Forgive me: I’m about to get political and righteously angry.
As I’ve stated here in the past, Saga is quite possibly my favorite comic book at the moment. It’s been consistently amazing, possessing a unique charm and wit even in the saddest and darkest of moments. Its characters are as richly drawn and interesting as the world they inhabit – and I mean drawn both literally and figuratively – and it’s always a joy to read.
It also has a lot of sex. A LOT of sex.
Its not gratuitous sex in any case. It’s usually rather tasteful visually, if the dialogue is a little less so, but in every instance of it the sex has been in the service of developing the characters. We see these characters from all angles: quiet moments to moments of intensity and combat, moments of fear and moments of joy. These depictions of sex give us insight into the relationships between these characters that you can’t get outside of intimate moments. Yes, it’s sex. No, it’s not pornography.
But I hardly need to defend the series for this reason; despite these depictions, it’s constantly been among the best selling comics each month since its debut. People don’t seem to mind, and nor do retailers: except for Amazon taking the series down briefly while its content was reviewed, it’s been carried by most major digital and physical comics retailers.
Well, that has changed with #12, which hits the shelves tomorrow.
Today, Brian K. Vaughan shared with the world that Apple was blocking sales of Saga #12 from all apps in the iOS store. In his words:
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.
He’s not changing shit, and he is completely justified in this decision. My respect for this man, which was already pretty damned high, just shot through the roof.
But there’s the larger question of censorship looming overhead here. Though I’ve not seen the issue in question, and won’t be seeing it for at the very least another week (since my local comic shop, hands tied by the strict laws of the state, is unable to carry the issue as well), I am fully prepared to trust Vaughan’s assessment regarding its purpose. He’s not writing a porno comic and Fiona Staples isn’t drawing one. Why are they being censored? Is it a double standard on gay sex, which wouldn’t be unheard of but is still pretty terribly unfair and unjust? I cannot fathom why they are suddenly being pulled from shelves, digital and physical, for this issue when all the past issues were acceptable.
I’ve grown really tired of art being censored due to some arbitrary obscenity standards. Who gets to decide that? I would hope that the only person who has the right to decide what is too obscene is the consumer, the person who is purchasing and experiencing the art in question, not a third party. If the artist doesn’t think it too obscene (or even if he does and is using it to make a point) and the patron doesn’t think it too obscene, there need be no problem.
It has been suggested to me that I e-mail Image Comics’ president asking them to recall the book and edit the images out so that it can be sold everywhere. I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to e-mail Image Comics’ president and ask them to keep the image as is, while also e-mailing the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I will happily stand with the creators of this comic, fight for their first amendment rights and fight against the censorship of art. It’s absolute and utter nonsense that this book cannot be sold in stores because it may possibly offend some people who, frankly, know what they’re getting into after the first issue of the series.
Let’s make a fuss out of this even outside the comics community. Censorship of art is wrong. Period.
UPDATE [4:10 PM]: I found the offending images, which are on the first two pages of the comic. Here’s the full preview from Comic Book Resources. Be warned that naturally the images are not work safe.]