The internet lit up on Tuesday after writer Brian K. Vaughan made this announcement: “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.” On Twitter, Facebook, comment strings, and message boards, fans denounced Apple for a seeming double standard, refusing to carry a comic because of a gay sex scene although it carries plenty of mature content. A few commenters pointed out, though, that the scenes in question were more explicit than anything Saga had run before, so they may have crossed a line.
Everything changed on Wednesday, when comiXology CEO David Steinberger explained that comiXology, not Apple, made the decision, and that it was based on the explicit nature of the images, not the fact that the sex was gay:
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 #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.
This took a lot of people by surprise, but it makes a certain amount of sense that comiXology, which works closely with Apple, would avoid submitting content they know will be rejected. What makes less sense is comiXology letting everyone, including Vaughan, think that Apple made the call. Given the weird hostility between Apple and non-Apple users on the web, there was a lot of flaming going on, with people choosing to ignore the fact that Apple has been gay-friendly since before that was cool; they have long offered benefits to same-sex couples, they opposed the odious Proposition 8 in California, and their current CEO, Tim Cook, is gay. They are also choosing to ignore that companies like Apple and comiXology are not monoliths, and there might be different people reviewing different issues of Saga at different times; Mark Waid has a pretty plausible scenario that explains how this all would have happened with all parties having only the best of intentions; as he says, “In all matters creative, never attribute to malice what can be explained by bureaucracy.”
In the end, Apple did not reject Saga #12, and it is now available in the comiXology and Image Comics apps as well as online. While those apps are more convenient for iPad and iPhone users, the conversation served to remind us when a comic is purchased i the comiXology or Image web stores, iTunes doesn’t take its 30% cut, so more of the cover price goes to the creator and the publisher.