Yesterday, Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan described the situation thusly: “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.”
Judging from what I’ve seen, the online reaction was pretty negative, and deservedly so — not just because the images in question were indeed pretty small, but also because Saga has included graphic sex and violence in the past without trouble. It didn’t help that the title is the big success story in creator-owned comics from the past year.
Over at the science-fiction site io9, Charlie Jane Anders wrote: “Apple’s stone-cold vision of the future has no room for gay people, at least not if they’re going to express their sexuality.” And the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund published a post (which includes the images in question) noting that distribution of the comic is protected by the First Amendment. To be clear, the CBLDF didn’t question “Apple’s rights as a private company to refuse to carry the comic,” but it wanted to make sure comic book stores weren’t scared into following that example.
Turns out, however, Apple wasn’t to blame, at least according to ComiXology CEO David Steinberger. He wrote that it was ComiXology, not Apple, that made the decision — although it was based on the startup’s understanding of Apple’s policies. Steinberg also insisted that the decision wasn’t based on sexual orientation: “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.”
He went on to say that ComiXology is reversing its decision and will begin selling Saga #12 soon — and it sounds like Apple may not have been too happy about the controversy: “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.”