Tue
Apr 9 2013 4:50pm

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

Saga 12 banned Apple gay sex

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.

13 comments
chaosprime
1. chaosprime
Wow. It's kind of crazy how my respect for Apple went from about +80 to -20 in the course of reading this article. Like, if they're going to do that, just once, I really don't want them to have any of my money ever again.
chaosprime
2. Laurel McFang
OMG I am so ANGRY. Saga is my favorite comic book and comixology is how I was introduced to it and began reading it. I live in Bangkok and no local comic store stocks it either. This is ridicilous and also does not bode well for more mature publishers like Fantagraphics that just recently began to publish to ios. omg, I might just switch to android.
chaosprime
3. Laurel McFang
BTW Issue 12 is not available directly from the comixology website or the image one linked to in the article.
chaosprime
4. RobertX
I doubt it was becaue of "gay" sex. Apple is very pro in that area. Apple is very strict on mature content in general so it was probably just the "sex" part.
Niall Alexander
5. niallalot
@RobertX: Hmm. There's been sex in Saga beforehand, and these panels don't appear any more explicit than those Apple has happily given the green light in the past, so there's something funny going on here.

And I don't mean funny ha-ha.
Chris Lough
6. TorChris
@RobertX. I agree that it's probably not a directed stance for/against homosexuality on Apple's part. It's just puzzling that they would institute a ban now when the series has featured nudity and depictions of sex in previous issues.

Other outlets are reporting that Apple has also banned the first issue of Sex, another comic that Image puts out. (I'm not familiar with it but I imagine it does what it says on the tin.) I wonder if they're just focusing on Image's output at the moment.
chaosprime
7. chaosprime
To be clear, I read this as cowardice on Apple's part, not institutional homophobia within Apple itself. It just has the same effect when that cowardice leads to there magically being a radically different line between "tasteful work of art addressing sexuality" and "pornography" when it's gay sex at issue.
chaosprime
8. shellywb
Apple regularly bans manga that contains gay sex or hints of it, while allowing comics with hetero sexual situations on par with them. Even when publishers offer to edit books, Apple still won't allow them, so it has to be the homosexuality that's bothering them. Google it. I refuse to buy anything from them.
chaosprime
9. Nicholas Winter
Sages 12 is availible for the iBooks store; it is not yet on sale in the Image Comics app. Thus Apple has not actually banned sale of this comic in its own store.
Fredrik Coulter
10. fcoulter
And people wonder why I refuse to buy an Apple tablet?
chaosprime
12. chaosprime
Well, I guess that's pleasing, sort of. Except that now I'm kinda mad at Comixology. (I'd bet good money their employees are too, based on some small acquaintance with somebody who works there.)

I bet an interesting research study could be done on "escalating squeamishness" resulting from situations like this, where one business entity is 1) responsible for enforcing another business entity's policies 2) critically dependent on that entity for its existence, resulting in them interpreting those policies much more harshly and restrictively than the policy-originating entity ever would.
chaosprime
14. RobertX
Comixology owes Apple an apology.

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