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Updated: Apple Bans Saga #12 From the App Store for Two Tiny Images of Gay Sex

Today in things that make us scream incoherently

Digital is a fast growing distribution method for comics, and an essential one for folks who don’t live a convenient distance from any of a shrinking number of independent comic shops. So when Apple bans a comic from the app store, that means that anyone who regularly gets their comics through an App store app, like that of Comixology (the most popular and in some cases only distributor of digital comics from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and other American comic companies), will be unable to see it on their iOS devices, even if the rest of the app and the rest of the issues in that series are still available.

The Hugo Award nominated, mature readers series Saga, for example, has been banned from the Apple store for two teeny, tiny images of sex that involves two dudes, and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes so I’m just going to make a list.

The news comes from an announcement made by Brian K. Vaughn, the writer of the comic:

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 Staples, Saga's artist] 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.

He offers several solutions for folks who will be unable to get their copies of Saga through normal means tomorrow, and puts in a plug for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a not-for-profit dedicated to defending censored and banned comics and folks who get in legal trouble because of them. But here’s a few reasons why this is double wrong. (Pretty much every link in this numbered list is NSFW to some degree. Click at your own risk.)

  1. As Vaughn says, there isn’t a single issue of Saga that could be mistaken for anything other than a mature readers book.
  2. The images of dude-on-dude sex in #12 are nearly invisible, appearing as images on the face of Prince Robot IV in two panels (…look, Saga readers will not be fazed at all by this sentence, but if you haven’t read it, Prince Robot’s people have television heads that flash images when they are undergoing shock, intense emotions, or mental trauma).
  3. The book has previously featured a character visiting the Red Light District planet Sextillion, which featured this second panel here, which I suppose could be interpreted as a completely heterosexual act if you really, really wanted it to be. This same segment also featured this orgy, which, as you can see, features no less than two very clearly depicted lady-on-lady couples.
  4. Issue #11 opened with three entire pages of graphic, heterosexual, penetrative sex.
  5. These are some of the characters who have previously appeared in the comic.

Do we really need to have another discussion about how problematic it is that our society considers clearly depicted sex to be more “explicit” than intense violence? That it considers depictions of sexual pleasure more explicit than negative, creepy, or deformed depictions of sex and genitalia? That it considers gay sex to be more “explicit” than heterosexual sex? That it frequently gives depictions of lesbian sex a pass because it can be presented for objectification and consumption by the assumed straight male audience where the tiniest bit of gay sex is considered to massively impinge on the fragile masculinity of that assumed straight male audience?

Saga is a fabulous, beautiful comic about parenting, love, war, and prejudice in a giant, crazy setting of a universe where turning each page is a delight because what you find on the other side is consistently something you never would have imagined, let alone guessed. And, though I wish we lived in a world where this wasn’t unusual, it’s got an incredible cast of female characters of all colors (including bright pink). It’s worth reading. The first issue, in fact, is free. I hope everybody out there manages to get their twelfth issue okay, regardless of how they read it.

EDIT: In the interest of being super clear where I fear I was not, Saga #12 can still be read and downloaded on iOS devices, but not purchased through them. iOS users will need to visit comixology.com directly using another device to purchase the issue.

UPDATE: Comixology has come forward with an explanation. Please head over to this post to read it.

(via The Beat.)

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