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 and Image Comics for any confusion this may have caused.
Unbelievable. So let me break this down. I should probably do this at length, but I’m at work so here’s some light work. Let’s hash it out in the comments, because I’m sure I’m leaving something out:
1. Brian K Vaughan releases a statement that Apple has banned Saga #12, specifically citing “two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex.” Fiona Staples cosigns it. They stand behind their comic, which is the only sane choice.
2. These statements are later cosigned by Image Comics and ComiXology via retweets, tweets, and reblogs on Tumblr.
3. People urge others to boycott Apple and to buy Saga from ComiXology or Image Comics directly. ComiXology implicitly supports these actions by spreading word that the comic will be on the website, not the app.
4. Twitter goes ham, understandably, because it looks like Apple is back rejecting gay content for vague or unstated reasons.
5. Websites follow suit, and a widespread discussion about Apple’s past practices follow.
6. This morning, 24 hours later, ComiXology CEO David Steinberger releases a statement that basically says “oh it was us ha ha sorry!”
The discussion about Apple and access is valuable, considering Apple’s place as a gatekeeper. If comics is going to hitch itself to Apple’s products, comics needs to be sure that it isn’t being handcuffed at the same time. Cape comics just escaped the Comics Code — there’s no reason to volunteer yourself to be controlled again.
1. Apple’s gatekeeper status. This specific instance is a case of someone incorrectly interpreting Apple’s rules, which is actually a big part of the problem. What’s explicit? What’s obscene? As far as I know, Apple has never clearly said, and they often contradict themselves or go “Oh wait no this one’s good. We meant this other thing.” It’s a crapshoot. If you’re going to have a code, make it public so we know what the deal is.
2. Saga is THE comic right now. More than anything else, it’s an important comic in the comics industry. It’s a high selling title from a celebrated author and a ferociously talented artist, and they own it. Saga, to a lot of people, represents a sea change in the industry. So this is important on a few different levels.
3. Who told BKV that Apple said no to the gay content? And how does that jibe with ComiXology’s statement that “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.”? What’s true here? Either ComiXology spiked it because of the gay sex or they didn’t. Who’s lying?
4. By purchasing directly from ComiXology or one of their partner sites, ComiXology avoids having to pay Apple a 30% fee for distribution. That increases the profits for ComiXology and, I assume, the creators. Even if there’s no actual wrongdoing here, there is definitely the appearance of shadiness, thanks to ComiXology and its partners repeatedly and aggressively suggesting that you should buy Saga directly from them while claiming that it was “banned by Apple,” or rejected by Apple, or whatever the correct terminology is here.
5. The criticisms that were previously aimed at Apple should now be turned toward ComiXology — who on their staff is in charge of content approvals? What are they using as a guide? Do they have the best interests of the comics industry at heart? If no, should they?
6. ComiXology is the new Diamond. They’ve got all the big names and they call the shots with impunity. There are alternatives — I’m extremely fond of DRM-free PDFs and JPGs where I pay directly to the creators — but if you’re talking digital comics, you’re talking ComiXology.
7. It took 24 hours for ComiXology to fess up, which is utterly pathetic. Why the delay? To dodge the worst of the backlash while enjoying the benefits of it?
8. Petty, but: Steinberger didn’t even mention Fiona Staples in his apology, even though she’s co-creator of the book and just as affected by this news as BKV. Try harder. Artists matter.
This is a quagmire. What am I forgetting? What leaps out to you? Let’s conversate.