New Statesman's Alex Hern comments on Apple's refusal to e-publish the latest issue of Saga, writing that "while the small visible images are certainly explicit, they're far from erotic:"
They work in humorous juxtaposition to the chaos of the battleground, and underline the artificial nature of the character in question.
It's hard not to conclude that the rejection is homophobic. Even if it doesn't come from explicitly homophobic guidelines on Apple's part - and the company is notoriously opaque about how its App Store approval process works, so we can't know that for certain - the outcome must be judged on its own merits. Gay sex has been treated as worse than straight sex, and unless Apple admits that its reviewers made a mistake (in either of the situations), that is a homophobic standard to impose. [...]
As digital markets become increasingly concentrated, the line between private companies exercising their right to not host content they disagree with and outright censorship is blurred. If this is the precedent set, we should be worried what happens if Apple's authority increases further.
CBR also reminds readers to "Head over to you [sic] friendly neighborhood comics shop and pick up a physical copy of our issue that you can have and hold forever," and support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, among other options. This note from Saga's publisher Image Comics reminds everyone that there are other places to obtain comic books--comic shops not least among them.
Brian Vaughan's statement says it all:
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. 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 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.
The Guardian quotes io9's Charlie Jane Anders:
"If you have to choose between Saga's gritty, insane view of the future and Apple's sterile, mindless version - and Apple is making you choose - pick Saga's, every time. It's the version that feels like one you could actually live in," wrote Anders.
Of course, "Apple has not responded to a request for comment."
The Atlantic's Chris Heller concurs, observing that "Many of the series' prior issues included sex acts:"
The only difference between what was drawn in those issues and what was drawn in Saga #12 is a matter of sexual orientation. Banning this one and selling others is an unreasonable, inconsistent application of whatever standards Apple sees fit to use to determine what belongs in the App Store.
Quite simply, it appears Apple doesn't want to sell this issue because it depicts gay sex.
Salon's Katie McDonough notes that "The small images (broadcast on the television head of Prince Robot IV) are explicit, but no different than material covered in previous issues." and concludes that "it's hard not to see this as a blatant case of homophobic bias."
In related-yet-unrelated news, Batgirl #19 features what may be a first for mainstream superhero comics: a transgender character (who, as it turns out, is also bisexual):
In Batgirl #19, on sale today in both print and digital formats, the character Alysia Yeoh will reveal that she is a transwoman in a conversation with her roommate, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). Taking care to distinguish Yeoh's sexual orientation from her gender identity, Batgirl writer Gail Simone noted that the character is also bisexual. [...]
She added that she thinks most superhero comics readers don't have a problem with increased diversity, but rather with stories that promote sermonizing over storytelling. Alysia will be "a character, not a public service announcement ... being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn't love her after, well -- that's a shame, but we can't let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever." [...]
I'm sure it's controversial on some level to some people, but honest to God, I just could not care less about that. If someone gets upset, so be it; there are a thousand other comics out there for those people."
update (4/11 @ 4:14pm):
CBR comments on the scandal:
In a sense, the "There's No Such Thing As Bad Publicity" sense, such discussion couldn't happen to a better comic book -- because there aren't any, or aren't that many, better comic books than Saga.
Staples surely knows her readers by this point, and she surely knows they are OK with an image of dudes jerking off into someone's mouth on the face-screen of a television-headed, wounded robot prince in a smart jacket...
I can certainly agree with the concluding sentiment that "here's hoping we keep talking about Saga -- hopefully for different, better reasons."