Apple bans popular sci-fi comic Saga because of gay sex scene

Looks like if you were hoping to read this week's Saga through Apple, you'll have to find another way. 

Apple doesn't exactly play it fast and loose with the content that appears through its apps. When it comes to pornography, it has a strict "no means no" policy. But what slips through the cracks is, in this case, just as important as how we define what qualifies as pornographic.

To wit -- in the 12th issue of Saga, the comic opens with the graphic portrayal of fully naked men engaged in homosexual acts. This is not the first time sex has appeared in the comic, nor the first time male genitals have been shown, but it is the first time Apple has completely banned the comic from appearing within iOS apps.

This comes hot on the heels of Apple banning 1500 French comics that varied in degrees of sexual content. So is this simply a recent crackdown on the part of Apple? Bestselling author William Gibson doesn't think so.

Which brings us to the first question this issue raises-- does Apple have a double standard between heterosexual and homosexual displays in comics? Based on the French comic bannings, it would seem that they're a bit prudish all around, but taking into account that Saga has had previous nudity and sex scenes, there does seem to be an incongruity. But is it enough to accuse the company of homophobia full stop?

The second question -- do they have a right to do this? The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization designed to protect comics from censorship, was quick to point out that "as a private enterprise, Apple is within its rights to decline the sale of SAGA or other content it finds objectionable, and has done so with comics content in the past." So, yes, Apple can absolutely do this.

But the most important question is, should they? Author Brian K. Vaughan rightly pointed out that you can always "head over to your friendly neighborhood comics shop and pick up a physical copy of our issue that you can have and hold forever." And, indeed, that is but one possible way to get ahold of this book. But here's the thing -- as time moves on, the concept of physical, single issues of comics is fast becoming a thing of the past. More and more people are finding new comics through digital means and, in specific, through cloud technology. So what happens when the people who provide the primary source an audience decide to remove content they don't deem fit for popular consumption? When some voices are given preferential treatment while others are limited, isn't that in and of itself a kind of censorship?

What Apple is doing is 100 percent legal, but it's important that, whenever art faces censorship, we keep dialogue open. Saga is an excellent comic that deftly combines the grandiose with the colloquial. We think it deserves to be available through any medium. But you tell us -- what do you think?

(via Image Comics Tumblr and CBLDF)