April 2013 Archives

Saga and sex

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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."

Marianne at XO Jane relates the tale of a dinner out at a "fairly quiet restaurant" and a confrontation avoided:

One table over, separated from us by a railing and some plants, was a couple on a date. [...] The couple covered a lot of ground, including how entertaining and musical the names were at a local majority-black high school. [...]

The girl said she'd never visit the Holy Land because she's just so offensive, she'd totally offend the Amish people there. And the guy said, yeah, he'd love to visit and see Anne Frank's house. It was really amazing that she did all of that stuff while deaf, wasn't it? And did they ever find her plane?

(He covered Anne Frank -- though her house isn't in the Holy Land, dude -- as well as Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart in one go!)

The writer sighs, "I spent a good chunk of the night thinking about why I was just so ANGRY:"

I decided that I really should have said something, whether or not it caused a scene. I've since mentally prepare some things to say to people if that kind of situation ever comes up again -- my faith in humanity is fairly low right now so I suspect that it will.

Her final question is for all of us, when confronted with cluelessness amidst the cuisine:

When do you make a scene, xoJaners? What would you have done?

I don't really know, but I'd probably be shaking my head hard enough to induce whiplash.

Cuccinelli's petition was denied:

The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond issued an order on Monday denying a petition by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli asking the full 15-judge court to reconsider a decision by a three-judge panel last month that overturned the state's sodomy law.

(h/t: JoeMyGod)


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I stumbled across Titan Comics' plans to reprint Jack Katz's seminal graphic novel The First Kingdom. FK is long overdue for a critical reappraisal, especially since its 1986 conclusion was overlooked in the wake of Dark Knight, Maus, and Watchmen. (Although Katz has his own Wikipedia page, his novel does not.)

Originally published in 24 parts, The First Kingdom is one of the few early graphic novels that has not been reprinted in full. (Reprints have been attempted twice, but never to completion; one ended one-quarter of the way through the book, the other at the halfway mark.) The original magazine-format issues are, I think, the minimum acceptable size for Katz's detailed artwork; it would suffer from being reproduced at a smaller size--particularly for fans old enough to have bought the series at cover price, and whose eyes might not be as keen as they once were.

Amazon lists both Volume 1.1 and Volume 1.2 as 208 pages each, which would seem to indicate a 4-volume version of the original 768-page saga--albeit with less supplementary material than I had hoped for. Due on 24 September is Volume 2.1: Space Explorer's Club, which appears to be the start of a second novel from Katz.

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