’ve blanked the pages in question but clicking on them yields the original art.
Apple has made many boneheaded censorious moves in the past—including a graphic novel adaptation of ULYSSES by James Joyce—and this one seems to be particularly weird and petty. To be fair, it doesn’t seem to be so much homophobic, given the other stuff that went through in SAGA, but more incredibly arbitrary given the stuff that has already gone through.
However it seems to be more an increasing pattern. SEX by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski—also from Image—has already been banned from the Apple store, and they recently removed a bunch of French titles from the IZNEO app:
Perhaps the folks behind the French comics app Izneo should have gotten a copy. Two weeks ago—on the eve of the long Easter week-end, the site IDBOOX notes—the Izneo folks got an order from Apple to remove the “pornographic” content from their app. With no clue as to what Apple would judge to be pornographic, the Izneo folks immediately took down 2,800 of the 4,000 comics in their app, cautiously removing anything that could hint of adult content, including Blake and Mortimer and XIII, both of which are published in print in the U.S. without any fuss. Then they reviewed those comics and put about half of them back, but that still leaves 1,500 titles that aren’t in the app any more. Izneo took quite a financial hit on this; turns out comics featuring “Les jolies filles un peu sexy” are their top sellers. (This story, it should be said, came from an anonymous source.)
More on that here.
Will Apple relent in the wake of the outcry? They’ve done it before—that ULYSSES comic eventually become available—but the images are unabashedly adult so they may have to stand by their guns. SAGA is not a book to let the little kiddies read—but Apple’s capriciousness is annoying as fuck.
In the end, this story may be more about escalating worries about the problems of collecting digital comics than anything else—we’re pretty certain SAGA’s print sales won’t fall, and you can still purchase it digitally through comiXology’s website or Image Comics’ storefront, which is powered by comiXology. Buying through both of these has the advantage, as writer Sam Humphries points out of giving more money to creators and less to Apple:
Here’s the deal: FIRST buy your digital comics through the Comixology website. Meaning go to the dot com, on a browser on your computer, and buy it there. THEN download the comic to any device — including iOS devices — and read it. That way, Apple cannot restrict what you see.
This is good practice for all digital comics, not just SAGA. By purchasing through the website, more of your money goes directly to the creators and publishers you love, and not to Apple, which doesn’t need more of your money anyway.
Yes, this is a “real” problem, as in, it really matters. If profitable digital distribution is handcuffed by the capricious whims of 3-4 corporations, how are we any better off than we were in the days of the fickle, puritanical Comics Code?
Finally…please join the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and support free speech rights for comics.
Although comiXology has their own content guidelines, they’ve confirmed they will carry SAGA #12—if they didn’t, they would look like the biggest jerks in the world, given what previously appeared in the book. But the whole affair does conjure the ridiculous idea of buying 11 digital issues of SAGA and having them in your “digital bookshelf” and having to buy the new issue in some other way and not having “a complete run” as they say.
Also, what’s going to happen when the collection of SAGA issues 7-12 comes out? Amazon tells us SAGA, Vol. 2 will be out in July—but will you be able to buy it via Apple? The way things look today, you won’t.
Much more to come.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.