While we were linking to the previous Michael Dooley articles, we found another one from Comic-Con, an interview with Kim Munson, whose Comix Classics: Underground Comics app for iPhone, iPad, and Android had a hard time getting approved. The app is a survey of classic underground comics art with images from S. Clay Wilson, Reed Waller, Denis Kitchen, and more. The pictures are quite dirty — we struggled to find one to post with this piece before settling on Jimmy Durante by Drew Friedman — but nothing that isn’t legal and available in other places. However, Apple, the electronic middleman, has other ideas:

We planned to launch the app in time to begin promoting it at Comic-Con. Toura submitted the finished version to Apple. iPad and iPhone go through separate approval processes. The iPad version was quickly approved as submitted, with a long list of warnings attached… intense sex, nudity, drug use, violence, and so on. As my biz partner Jim Danky remarked, “I always read these warnings carefully so I know where to find the good stuff.”

Soon after the iPad version was launched in the iTunes store, we were surprised to hear that the app for iPhone was rejected due to “excessively objectionable or crude content.” After some back and forth, I removed 16 specific images that were deemed offensive, mostly for sex or nudity. Toura resubmitted the app to Apple, minus those images, and it was finally approved. The iPhone version became available in the app store on Saturday, the day before Comic-Con ended.

I don’t think that Apple actually wanted to censor us. They did, after all, approve the iPad version with no changes, just warnings. It’s a shame that the whole irrational attitude people have about depictions of sex in the USA can even make a forward-thinking company like Apple nervous.

The Android market doesn’t have the same type of screening process, so that was never a problem.

It’s the last sentence that really jumped out at us in reading this story. Much more and uncensored body parts in the link — NSFW!


  1. I’m a developer myself and I know quite a few people who make iOS and mobile apps for a living and Apple’s iOS approval process has always been quite random. It’s seems to be more of a matter of which Apple employee is reviewing the project and what judgment calls they make. It could have easily been the iPad app that had been blocked while the iPhone app had been approved without changes. Also I wouldn’t be surprised if the iPad app gets censored when they issue any updates to the app, as the content gets reviewed all over again and it could be different images that get censored.

    As per the last line anyone who wants to avoid this kind of censorship, then buy an Android device, rather than an iPhone or iPad.

  2. Two words. Fuck Apple. How can a brand that’s supposed to be so ‘liberal’ end up acting like such a conservative censor? Another reason I wasn’t touching the iPhone when I finally got a smart phone.

  3. One can question the logic of one of arm of Apple finding the material objectionable while the other does not, or the logic of applying different standards to different publishers.

    But since when does a business deciding not to distribute a product equate to censorship? Just because my local supermarket doesn’t carry Playboy, is that also censorship? If my neighborhood movie house doesn’t show The Human Centipede, is that censorship?

  4. I’m with Jim.

    Android itself has a host of other problems that come with its self-professed “openness” including fragmentation, virsus/Trojan horses, Google’s making its money off of your info with its services rather than hw/sw, and problems in getting people to pay for apps like Apple does. Apple’s vigilance comes with some censorship, some long approval processes, stricter rules for anyone else with a store (hi Amazon), and even denying apps for other reasons like duplication (no more new fart apps).

    I don’t like comics getting censored either, but iOS has plenty more going for it that something like this isn’t enough of a reason for me to drop it. Apple is slowly changing in some of their rules, so all we can do is keep the pressure on and complain when it happens. Good thing the smartphone market has at least two big rather different choices to pick from.

  5. A private company’s action is akin to censorship when that company controls a vast amount of access to information.

    Yes, it’s true that the traditional definition of “censorship” refers to government control but in the modern age where private companies arguably have more power over citizens than our government, there is a definite fair point to being concerned over information control.

    The idea that an institution larger than oneself can determine what one has access to has dangerous implications and ramifications. It’s far worse when a government does it, surely; but that doesn’t make it okay when Apple does it.

  6. I can testify from personal experience that Apple is about as “liberal” or “free” as Exxon, no matter how much they pay for their multi-million dollar ad campaigns. Who was it that said “there’s a sucker born every minute”? Or maybe that “no one ever lost a dime underestimating the intelligence of the American public”?

  7. I’m a huge Apple fan, and routinely sing the praises of (most of) their hardware, software, and even “vision” of technology.

    But the censorship they impose on their market-dominating system disgusts me, both as a customer and a creator. Amazon’s e-book censorship isn’t as bad, but they do it too. I have an iPod Touch that I use as my pocket computer and music player, but for consuming other digital media, I’m a Nook user.

  8. P.S. What Darryl Ayo said.

    Whether it’s done by a church, a government, a corporation, an industry ratings board, etc. if it puts up artificial and effective barriers to communication, it’s censorship.