Apple Bans Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga #12 Over Gay Sex Scenes

On Tuesday of this week, Image Comics and comics writer Brian K. Vaughan reported that this week’s issue of Saga, the star-faring fantasy series written by Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, has been banned from being sold “through any iOS apps” over two background depictions of gay sex in the issue.

Update: Comixology released a statement on Wednesday taking responsibility for the snafu, saying that their interpretation of Apple content policy was in error.

The move had initially puzzled the writer, publisher, comics industry, and readers of the series in regards to its inconsistency. Image Comics and Brian K. Vaughan had this to say regarding the matter:

As has hopefully been clear from the first page of our first issue, SAGA is a series for the proverbial “mature reader.” Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s SAGA #12 from being sold through any iOS apps. This is a drag, especially because our book has featured what I would consider much more graphic imagery in the past, but there you go. Fiona and I could always edit the images in question, but everything we put into the book is there to advance our story, not (just) to shock or titillate, so we’re not changing shit.

The two (censored and safe-for-work) panels in question can be found here at The Comics Beat.

As a reader of the series I can definitely confirm that the comic, a take on Star Wars that is more realistic while also somehow being more fairytale-esque, has depicted far more gruesome and sexual images in its pages. (Although it is mindful never to attach any glamour to them.) I mean… one of my favorite characters is the ghost of a child who has been torn in half, and that’s not even the craziest thing in the series. (Jill Pantozzi of The Mary Sue helpfully points out that this is the NSFW first page of the never-banned previous issue.)

Update: The below was written before Comixology’s explanation. See the above link in the second paragraph.

Apple is famously active when banning apps submitted for its store (a Google search on “Apple bans” will bring up a lot of reading material) but it’s never meddled with published content that it distributes, at least not in a way that is uncommon for large distributors, with the exception of Wal-Mart.

Thus, this behavior on the part of Apple appears inconsistent with its own business practices and with the content of the material itself. If Apple is choosing not to distribute content, why hasn’t it applied this standard across the board? If Apple just really doesn’t like Saga, why ban only this particular issue?

Currently, Apple is quiet on the subject, but for those who read the series through Apple mobile or tablet devices, Image Comics suggests these workarounds:

Apologies to everyone who reads our series on iPads or iPhones, but here are your alternatives for Wednesday:

1) Head over to you friendly neighborhood comics shop and pick up a physical copy of our issue that you can have and hold forever.

2) While you’re at it, don’t forget to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which helps protect retailers who are brave enough to carry work that some in their communities might consider offensive. You can find signed copies of Saga at the CBLDF site right now.

3) Download the issue directly through sites like https://comics.imagecomics.com or on your non-Apple smartphone or tablet.

4) If all else fails, you might be able to find SAGA #12 in Apple’s iBookstore, which apparently sometimes allows more adult material to be sold than through its apps. Crazy, right?


Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com.

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