Home Comics One year later, Apple welcomes LGBT graphic novels

One year later, Apple welcomes LGBT graphic novels


Only a year ago, Tom Bouden’s gay-themed adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was fighting rejection on Apple’s mobile platforms, leading to cries of a double standard where sex and violence were concerned. But now LGBT publisher Northwest Press is claiming victory by having Teleny and Camille, Glamazonia: The Uncanny Super-Tranny, and Rainy Day Recess: The Complete Steven’s Comics all approved by Apple. All are now available via the iBooks app.

Obviously over the last 12 months, the outcry over too-narrow standards has helped Apple loosen up a little for what’s approved on the iPhone and the iPad — even if S. Clay Wilson is still a little too far out.

BTW, no matter what your orientation, David Kelly’s Steven is a charming slice of life, coming of age comic that deserves a wider audience.

Last year, there were numerous reports of comics with gay subject matter—most without even any nudity—being rejected by Apple for inclusion in its App Store, and many had concerns that selling comics for the iPad would not be an option for independent lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender comics creators. That appears to be a thing of the past; last month, Apple approved all three full-length graphic novels from Northwest Press, an LGBT comics publisher, for sale on its iBooks store. One of them is even a steamy adaptation of a classic erotic gay novel.
“Anyone trying to start a publishing business in this day and age needs to factor digital distribution into their business plan,” says Northwest Press publisher Charles “Zan” Christensen. “When it looked like we wouldn’t have one of the biggest marketplaces for digital comics open to us, it was a major concern. We explored a lot of alternatives but found nothing else that matched the experience readers have viewing books on the iPad. We’re relieved that we’re able to finally bring our books to iBooks.”

The iBooks versions of Northwest Press books feature easy browsing of chapters and pages, elegant page turn animations, and zooming to view detail. Each books is optimized for display on the iPad screen, but can also be viewed in pan and zoom on the iPhone.
The approval process for Teleny and Camille, Glamazonia: The Uncanny Super-Tranny, and Rainy Day Recess: The Complete Steven’s Comics started in early July, and was still underway as Northwest Press exhibited with LGBT comics nonprofit Prism Comics at Comic-Con in San Diego. By the end of the show, all three books were available for purchase through iBooks in the US, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Many decisions to reject gay content by Apple have been reversed over the course of the past year. For example, Tom Bouden’s adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest—rejected multiple times and only ultimately approved after censoring images most readers would find tame—is now for sale in its uncensored form. Christensen credits the change in Apple’s stance to the public pressure on the issue and Apple’s improvement in balancing free speech with concerns over adult material.
“Plus, I think the Lambda nominations and awards helped,” says Christensen, referring to the Lambda Literary Award nominations for its first two books, Glamazonia and Teleny, and its win for the latter. “Steve Jobs has said that he wants the iPad and iPhone to be ‘free from porn’, but it’s a pretty good defense to point to a literary honor to remind people that an explicit book still has artistic merit.”
In addition to continuing to release digital versions of its printed books—such as Rick Worley’s A Waste of Time, due in October—Northwest Press will soon be releasing digital editions of popular LGBT titles like Tim Fish’s Cavalcade of Boys and Tommy Roddy’s Pride High.

  1. May I note that it’s the iBooks shore, not the App Store, that we’re talking about? And that there are hundreds of LGBT books of one sort or another in the iBooks catalog? Did you even bother to look to see what was there? Or did it make a better story to assume Apple was homophobic despite them being an open supporter of LGBT rights?

  2. Yay for common sense! I can’t believe they rejected comics that had no nudity. Apple is very protective of what’s on the iPhone, and seems to have different standards for the iPad. From our recent experience with our Comix Classics: Underground Comix app, the choices seem inconsistent, and it’s really hard to tell is some cases why one thing is ok, and another is not. There’s an article about it, with images here… http://imprint.printmag.com/graphic/iphone-app-censored/

  3. Cat is right in her post above. Apple’s shift in policy IS allowing more freedom to adult-themed content so long as it comes from a “legitimate publisher” in there iBooks section rather than meet the guidelines set for there app approval teams.

    My own comic, ULYSSES “SEEN”, was one of the apps last year that was asked to alter some of it’s pages because of nudity. During that same time numerous pages of KICK ASS we’re being sold on the iTunes store because these same restrictions didn’t apply to publishers once there app had passed the approval team. A spokesman from Apple called us and rescinded that early decision and Apple made some statements in the press about changing the strict “no-nudity” policy and viewing content on a case-by-case basis instead.

    But shuffling off the issue of content approval to the iBooks store to be the responsibility of the individual publisher isn’t the same removing the notion “what is decent/what is prurient?” from app development department. If, for example, someone wanted to build an app for information on Planned Parenthood or an abortion clinic in their neighborhood I doubt that it would pass the app approval to be sold in the iTunes Store.

    So the question seems to remain; can we build and sell or distribute apps with the full freedom of expression we expect as a nation, or does the store owner, Apple, have the right refuse to sell it?

    I’m happy for the decision Apple has made that allows comics like mine and Tom Bouden’s to be made available on the iTunes Store. But I don’t see any evidence here that they’re making things easier for small developers or self-publishers. They still get to decide what content goes on what shelves and, frankly, that seems well within their rights.

  4. Really? That is surprising. Obviously I meant that as an off-the-cuff example, Cat. Good to hear that things aren’t as non-contoversial at the app store as I thought. hard then to explain what happened with Comix Classics.

  5. Apple’s policies are enforced by lots of folk, not all of whom have the same idea on what is allowed. I know from working with musicians that getting your work into the iTunes store is more difficult than they think it should be but even that has become considerably easier in the last year.

    Was what happened to Comix Classics homophobia? Or the result of red tape? Who knows? All I know is the Apple is one of most socially progressive companies doing business today.

  6. Cat, Apple is a socially progressive company… that has made the bone-headed move of putting itself in one of the most socially regressive roles in cultural history: that of censor. They have chosen to get in bed with the Pope, Joe McCarthy, and Fredric Wertham.

    They got there thru the usual slippery slope: in order to assure their carrier for the original iPhone that there would be no viruses on their their cell network, Apple locked down that device. When they opened it up a bit to developers, they then got into the business of approving apps. Which meant that they got into judging content.

    And they’re no good at it. They’re a technology company, not a church or a government. They aren’t even an entertainment company, with experience grappling with the concept of “ratings”. They’re inefficient, they’re inconsistent, and quite frankly, they’re fucking inept at it. The fact that any of these items were *ever* at issue demonstrates what a trainwreck this policy has become for them. “Hello, we’ve pulled our heads out of our asses in this instance,” isn’t the most positive press release to make.

    The fact that I – as an iPod Touch owner – can access the most disgusting pornographic web sites (that don’t use Flash) using Apple’s own Safari web browser, but I – as a comics creator – stand no chance in hell of ever selling my comics (which include explicit sexual nudity of a male/male variety) thru either iBooks or iTunes Stores, shows that there is a serious problem at Apple. The fact that Steve Jobs hasn’t fired someone yet over this clusterfuck is a bit surprising.

  7. the censorship of Comix Classics had nothing to do with homophobia, it seemed pretty centered on boobs and depictions of sex. It was maddeningly inconsistent. Will Elder’s cover for Snarf #10 happens to include a nude model posing in an elaborate scene based on a famous painting and it was banned, yet Joel Beck’s “One Dong’s Family,” a parody of Ozzie & Harriet family values with anthropomorphized genitalia as the characters was ok? Beck is funny and I’m glad it’s in, but their choices really specifically seemed to be based on showing boobs.

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