What’s Wrong With You? Apple, SAGA #12, and Yet Another Witch Hunt [UPDATE]

Let us go over the facts of the thing.

Saga #12, from Image Comics, Brian K. Vaughan, and Fiona Staples features a small yet graphic image of two men having sex with one another. This is one of them. And look, I censored it.


Yesterday, Brian K. Vaughan, writer of the book, issued this statement. Including this business:

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.

Vaughan, though we love his work very dearly, was quite wrong. In multiple ways.

He presumed that the issue was unable to be purchased from all iOS apps (Comixology, Image Comics) where it was not available today (more on that in a moment). The book was available, however, through the iBookstore, all along. We’ve seen this happen before with the recent Sex #1, Black Kiss II, and even XXX Zombies. No cry was shouted for those books, and it certainly wasn’t because of gay sex per se, but just what Apple considers pornographic content, which is fairly normal industry standard in the big name eBook game.

I should note here that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple has been called the Most Powerful Gay Man in America. Make of that what you will.

So right away, the comics internet community, fans and pros, who really love to find a reason to start a virtual bonfire, starts going off about how Apple hates gay people and their sex, and blah blah blah blah.

Turns out none of it even happened.

Today, Comixology released this statement:

To our customers –

In the last 24 hours there has been a lot of chatter about Apple banning Saga #12 from our Comics App on the Apple App Store due to depictions of gay sex. This is simply not true, and we’d like to clarify.

As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps.  Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today.

We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.

Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.

After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You’ll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon.

We apologize to Saga creator Brian K. Vaughn [sic] and Image Comics for any confusion this may have caused.

All the best,

David Steinberger
CEO and co-founder


So, to summarize, Apple didn’t ban anything. Apple has a set of standards which Comixology presumed to apply, and they didn’t submit it in the first place. The problem, which wasn’t really much of a problem to begin with, seems to have been one more of communications and mismanagement than anything else.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 2.43.10 PMYou know what I’m tired of hearing about? Censorship. When the United Kingdom banned A Clockwork Orange for 30 years, that was censorship (or maybe it wasn’t. We all make mistakes.). When Wal-Mart doesn’t sell Hustler, that’s different. If you couldn’t get Saga #12 by clicking over 2 more pecks on your iPad, or by going to an actual comic shop, there would have been an argument, but that just wasn’t the case. Instead, the hew and cry went out, and no one looked into a damn thing. That was before Comixology waved the “my bad” flag.

It seems like every week, there’s some “this is the evil thing in comics”. Yes, there is sexism, and homophobia, and there is a preponderance of dumbasses, and they are the people running comics. But if we need to throw a virtual protest march every time someone makes a societal misstep, we’re gonna be wasting a lot of keystrokes.

If you don’t like how a company is doing business, don’t do business with that company. If you’re going to label them the Great Satan, check your facts. I’m mostly down with political correctness, but at a certain point in the echo chamber, we’re pointing out massive digressions of conduct left and right. I’ve met an enormous cross section of people who make their living from comics, and these are not the lunkheads you need to be worrying about. Write letters to your congressmen instead of online petitions about what’s happening to a fictional character.

It’s exhausting. We’ve got more gatekeepers than we do gates.

I know one thing. Saga #12 is going to sell a lot of books now.


Here’s Brian K. Vaughan’s statement on the situation as of now:

I wanted to apologize to everyone for this entire SAGA #12 kerfuffle. Yesterday, I was mistakenly led to believe that this issue was solely with Apple, but it’s now clear that it was only ever Comixology too conservatively interpreting Apple’s rules. I’m truly sorry. I never thought either company was being homophobic, only weirdly inconsistent about what kind of adult material was permissible. I’m grateful that the situation was cleared up so quickly, and I’m delighted I can go back to reading smutty comics on my Retina Display iPad.

There you have it folks. I still think Vaughan jumped up the charges a little faster than would be advisable, but he was under a misapprehension, and took it to the streets before sorting it out internally. Then you get what we had here today. Which is the way he wants it.

I wasn’t referring to Vaughan as much as quoting Cool Hand Luke at the end there.


  1. Thank you.

  2. Wrkngclasshero (@joinedtofollow) says:

    Thank you!

    I am so sick of this topic. It was never about gay anything. Somebody was getting “finished” on. I can see why Comixology thought it might not meet Apple’s ToS. Comixology never refused to sell the book, they simply used their judgement on whether or not Apple would accept it, and ensured their customer base was aware of the other options to purchase from them. Then, when they were wrong, the CEO personally publishes a mea culpa.

    Bottom line, this is not anti anything, personally, the whole ordeal makes me feel better about the company I choose to purchase my comics from (Comixology).

    Also, as an “unapologetic Apple fan-boy,” I think it’s a ridiculous to accuse them of being Anti-Gay, when Tim Cook is their CEO.

    Josh, thanks for being the voice of reason here.

  3. Thank you Josh for an excellent breakdown. Good lord, that firestorm was annoying.

    “a preponderance of dumbasses” — lol

  4. I love you, Flanagan.

    Sadly, this compulsion to always think the worst of people/companies/etc isn’t just a Comics problem. It’s a societal thing that is breeding little hate-babies all over the Internet.

    • Sadly, true. It’s like people want to be offended.

    • Hahaha, hate babies.

    • I only heard about this after the issue had already been solved (I think I don’t spend enough time online), but I can understand why many people would immediately jump to the conclusion that this was homophobia at work.

      I read Saga in trades (or trade, so far) so I don’t know if there have been non-straight sex scenes before. But if this was the first issue with non-straight sex and I heard that it was not available at the usual digital sellers my brain would jump to homophobia too. It’s just how many (unfortunately often powerful) parts of society have conditioned me.

      When you are not straight you get discriminated in so many unexpected places (wanna donate blood or organs? nope, can’t do that) that you can’t help but expect the next hammer to drop any day. So when a comic with non-straight sex scenes is not sold where the previous issues have been sold your (my) gut goes to homophobia right away, because sadly that usually IS the reason for it.

      But isn’t it great that this wasn’t the case this time?

  5. I heard about this yesterday on IGN, and from I read on that it was supposedly more graphic than usual. It’s one thing to show 2 people naked and writhing on each other but penetration and stuff like that does put in another arena (to me anyway, maybe I’m being prudish). People these days cry afoul so much because they see so much injustice that they instantly jump on anything that smells like it, it’s the world we live in. Maybe a ton of people were just bitching about not being able to buy Saga with 2 clicks of the touchscreen, but I think it was more political than that. Either way, people can buy the book and Vaughn just got some free publicity. How “Sex” flu in under the radar in comparison surprises me tho.

  6. Well, that’s good to know.

  7. All I’ll say is that it would’ve been nice if Comixology released that statement when everyone was blaming Apple. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt but at this point it looks pretty shady on their part for not fessing up earlier and driving more sales to their website where they can make more money off the comic in question.
    All that being said, I couldn’t care less about this, i’ll just find another way to read Saga #12

  8. I love the “What’s Wrong With You?” columns. Thank you!

  9. Also, even if they weren’t now putting it up to be purchased via iDevices, you could still purchase it on their website–along with the Marvel MAX titles, and almost all of the other things people were yelling about Apple not allowing yesterday–and download them onto your iThing through the app.

    Rabble rabble rabble!

  10. Just made the book more popular. Well played.

  11. High five, Josh!

    While I think we’re living in a culture of outrage right now, a lot of comics fans have really taken to it in a big way.

    I wonder if it comes from a misguided interpretation of the heroism we’re ostensibly reading about week in and week out (you know, the idea that a hero stands up and fights back against injustice).

    There’s nothing wrong with heroism (or activism, which is probably a better term in this case), choosing the nuclear option with slight or bad intel is rarely a good strategy.

    • I think the main reason I find all this comic outrage so exhausting is that there are SOOOO many more noble causes to be up in arms about. I wish just half these people would devote their energy devoted to comic “activism/heroism” to something more worthwhile. I see these arguments online and all I can think about is “how many of these people actually voted in the last election?”
      Present iFanbase company excluded of course 😉

    • the comics themselves tackled some of those issues like they used to, that might work.

    • My students and I were just talking about this “culture of outrage” this week in class. The issue is that it is currently trendy to be an activist and therefore, people leap to mock outrage in order to seem cool and cutting edge. This has two unfortunate side effects: 1) the aforementioned behavior in which no one bothers to check facts in their mad rush to be outraged and 2) the lack of perseverance in supporting many causes. It’s lazy activism on both the beginning and the end.

      Thanks for the column, Josh. I dig you guys at iFanboy more each day.

    • @BrianC I read a Mad magazine ‘article” all about that. I don’t know if they coined it but they called it “slack-tivism”

  12. I can’t agree with this article enough. Well said and argued.

    I stayed out of the debate yesterday mostly because i was busy with work, and secondly because i didn’t see why it was a big deal. Barely any actual information was out except for presumptions and arm chair QB tweets.

    I do think general audience, family friendly “stores” have a right/obligation to monitor the content they sell to make sure its appropriate for their audiences. You don’t sell Playboy or Guns And Ammo in Toys R Us. That’s not censorship, that’s just good business.

    Why do we (collective fandom) LIVE to play “the card” whether its race, sex, something-a-phobia, censorship, freedom of speech over everything? I suppose we do live in an outrage society, where everyone is always offended for everyone over everything, but i don’t think its a healthy way to be.

  13. Shouldn’t that be a Hawkeye-head in the graphic? I thought that was the new standard for covering up junk.

  14. Thanks Josh and iFanboy for not fanning this flame and actually waiting until all the facts were in. (And thanks to Mark Waid on Twitter for being a voice of reason as it relates to this issue!)

    I use Apple products (AppleTV, iphone, iPad…), I use Comixology and I read BKV books, but after I read BKV’s letter, something didn’t seem right accusing Apple of acting sideways toward gays.
    This whole mess has more villains than heroes and actually sours my opinion of BKV and Comixology. It feels like BKV purposely exploited the GBLT community for profit and Comixology played along. I hope this wasn’t the case.

    • I totally agree. It does stink of that. Very well put. Much better than my somewhat sad and all over the place rant. You sir are a gentlemen and a scholar, sir.

    • I feel the need to defend Vaughan here, we don’t know what he knew at the time, if I was in his position and saw that all the other issues of Saga that depicted heterosexual acts were available on a certain device but the one that depicted a homosexual act wasn’t I would probably jump to the same conclusion.
      He’s only human and he makes mistakes, I say good on him for sticking up for what he believes in, I’d be more offended if he thought they were being homophobic but chose to keep his mouth shut to not rock the boat.

    • @kzap: But wouldn’t you have even MORE respect if he had bothered to actually sort out the facts before jumping to conclusions? I think that’s one of the points Josh was making. In this age of social media and instant information, mistruths can quickly spread and become THE truth even when they are wrong. It’s great he stood up against homophobia. However, it’s really too bad no was being homophobic in the first place and his comment made it seem like Apple was.

    • @USPUNX I both agree and disagree. His comment was simply pointing out a double-standard and that still stands no matter who made the call.
      In hindsight he should have waited for all the facts but you also want to be timely with these things, you’re less likely to make an impact if you complain a long time after the fact.
      I personally think he did the right thing, he never called anyone homophobic (as people seem to be implying) he simply pointed out that it was the issue with homosexual activity being censored and not any of the issues depicting heterosexual scenes.
      I think that’s an important point to raise and we shouldn’t be sweeping it under the rug because it was Comixology doing the censoring based on what they thought Apple would want.

    • @kzap: I agree that speaking out against homophobia and the double standard regarding depicting gay sex vs. straight sex is important. Speaking out against bigotry of any kind is important. But again, my point is it never happened. Apple never banned the issue or apparently ever had an problem with it. Comixology made a judgement call, wrongly, that Apple would take offense. And everyone is assuming it had to do with gay sex but from the statement I read from Comixology they said that was not the case and have yet to answer the question of what did in fact raise the red flag. So there is no proof anyone played by a double standard and the only person who made reference to the issue being banned because of gay sex was BKV. He clearly insinuated that Apple was being homophobic when they weren’t. It’s important and necessary to speak out against homophobia and bigotry of any kind. But getting your facts right and making sure you are speaking about something that actually happened and making sure you are calling out the right party is just as important.

      Not to mention his apology is pretty weak. “I was mistakenly lead to believe.” Talk about passing the buck. And then this: “I never thought either company was being homophobic, only weirdly inconsistent about what kind of adult material was permissible.” Now that’s some pretty serious backpedaling. He never mentioned a “double standard” in his original tweet, just that it was banned because of gay sex. He was pretty clearly insinuating that Apple was being homophobic and then when he found out he was wrong he tried to back away from that assertion. Overall I’m pretty disappointed with BKV from this whole situation.

    • @USPUNX
      Did we honestly expect anyone to admit to it being pulled for gay sex though? After the backlash of course they were going to claim it would have been pulled even if the scene were “straight”, that was enviable.
      But considering everything else that has been passed it’s definitely a little fishy that the first issue to cause a problem just HAPPENS to be the first issue containing gay sex.
      That’s too much of a coincidence in my mind.
      You’re willing to give Comixology the benefit of the doubt when they say it was something else in the issue they found objectionable but not give BKV the benefit of the doubt when he says he “was mistakenly lead to believe”.
      Personally I think it’s much more likely he’s telling the truth than Comixology.
      Unless you know something about BKV I don’t.

    • I meant to say “inevitable” not “enviable” DAMN YOU SPELL CHECKER!
      If was I on an iPhone I could blame Apple for maliciously trying to sabotage my argument with their auto-correct, but alas I’m not 😛

    • @kzap: I assumed that enviable=inevitable!

      I did give more credit to Comixology than BKV, that’s true and that was unfair. However, you are just doing the oposite, giving BKV all the benefit of the doubt while affording Comixology none.

      I think the main point here is this: It’s a good thing this debate was raised but it is very unfortunate how it happened. I hold Comixology responsible for withholding the issue but I also blame BKV for erroneously blaming Apple and backpedaling on his insinuations.

    • @USPUNX
      Fair enough, you’re right it’s unfortunate BKV initially laid the blame in the wrong, they’re both in the wrong to varying degrees but both trying to make it right (and cover their own back).
      Hopefully enough people have made their voices heard online that this won’t happen again.
      I’ve even heard that rumors that other titles initially withheld from the Comixology Apple store are magically appearing, which (if true) is great, it’s just a shame it took this whole drama for that to happen.

    • @kzap: Yeah there have been TONS of European comics pulled from the app store because they don’t fit Apple’s standards in regard to sex. The sad truth is that a double standard certainly exists in our society in regards to portraying straight or gay sex acts, particularly gay male sex acts. Just look at Game of Thrones. HBO is arguable the most liberal television channel in this country in terms of depicting sexual acts on screen. GoT has shown countless depictions of hetero sex acts, yet when it’s time for Loras and Renly to hook up the camera pans away. The double standard is very real and certainly needs to be talked about. It’s a shame the way this whole thing happened but if it leads to real change then at least some good came from it.

  15. Allowing BKV here to get away with throwing incendiary lobs is….industry standard. He had the comic equivalent of a sex tape come out, with this hopefully misinformed assumption. But it reeks of pr stunt and lazyness that a writer of his stature shouldn’t be making. Kirkman told the industry to do better, Bendis too, why don’t other writers of BKV stature and marketability insist on such easy thinking? I know I am dropping Saga because if Aaron Sorkin did something like this, they would call him out on it, and it is a bad thing that in this respect we have a well respected writer acting privileged and oppressed, when he is obviously at a position few can get to, yet everyone just shuffles away because he did a weak mea culpa and he is BKV, long lost comics writer returned, and former Lost writer.

    • I don’t think he made any assumptions. He was told by his publisher the book was baned by Apple, now what exactly Comixology told Image we’ll probably never know for sure.

  16. Josh, I agree with you 110%. I just wanted to clarify one bit: “A Clockwork Orange” wasn’t officially “banned by the UK”. Director Stanley Kubrick withdrew it from distribution because he was disturbed that it was being scapegoated as a defense (or should I say defence) in rape/assault cases and his family was getting threats. His art, his prerogative.

    Now, as for the Saga frames under discussion. Come on. 🙂 If I were being cynical, I might think they were put there to start a controversy. They certainly don’t do anything for the story.

  17. I’ve learned to avoid certain comics and video game coverage on the Internet as best I can. I just don’t have the patience for this stuff. There is a white knight segment of these communities that seem to be looking for outrage. This ordeal is possibly the best example of how ridiculous these mini-scandals can get.

    There are things in this world that upset and anger me to such a degree that I simply can’t understand how people can get so upset over things that are relatively trivial.

    Also, having read the issue and looking at the images in question, I must say the second image is rather excessive. If you put a throw away image of three penises ejaculating on a face in your comic, serving no other purpose than to be bizarre and shocking, it seems to me you’re trolling for controversy.

    • I think they do do something for the story. I took away that, firstly Robot was cursing at the Wreath with his screen, calling them cock-suckers essentially. It also ties into his repressed feelings towards sexual inadequacy as a result of the horrors and violence he’s seen on the warfront. It’s the kind of interesting thing you can do to uniquely portray a characters thoughts and emotions when they have a TV for a head.

  18. Realised that this had blown out of all proportion when the story appeared on the main page of The Guardian newspaper website in the UK.
    Let’s see how much of a sales bump it has caused for issue 12 compared to the rest of the series.

  19. I would encourage everyone to take a deep, cleansing breath and relax. I think that BKV got riled and jumped the gun without knowing all the facts, and posted something online that made him look foolish. Which, in our digital culture, is SO easy to do, since information moves fast and everyone has a public voice on the internet. It’s like the majority of the stuff my mother forwards to me in email that I send back with a link to snopes.com because 99% of it is TOTAL bullshit and based on a wrong assumptions/information. People make assumptions all the time based on the info available at the time and run with them.

    BKV made a mistake, plain and simple. And you know what? IT’S OK TO BE WRONG! EVERYONE does it once it a while. We as a culture are SO wrapped up in being right we’ll argue and bicker ad nauseum. Nobody wants to back down and admit they were wrong and… Oh, wait, he did? “I’m truly sorry.” So he admitted he was wrong, and he looked like a dumbass for going all agro for no reason. Could he have gone a little farther with the apology? Maybe. But people knee-jerk all the time about stuff. We aren’t robots, or TV-headed robots. Lighten up.

    And I don’t think it’s some big PR stunt or exploitation of LGBT people – what would be the point? This book already sells out regularly and has to be reprinted. It’s not like it’s in financial trouble and needs saving with some grand scheme conspired in a dark smoky room. How much MORE money would this net him?

    If you don’t want to accept his apology, that’s your choice. But you’re gonna miss out on a good story.

  20. Yeah, we don’t need no civil war.

  21. So glad I didn’t jump into this heated argument until I heard all the facts, great article JOSH.

  22. I don’t have an ipad and was shocked that #12 would be banned from it when anyone who reads this book regularly knows there’s scenes that are way more graphic than this supposed controversy. I’m glad this happened though, to show how alarmist people can truly be and are too quick to finger point in the name of righteousness. I respect and enjoy Vaughan’s stories, but he really step in it this time although, recognizing his mistake, admitted to it and I can understand being over protective of his work. Let this be a lesson to those who love to jump the gun cause I’m sure it’ll never happen…

  23. This is the important point: “If you couldn’t get Saga #12 by clicking over 2 more pecks on your iPad… there would have been an argument”

    Comixology & Image haven’t done a great job explaining this – it’s really only a slight inconvenience.

    When SEX #1 was similarly banned from the Comixology app, all of the articles I saw on the topic suggested purchasing the title directly from Image Comics’ web site. It was not clear that you could buy it on the Comixology web site *and still be able to read it within the iPad app* … I’m not a fan of reading comics in a web browser, so I didn’t bother buying it from Image’s website (I don’t even know what format their web-based purchases are delivered in). So, I mistakenly thought I had to wait until the trade paperback collection to be able to read Joe Casey’s new book. And my brick & mortar store was already sold out by that time.

    Comixology could drive more customers to the web storefront if they simply allowed a preference within the reading app to automatically download all new purchases made from the web store; having to go back and manually download it is the only slight inconvenience. That’d also drive more digital pre-orders, knowing it’d show up immediately the first time you fire up the app after the title’s available.

  24. A horrible game of telephone. BKV misunderstood the exact reason his book wasn’t being sold on comixology, and so that confusion dispersed on a much grander scale. Before all the facts came to light about the “Explicit” settings on the various iOS apps, it was quite easy to take BKV’s word as gospel and make assumptions that Apple straight up banned the issue. After all, why would we think that he was lying? It’s too bad that it wasn’t made clear to him at the beginning, because even though we now know all the facts, the ugliness is still lingering.

    I also wish that Comixology didn’t wait an entire day before admitting that the decision was on their end, and not Apple’s. An internet day is enough for the peoples’ fervor to grow exponentially.

  25. I knew there had to be more to it. I mean, Apple doesn’t seem like the type to ban such a thing. I kept my torch and pitchfork in their respective cupboards.

  26. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Hope none of this takes away from the conclusion that Fiona Staples renders some visually arresting scrota, no two unfurling quite the same.

  27. Yea, I feel bad for being critical of Apple in this circumstance too. I knew they have a strong anti-porn stance on this applications which is their call. So, the assumption that they had blocked the issue jibed with their general policy. It annoys me a little that Comixology waited almost an entire day while fans beat Apple up before they confessed it was their decision based on some misplaced understanding. However, the greater argument is still legitimate: I do not be protected from myself. I like this kind of art. I like it because its smart, its interesting and it makes me think. I don’t care that the images involved are uncomfortable to segments of society. So long as I don’t harm anyone else, it is my right to explore any and all options in my life. Related: Do we know if Comixology willingly took down the Sex issues without consulting Apple?

    • Not only is Saga #12 now available through the app, but both Sex 1 & 2 are up there as well so I guess maybe comixology never submitted them either

  28. I can eat fifty eggs.

  29. I read digital content on my Surface tablet and STILL didn’t think this was worth fighting over or worth another Evil Apple discussion. There were other ways to read it and I was getting a floppy and a 1’s and 0’s version too.

  30. I don’t think I could possibly agree with this article more. It amazes me how different the world would be if people researched actual FACTS before making their ridiculous statements.

    • Uhm, not selling a certain kind of product is censorship. Apple are well withing their rights to censor content on their store. The problem is the idea is that censoring is almost always wrong and that only evil people do it. Everyone does it.

      It is quite understandable why Apple would object to graphic content on their store. American society is incredibly litigious, they can’t guarantee kids won’t read it and share-holders do not like a large part of revenue just going into legal fee and compensations, but anybody claiming this is isn’t partly Apple’s fault is wrong. Their rules are incredibly vague and inconsistent. They have banned much tamer content than this.

      Of course, if you like comics and want to support artists and publishers, then you should be buying from the comixology website. It means a bigger cut to the creators. http://support.comixology.com/customer/portal/articles/1021457-what-percentage-of-the-sales-will-i-earn-%E2%80%A8

    • Oops, this wasn’t supposed to be a reply.

    • Lol I was wondering about that!

  31. Let’s be absolutely clear, this IS Apple’s fault. Apple has rules about what can be in apps & Comixology erred by interpreting the rules incorrectly. The problem is that the rule needs to be interpreted in the first place. Crystal clear policies about what they will & will not allow would keep this from happening again in the future.

    That being said, comixology has published all previous issues and a lot of them included similar “offensive” material. Why this time? Don’t think that question has been adequately addressed.

  32. Does this whole mess beg the bigger question: How many hoops should we jump through to get a comic from creators to readers?

    Apple DOES have a policy in which they can (and do) block content, up to and including blocking the entire app the content comes in on, effectively blocking everything else that might be offered through it:

    On top of that, they take 30% of the price just for buying it on your iDevice. Through someone else’s service.

    And then ComiXology, we’ve now established, jumped the gun, likely because they aren’t 100% sure of if something in this comic (and others) might set Apple off and blow the rest of their business on top of it. They didn’t communicate this to the creator or to their customers until pretty late into it. They also take half of what the comic sells (after Apple, unless you buy from them directly on their web site). So, self-censoring, not great communication, big cut of profits (at least they do a lot more than Apple is doing for their share though). Oh, and the purchaser doesn’t actually own the issue (but that’s something else entirely).

    Bad press equalling good press is all fine and dandy, but the attention of this story IS causing some retailers to suddenly state that they are no longer comfortable carrying the title, which may or may not have happened if things hadn’t fallen the way they did. But, moreso, Brian and Fiona had their book pulled on someone’s whim and suffered from a bad game of Telephone. It may have worked out for them, but if this wouldn’t have happened, would Sex #1 and 2 be suddenly back in the store as well, or would that have just been swept under because it wasn’t nearly as popular as Saga is? And will retailers suddenly become targets because of a popularized story talking about “explicit gay sex acts” in comics? While it’s nothing illegal, and they would be protected, who needs that heat?

    If it was just Brian and Fiona (and Image) selling the comics from their own site (as PDFs or CBRs/CBZs), none of this would’ve been… anything.

    I never saw this as a censorship issue. But I can’t say it makes me want to buy from Apple or ComiXology. It’s not a non-story. It’s a reality check.

  33. This question is for Josh and I don’t want to appear like I’m calling you out: Why did you censor the money shot?

  34. I agree that people acted too quickly, jumped to incorrect conclusions, and said things that were foolish. I must respectfully disagree with Josh about regarding the following paragraph, however:

    “It seems like every week, there’s some ‘this is the evil thing in comics’. Yes, there is sexism, and homophobia, and there is a preponderance of dumbasses, and they are the people running comics. But if we need to throw a virtual protest march every time someone makes a societal misstep, we’re gonna be wasting a lot of keystrokes.”

    First, I would point out that, although the bases for many of the complaints about the “banning” of this issue of Saga were not well-founded, those keystrokes spent complaining do _not_ appear to have been wasted. On the contrary, the attention brought to this issue forced Comixology to own up to its role in the matter, and apparently prompted Apple to reach out to Comixology and let them know that they were being too strict in applying Apple’s policies, excluding some content from the apps that Apple would not have them exclude. That’s a win for the comics-buying public. Would this have happened without all the Internet outrage, even if that outrage was based on a false premise? I suppose we can’t say for sure, but the fact that Sex #1 is suddenly available for sale through the Comixology app, a month after it was released to the general public but excluded from the app without an accompanying Internet furor, suggests probably not.

    Certainly I don’t suggest that people should intentionally get outraged about things when they’re wrong about the underlying facts. But the outcome in this instance leads me to wonder if this is really a problem that needs fixing. Just as you can not buy products from a company you dislike, as Josh advocates, surely you can just ignore and/or unfollow people who express their rage about those things which you consider non-problems, right? There seems something contradictory in complaining on the Internet about people wasting their time complaining on the Internet. The recommendation that you should simply passively disengage from everything you disagree with seems contrary to the notion of a fan community website.

    Second, I disagree with the quoted paragraph’s suggestion that the prevalence of homophobia, sexism, and general dumbassery on the Internet should lead us to ignore all but the most egregious cases thereof. While some of us may self-select into reading content that does highlight each and every of these missteps, the fact that those missteps continue to occur with such great frequency demonstrates that people who notice and care about cultural insensitivity are not in the majority. Even if many of the people who create comics for a living and those who write about comics for a living may tend to be open-minded, progressive people, great swaths of the comic-reading public vigorously defend their parochial straight white male viewpoint, and loudly shout down any criticism that they perceive as threatening.

    To the extent that Josh’s premise is that you should make sure you know the facts before you start to condemn people, I entirely agree. To the extent Josh’s premise is that too many people are too eager to stand up for equal treatment of all segments of our society, that’s where we part ways. If the cost of an open and inclusive community is that occasionally people get carried away in response to a problem that might not have needed fixing, I’m willing to pay that cost.

  35. I’m glad this ended up being a big error and nothing sinister. Cause if it did wind up being what we initially thought it would make everyone involved look bad. But now we just look bad because we took it out of a control…..Of course I’m not sure why Comixology couldn’t have issued this press release sooner. I know that sounds like I’m trying to find something to bitch about but think about it. This became a HUGE deal in a matter of minutes; so to wait a day to type up an explanation does seem a bit weird.

  36. this would be a whole lot easier and less of a mess, if Image just had their own digital comics store where we could purchase directly from them.

  37. Again, it’s not just the writer of Saga jumping the gun bashing Apple.

    Apple is restrictive in the content available in its store that is sexually explicit. There’s a larger problem here that affects Apple and other media vendors who have no problem selling material with explicit or glorified violence, but balk at explicit depictions of sexuality. Apple doesn’t bear the sole responsibility for the double standard in our society, and Vaughn deserves props for not shying away from such content.

    Yeah, jumping the gun and calling a person or company homophobic is a mistake. But the larger issue is the policy that limits sexual content in media. What’s wrong, indeed…

    • Great point. Couldn’t agree with you more. Vaughn might have spoken too soon but the fact is that French comics publisher Izneo still had to remove over 1500 of their books due to Apple/Comixology’s content restrictions regarding sex and sexuality.

    • Of course, if I remember his comments correctly, he never called the company homophobic or even implied it. He simply pointed out the double standard that this issue was being censored while the others weren’t.
      Whether that was Comixology self-censoring on what they thought Apple would do is loosing sight of the issue, which is that whoever made the call thought this was somehow different to all the sexual acts depicted in the series before.
      I hope that this issue doesn’t get swept under the rug just because it wasn’t Apple making the call but I suspect it will be.

    • He very clearly implied that Apple was being homophobic.

    • @USPUNX
      Even if you think that is the case, and I personally never inferred that from what I read at the time.
      Clearly SOMEONE was being homophobic, that’s what’s important. Now we know it wasn’t Apple but I think the most important thing is that he started this discussion; “why did anyone think that issue was any worse than the others?”.

    • @kzap: Oh I agree that this is an important and necessary discusion to have. No disagreement there. I just can’t support an “ends justify the means” mentality. Just because the discussion is revalant doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to insinuate a company is being homophobic when they were not. It’s a great discussion to have, it’s just unfortunate BKV didn’t bother to verify the facts so we could having the discussion properly.

  38. “If you don’t like how a company is doing business, don’t do business with that company.”

    Or write them, and complain, like many people did today. Who said this had to be an either or option? It’s a false dilemma.

    It sucks that Apple caught a lot of flack for this, when at the end of the day, it was a screw up on Comixology’s side.

    The point is that without that backlash that was catching both companies by storm, this probably wouldn’t have been corrected, and the truth probably wouldn’t have come out.

    So shame on Comixology…I’d rather you don’t decide for me. Push the comics out there, and if Apple doesn’t think it meets their standards, then so be it. Let them be the bad guys.

    Because now, you are.

    • “So shame on Comixology…I’d rather you don’t decide for me. Push the comics out there, and if Apple doesn’t think it meets their standards, then so be it. Let them be the bad guys.

      Because now, you are.”

      Absolutely. This whole idea that we should let the distributors act as both content curators and the arbiters of morality is complete bullshit. Let us comic readers decide what we think is appropriate and exercise our freedom to buy and read what we want.

  39. I’m not going to comment on the issue at hand. Much smarter and thoughtful already have.

    Rather, I would just like to compliment Josh on a clear, concise commentary on the issue. Thank you for calling out the comics community for it’s never-ending stream of crying wolf and playing the victim.

  40. I read this book in trades. In 6-8 months, I’ll look back fondly and remember this kerfluffle over a simple money shot.

  41. I’m slightly worried that people seem to be sweeping this issue under the carpet now that we know it was someone other than Apple who made the call.
    Because that’s what seems to be happening. Does the double standard somehow not matter because a huge multinational corporation is not to blame?
    The issue at hand is that comics showing heterosexual acts were available in a certain marketplace and a comic showing a homosexual act was not.
    Also it’s worth noting if the creator hadn’t kicked up a stink in the way he did this debacle may not have been resolved at all.

    • @kzap: You are intentionally misframing this entire debate. The point is THERE WAS NO DOUBLE STANDARD. This all happened because of a miscommunication. Comixology THOUGHT Apple wouldn’t let the comic go through. Apple never had a problem with it. So the comic in now available in all Apple apps. Apple was never homophobic or had a double standard. Comixology didn’t want to withhold the comic, meaning they too don’t have a double standard, but did because of a misinterpretation on their part. The comic is now available in all formats, just as it would have been on Wednesday if not for the miscommunication. Comixology didn’t want to withhold the comic. Apple didn’t want to withhold the comic. It was withheld because of the PERCEPTION of a double standard which was now been shown to NOT EXIST.

      “Also it’s worth noting if the creator hadn’t kicked up a stink in the way he did this debacle may not have been resolved at all.” Well, it’s also worth noting he kicked up the wrong stink, blamed the wrong people, and hastily backpedaled when all the facts, and therefore utter lack of a double standard, came to light.

    • *Just reread that and sorry for all the typos.

    • @USPUNX
      The problem is Comixology THOUGHT Apple had a double-standard, it’s worrying that they misinterpreted that from Apple’s guidelines and that they morally didn’t have a problem following those guidelines.
      If I worked for Comixology I would try and clarify that with Apple instead of simply not publishing a certain work because of a gay scene.

    • I think that’s totally fair. But the core point is that Comixology THOUGHT there was a double standard. The problem was in their own personal baises in believing that gay sex might raise a flag. But the thing to remember is that a double standard never actually existed in this situation.

      Not to mention this statement is a little silly: “it’s worrying that they misinterpreted that from Apple’s guidelines and that they morally didn’t have a problem following those guidelines.” Every single television program, theatrical film, comic, book, magazine, video game, piece of music, or media of any kind has to meet the moral standards of the company publishing it. And many of them have to meet a secondary set of standards (films, music, video games, tv shows) from independent ratings organizations. Not to mention individual stores, such as Walmart and Apple, can simply choose not to sell these products in they deem them too explicit. There are literally thousands of cases of art and media being changed in order to fit these standards. I’m not defending this system, just pointing out that if you are this morally outraged by the Saga #12 situation you must have a pretty hard time enjoying media of any kind.

    • @USPUNX
      I agree the Sage #12 is a typical example of the state of the entertainment industry as a whole and as such can be used as an example for the dangers of censorship and self-censorshi[.
      Hopefully companies can learn from this that the audience don’t have a moral problem this material (due to the fact they attacked Apple and Comixology for trying to censor it) and will let it pass without trouble in the future.
      I may have mentioned before I’m studying Television Production and looking to go into the TV or Film industry so know a huge amount about censorship and distribution which is why I know how important it is to fight it any chance you get.
      I live in the UK and recently saw the Steve McQueen film Shame which I think is a truly outstanding piece of art-work and think it’s such a tragedy that many people in the US had to jump through several hoops to find a cinema showing it because the MPAA gave it an NC-17 rating.
      It’s exactly the same with Sage #12, it’s a piece of art-work that for a short period of time certain people had to go a round-about route to obtain because someone else’s moral values (in fact worse; an interpretation of some else’s moral vaules) was stopping them

    • I think the biggest issue is that Comixology damaged their reputation here a bit. Their business model is built on easy access and wide selection. The disadvantages are the DRM model, the potential for it “all to go away someday”, and the gatekeeper effect.

      All they did this week was highlight some of those disadvantages.

    • @kzap: I too went to school for and currently work as an independent television producer! Welcome to the club!

      I agree that censorship is damaging to art and needs to be fought. Shame is a great example and is indicative of the MPAA’s stance towards sex on film. The same thing happened to Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. It makes a film more difficult to see in cinema’s and honestly just damages a film. NC-17 has a very negative stigma in this country and there are many people who simply won’t go see a film that bears the rating. I also think it’s rather silly and arbitrary since having seen both films neither one struck me as offensive or even overly explicit. But sadly it’s just the way things are in this country. Forcing a moral code on the masses is the exact same thing currently barring gay marriage.

  42. @USPUNX
    It’s awesome there’s another TV person here! I’m in my second year at University at the moment but applying for jobs in post-production houses. I’m also directing a short lesbian musical over the new few months.
    I think it’s interesting this situation has come up at the time of the equal marriage debate, because it’s dealing with a very similar issue.
    When it comes to be MPAA there’s been some very interesting cases with films depicting homosexual scenes being rated higher (often NC-17) than those depicting heterosexual scenes (the original cut of Requiem for a Dream comes to mind) so it’s understandable that people jumped to the same conclusion here.
    I think there should be a call for greater transparency with all publishing guidelines, whether they are from Apple, Comixology, Image comics or whoever so that everyone knows EXACTLY what will and won’t be published and the public can complain if they think the guidelines are immoral, discriminatory or simply don’t represent their interests.
    Of course any private company have the right to ignore complaints like this but it may help people decide when choosing a platform.
    And it would certainly help avoid situations like this in the future.

  43. Hey I just wanted to chime in and say, Josh…this was a spot on assessment of the industry and community in terms of our daily over reaction to nearly everything. It would be funny, but it’s so damn maddening.

    This article further cemented Josh Flanagan as the journalistic voice of reason for this industry/hobby.

    God help us all. Ha.

  44. Yes. Thank you most sincerely. This is the only site that did it right as far as I can tell.

  45. I find it interesting that everyone (including bkv) concluded that the potentially offensive part was the homosexuality and not the graphic nature of the images. while there has been sex in the comic before it was hardly as graphic as a bukake money shot, or even a blow job. sure the images were small, but very clearly front & center in the panels in question. and they were really not in any kind of story context like the sex in the space brothel issue (which had what certainly seemed like some gay sex to me). Its not like someone thought a steamy embrace between two men might be offensive, it was shots thats are pretty much right out of porn. if the sex was heterosexual, they would still be straight out of a porno. But the reaction was that it was a double standard between straight and gay sex as opposed to a double standard for r rated and x rated images, which wouldnt really be surprising or garner much in the way of headlines. This story got picked up by some LGBT news sites. I dont know if the bukake community would have given the story as much traction.