Digital comic not banned over gay sex images, says iOS app publisher

The latest issue of Brian K. Vaughan's "Saga" was temporarily removed from Comixology's iOS app due to a misunderstanding over Apple's guidelines, according to Comixology's CEO.

Saga No. 12 was temporarily on the outs with comic book app publisher Comixology.
Saga No. 12 was temporarily on the outs with comic book app publisher Comixology. Image Comics
Note: This story was originally published at 8:57 a.m. PT under the headline "Apple bans digital comic over gay sex images, say its creators." It was republished at 11:55 a.m. PT with new information from Comixology about the root cause of the holdup in the comic's availability and a new headline to reflect that change in the story.

The ban on the latest issue of the digital comic "Saga" was apparently due to confusion over Apple's policies and not its images portraying gay sex. At least, that's the word from Comixology, which offers an app that sells digital comics.

The comic book controversy unfolded today over issue 12 of "Saga," a comic book written by author Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, and published by Image Comics.

Users who accessed Comixology's iOS app, which sells the ongoing digital comic series, found that the latest issue was missing in action.

That quickly led to complaints from the creative team behind "Saga" accusing Apple of banning the issue because it contained two small images of gay sex scenes. Specifically, the two images in question show penises at the critical moment of a sex act as reflected in the faceplate of one of the characters.

But Apple was unfairly accused when in fact the company had nothing to do with the issue's removal, according to Comixology. Instead, it was a mistaken decision on the part of Comixology that led to the ban, as described in a blog posted today by Comixology CEO David Steinberger:

To our customers -

In the last 24 hours there has been a lot of chatter about Apple banning Saga No. 12 from our Comics App on the Apple App Store due to depictions of gay sex. This is simply not true, and we'd like to clarify.

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 No. 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 No. 12.

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 No. 12 will be available on our App Store app soon.

We apologize to Saga creator Brian K. Vaughan and Image Comics for any confusion this may have caused.

Comixology didn't reveal exactly how it misunderstood Apple's policy or why the issue would've been banned other than for its depictions of gay sex.

Apple does impose strict requirements over iOS apps, notably in terms of sexual content. A section in the company's developer guidelines states that "apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster's Dictionary as 'explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings,' will be rejected."

But an Apple spokesperson confirmed to CNET that the company played no part in the ban.

The controversy certainly riled up Vaughan, who initially fingered Apple as the culprit:

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 No. 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.

Until Comixology puts "Saga" No. 12 back in its good graces, readers can purchase the issue directly through Image Comics' own iOS app.

This marks the second major snafu for Comixology over the past nonth.

In March, Marvel Comics launched a free giveaway of more than 700 digital comics through its Comixology-powered iOS app. But the huge amount of traffic from eager comic book fans triggerer a server crash at Comixology, putting the kibosh on the giveaway and preventing digital sales of other books. Marvel was forced to suspend the promotion but kicked it off again on Monday , this time in smaller waves to avoid a similar incident.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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