ComiXology, Censorship, and the Saga Saga

The way the blog works these days, I don’t have the ability to chase breaking stories, so I appreciate those who do. Most recently, I’ve been reading Heidi MacDonald’s coverage of the Saga #12 controversy, where the issue wasn’t going to be available on iOS platforms digitally because (it turns out) comiXology, the online distributor, believed Apple wouldn’t approve two small but explicit panels. (Unfortunately, there are at least a couple of past disapproval incidents with Apple that made the belief plausible.)

Saga #12 cover

Here’s her summary, where she tracks Image Comics’ official statement and some key Tweets (where most news breaks these days). She also followed up with Image publisher Eric Stephenson. Her conclusion:

Sure, comiXology is a near monopoly in the digital space—like Diamond in the physical. And like Diamond, it is mostly a benign monopoly. While this was not a shining hour for them, if they learn from their mistakes and move forward, good will come of all of it.

Unfortunately, this is the second “black eye” for the company recently, as they also fell down on the technical level, causing Marvel’s giveaway promotion to have to be restaged. Also, at least one retail store stopped carrying the title, although I’m not sure why this issue would be the one they considered too pornographic, given the kinds of content that has appeared throughout the series (which is what made people getting upset NOW so confusing).

I’m not sure we’re ever going to know the real causes of the Saga kerfluffle, but if Apple is upset that they were incorrectly cast as the bad guys (and potentially homophobic to boot, given that the explicit images were male-male), that could be a problem for comiXology. A lot of their business rests on being able to serve comics to iPad users, which requires Apple’s cooperation. I’m sure that everyone was operating out of the best intentions, but this is a risk when one person/group is trying to guess at what another might object to. It might even cause more serious damages. Daniel Jalkut points out a legal risk:

These days, any one of us could be on the verge of stating as fact something that is very damaging to a person or company, yet very false. Check your libel.

On the other hand, back in the day, an upset writer wouldn’t have been able to get his concerns out in public so quickly and have them acted upon. I’m sure some comic publishers aren’t particularly fond of that cultural change.

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