You may have heard about this thing called SAGA #12? Sigh, for those not following the story of the comic that was briefly rejected by Comixology for Apple’s iOS devices, catch up here and here and here.
With a he said/they said going around and around and around on the giant cloud chat room, Image publisher Eric Stephenson reached out to set the record straight. Given all the confusion about what the heck happened, I tried to ask questions that establish a chain of events rather than assign blame or point fingers. Many thanks to Eric for his time, and to Ron Richards for setting this up.
Q: When did you first find out there was a problem with SAGA #12? Who told you? Were you given the impression that what looked like gay sex was involved as part of the problem?
We found out on Monday afternoon, from David Steinberger. Nothing was said about the exact nature of the sex involved, just that the graphic content was a problem. David let me know our options — that the book would still be available on Comixology site and how they would promote the issue so that readers could still get it.
Q: Were you surprised at this? Have you had other problems in the past that were similar?
Yes, with BLACK KISS 2, XXXOMBIES and SEX #1, but in this case it was surprising because there had been sexual content in SAGA since issue one and no one had said a word. That was actually something that kind of raised some eyebrows here regarding the decision not to carry XXXOMBIES. It seemed like kind of an arbitrary decision, given the graphic content of things like SAGA and THE WALKING DEAD.
Q: Was the situation with SEX #1 and XXXOMBIES similar?
Similar in that the books didn’t go up, but I didn’t hear directly from David on those books.
Q: How did you convey this to Brian and Fiona?
I let them know SAGA 12 wasn’t going to be on the app, but that Comixology was going to get the word out regarding how to purchase the book through their site and through Image’s site. I also reaffirmed my support for what they were doing, and told them I felt the material should absolutely run as is. Brian then said he was going to reach out to David and see if anything could be done to change Apple’s decision.
Q: Did Image and/or Comixology know that Brian was going to make a statement?
Brian’s first email back to myself and Fiona made it clear that if the decision couldn’t be reversed, he would be sending out a press release. I know he and David exchanged a series of emails after that, so I’m guessing he told David the same thing, but I wasn’t a party to their correspondence, so I can’t say for sure.
Q: How did you find out that SAGA #12 would actually be released through iOS.
David called me on Wednesday morning to let me know that the situation had changed.
Q: Have you ever had any DIRECT problems with content from Apple or Google/Android?
Q: To an observer, the entire Saga saga has been one of miscommunication. How would you like to see communication improved moving forward?
I think that’s a fairly generous assessment.
It sounds like it’s not going to be a problem going forward, but really, I think all anyone wants is to get the straight story, in as timely a fashion as possible. It would be nice to be involved in the process as pouch as possible.
Just to be clear: I think David and everyone at Comixology did what they should have done. I was very pleased with how they handled the situation, because David was very proactive about contacting me to let me know how Comixology planned to deal with the situation. I think it would have been beneficial to everyone involved – Brian, Fiona, Comixology, Apple, Image, the fans – had it been clear from the start that Comixlogy was being equally proactive about rejecting material without Apple’s input, but you know, that’s in the past now, and as I say, I don’t anticipate this is going to be a problem in the future.
Q: It also seems that with Image’s adult content, Apple’s guidelines—whether being enforced or directly from Apple—are a concern for digital sales. I’ve mentioned in my coverage that this seems to be a matter less of censorship than access of various platforms. Maybe print is still the best way to go! What kind of guidelines or practices would you like to see going forward?
Heidi, I think you know me well enough by now to know I think print is always the best way to go, but yeah, it would be nice if there was a level of consistency to the guidelines and policies. One of the things we found particularly aggravating about the whole situation, at least when we were still under the impression this was all Apple’s decision, was that a supposedly offensive comic could be available on the iBookstore, but not on the app. Obviously, we don’t live in a one size fits all world, but clarity and consistency are always beneficial.
Q: Has there been any increase in sales on this issue that you can see? (A happy ending.)
Well, yeah — I told David yesterday that I felt the upside of all this was that a) if people hadn’t heard of SAGA before, they’d heard about it now, and b) it seems to have changed the dynamic in terms of getting this kind of material onto the app. SAGA #12 is sold out at Diamond as of now, business was brisk with the digital release, and SEX #1, XXXOMBIES and BLACK KISS 2 are available digitally as well. We did wind up in a happy place, but it would have been nice to have taken a different route to get there.
Q: Any other aspects of this you feel haven’t been addressed in all the hub bub?
I think the people out there insinuating that Brian and/or Image did this as some kind of sick stunt may want to look at the sequence of events a bit more carefully. Brian, Fiona and myself based our reactions on the information that was provided to us. When the information changed, we adjusted our positions to reflect that.
Beyond that, I think it’s a little sad that the context of the images in question aren’t really being addressed: There’s some pretty graphic violence in the same scene — that’s the main action, in fact — yet nobody is taking about that. Show a big image of someone’s head getting blown off and nobody cares; show a couple tiny images of a pretty common sex act and suddenly there’s controversy. Kinda sucks.
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.