When it comes to decency, the majority understand that there are things considered inappropriate for some, usually when speaking of children. This kind of censorship has innate problems in that far too often what’s deemed inappropriate is decided by the few instead of the rightful majority. Another and probably even more serious problem is that one man’s obscene is another man’s art and inconsistencies always end up arising that blur the lines of what the people may consider decent.
Unfortunately fans of Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staple’s sci-fi opera Saga had some troubles getting issues #12 digitally because of Apple’s policies regarding appropriate material. This was due to two “postage stamp-sized images” portraying men in homosexual acts getting the issue banned from the Comixology iOS app. The news infuriated fans of the book as well as those against censorship and gay rights activists, but in a strange turn of events a day later Comixology has taken the blame for the ban.
This has made everyone a little suspicious.
Saga is a critically acclaimed, fan-beloved, and creator-owned title. That makes it a shining star in the comic industry next to other such juggernauts like The Walking Dead because both don’t come from Marvel or DC who own all of their properties and that is no small feat. In a short summary Saga is a story about two love struck aliens, Alana and Marko, whose species have been waring with one another for centuries. Despite that the couple still manage to flee their war-torn lives and conceive the first hybrid child ever heard of. Since then the family has been on the run in search of nothing more then a quiet place to raise their daughter, Hazel.
Unfortunately a robotic royal family has learned of Alana and Marko’s union along with their child and has sought out to kill them, and a roguish bounty hunter has also become mixed up in the story. Altogether Saga is a rich tapestry of love, war, and hope that is compellingly written by Vaughn and beautiful art by Staples. The book has repeatedly and without censorship shown several images that would be considered unfit for children, but until now has only met minimal resistance.
Vaughn long ago said that Saga was for Mature Readers and states that each scene of robotic alien humanoids having sex, a topless spider woman, a brothel planet, a troll’s grotesquely large genitals, and several scenes of violence are only used with specific storyline purposes and never “to shock or titillate.” Compared to smaller visuals depicting gay porn, it seems inconsistent that it would be discriminated against by the guidelines that Comixology follows when screening its content. These guidelines come from their contract with Apple and have never been released to the public, but are apparently vague enough to be misinterpreted.
Now people wonder if this is a case of inconsistent censorship or gay discrimination. And who’s to blame?
Originally, blame fell on Apple and for 24 hours no one came out to to say anything different. Rallies built around the boycott of Apple products and once again their stand on gays was called into question. Meanwhile Comixology reassured readers that they can still buy the issue through their website and then sync it to their mobile device (which happens to cut out a 30% fee Comixology pays to Apple for distribution) making Apple out squarely as the bad guy. Comixology then announces that it was their own decision to not release the issue siting:
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.
But now Saga#12 has been released. Is it inappropriate or not? And if it is, why this particular scene the deal breaker and nothing before?
Many blame the ban on the homosexual nature of the images, but this shouldn’t be the case. The sexual scenes portrayed on the face of Prince Robot IV are unlike his sex scene early in the series or any other sexual scene that has been seen since. It’s distinctly pornographic in nature, rather than a couple sharing a momentof passion. Is this the line that Apple doesn’t want Comixology to cross?
Whatever the reasons for the the temporary ban on Saga #12, the act itself is unforgivable. Art was censored and denied access to a portion of the public. Instead of restricting access altogether, Comixology could have created age restrictions on Mature books – but for that to be possible Apple also needs to review their own policy guidelines and make it clear what they will and won’t allow.
This incident calls for changes to these companies’ methods of handling restricted content. To remain as is would be far more serious a crime than banning one beautiful story from the people.