Comixology backs down from censorship of Vaughan & Staples’ Saga

Digital comics store Comixology got into some hot water with the internet (see Charlie Jane on io9, below) for deciding to ban the latest issue of popular creator Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga from its iOS store.

Why? Because the gorgeous, crackerjack artwork by Canadian artist Fiona Staples contained two postage-stamp sized images of gay sex.

Looks like Apple wasn’t thrilled with the decision, and Comixology has backpedaled.

But as io9 commentors and Bleeding Cool point out, this situation highlights the issues with Apple’s historically sometimes prudish walled garden. Digital comic distributor Izneo removed 40% of their content recently after receiving banning threats from Apple.

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.

As a former comic artist who was once censored by DC myself, I kind of feel that the publisher has right to censor content according to their internal standards, since they’re publishing you- but a distributor, which is what Comixology is, doesn’t.

In 1987 physical comics distributor Diamond Comics Steve Geppi tried to censor a creator as popular then as Vaughan is now- Alan Moore.

His attempt to persuade retailers not to stock Miracleman #9 not only didn’t work (I know, because I bought it at Forbidden Planet in Manhattan), it cost Diamond customers.

In the 21st century, distribution censorship should be a dead issue- you can’t unring the bell of torrenting, and if you don’t have it, somebody else will.

Yet Apple has previously censored gay sex images- in a comic inspired by Oscar Wilde, which is like censoring polenta in a cookbook. Apple killed its “Explicit” app category almost immediately; Jobs’ position on “freedom from porn” is well known from his famous email exchange with Gawker blogger Ryan Tate.

Itunes Match is known for changing songs from “explicit” versions to “clean”, as recently as a month ago.

Seriously, why would they do that? Who’s running Apple now, Tipper Gore? Once again, Apple demonstrates that they think they know best about what you want. And also, they think you’re stupid.

this post originally appeared on the T324 blog.

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