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.


  1. To amend Sam Humphries’ point a bit, it’s even better if you access Comixology via your LCS’ online storefront. That way they get a cut, as well as the publisher, creator, and Comixology.

  2. If they bought it in the iBooks store, they can have a complete run as Saga #12 is for sale there today. Apple follows day of sale rules that mean it puts new single issues up the same day LCSs do which is today.

    So where is Apple actually not carrying it?

  3. I agree that a store having a set of standards is less a problem for a publisher than the store enforcing them inconsistently and arbitrarily is. I see that iTunes stocks The Joy of Sex but doesn’t stock The Joy of Gay Sex. Different sets of standards for nonfiction and fiction books would be appropriate in any case.


  4. My HouseBoy board game was rejected by ITunes three times even AFTER every shred of sexual connotation was moved and all imagery (none of which depicted any full nudity) was turned into head shots!!

    It’s hard not to cry homophobia when other apps and games depicting much more explicit heterosexual content are allowed.

  5. I thought the offending content in question with Saga #12 was penetration and ejactulation. However, That 2nd page clearly shows two types of penetration. I also read somewhere that while you might not be able to buy it through iTunes, it might be available through iBooks. Different standards? Somethings not found in iTunes have been found for purchase there.

  6. Comixology carries Omaha the Cat Dancer and Black Kiss (I and II) on its website. I doubt there was ever a chance they wouldn’t carry Saga 12 — in fact, they used an image from the issue to illustrate today’s “New Releases” banner on the website, probably hoping to capitalize on the hubbub.

  7. Would people be this upset if a store stocked Saga 12 on the very top shelf of the rack? So that you had to like reach up to get it? Because that’s the equivalent situation, right? “You have to buy it off the website instead of through the app and then you can read it on your device” seems a far cry from censorship to me.

  8. If you buy comics from Comixology and want to send a message to Apple, buy them exclusively via the Comixology website where Apple doesn’t get a cut of your cash. The app will still allow you to read all of purchased comics on your mobile device as long as you have logged in with the same Comixology account.

  9. Apple has different standards for their iBook Store and the iTunes App Store. The App Store is a lot more tightly reviewed.

    Also part of their review process is arbitrary where it might just depend on which Apple employee is reviewing the content and what they might flag.

  10. “You have to buy it off the website instead of through the app and then you can read it on your device” seems a far cry from censorship to me.”

    Well, that doesn’t excuse the fact that Apple is censoring the comic, just that Comixology has a back door way of people getting around Apple’s censorship. It’s like a store banning an issue from a store, but an employee still willing to sell it’s stock to people if they meet him out back behind the store.

    There’s bound to be people who are unaware that Apple is banning the issue and will end up with issue 11 & 13. Also the problem is Apple being okay with selling it through their iBook Store but banning it via any app that might offer it via the iTunes App Store.

  11. Lets clear up something… Apple sells books through the iBooks app where you can buy all twelve issues of Saga; Apple sells films, tv series, audiobooks, podcasts, and other multimedia product through iTunes. Apple sells no book product through iTunes!

    The app not selling Saga 12 is the Image Comics app. Did Apple tell them not to sell this issue? I have no idea.

  12. Saga #12 should get a great sales boost from this controversy. Hopefully this issue isn’t in the middle of something plot dense and allows the series to get new readers.

    And before anyone gets the big idea they’re gonna boycott Apple over this, well, Apple literally worked quite a few Chinese employees to death and all you socially conscious types still bought a new iPhone.

  13. 1)
    Retailers can choose what to sell or not sell. After all, corporations are now officially people, just like you and me… Yes, Apple is big and iTunes sucks up enough market share to prevent the existence of financially weak competitors. But consumers can still shop everywhere. Consumers can actually put more into shopping than just clicking a button in an email. People have always told cautionary tales about how accepting being spoonfed leads to the loss of freedom. That’s a common sci-fi and comics trope. Yet a substantial segment of the comic consumer market won’t get that message. The one-click world and freedom don’t go together! I don’t like making an argument that paraphrases Baby Bush, but here goes: Get out there and shop! For freedom!

    And another blow to my membership in the Liberal community:
    Hey everybody: breaking news!
    Saga 12 is written by Orson Scott Card!
    Now doesn’t that make iTunes the most wonderful people in the world? Their refusal to sell the book is righteous and beautiful!
    Either it’s OK to refuse to sell a product because you don’t want to, or it’s not OK. Let’s take one position and stick to it folks.

  14. So nothing to do with Apple at all.

    I wonder if you all will take a moment to wipe the spittle of your monitors and apologise for all the crap you threw their way over the past day?

    Doubt it.

  15. “Well, that doesn’t excuse the fact that Apple is censoring the comic, just that Comixology has a back door way of people getting around Apple’s censorship.”
    It’s a moot point now, but Apple wouldn’t put Sex #1 on its Comixology app but it was available from not only the Comixology website but also through iBooks. That’s how i bought it, from Apple’s iBooks. So Apple wasn’t keeping people from buying it. They were putting controls on which of their platforms they would sell it through. So it’s exactly like complaining that Saga is on the top shelf instead on the chest level shelf. Nothing is stopping you from buying it but your own laziness.

  16. I still have a really hard time wrapping my head around putting value on something that has no inventory. I know I’m sad when I get to the store and a random comic I wanted to check out is all sold out and I’ll have to wait weeks to get it. However digital stuff is everywhere, you can download it from several sites from the comfort of your own home.

  17. What a non story. If you had read comixology’s press release you would see that Apple had nothing to do with this situation. It was completely Comixology’s decision. It must be a slow news week. Congrats again to the writer for getting his press release to go viral by using a titilating headline. “Apple bans” and “gay sex” in the title pretty much guarantees the whole world will hear about it.

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