Saga’s Gay Sex Scandal

I hate censorship. Just wanted to get that out before all the warnings.

WARNING: The following article contains graphic material presented in a comic book with a mature rating. It’s pretty NSFW, so just be warned of that. This post also contains mild spoilers for Image’s Saga, which has been all over the news. That’s the reason we are here today.

The spoilers really aren’t that big, but still…

Image Comics has its ups and downs. They deal completely with creator-owned comics, something that really intrigues me and does my heart good. After all, I am a writer and would love to one day helm a title of my own. However, I recently saw someone describe them as having “a tenuous grip on reality,” which may or may not have contributed to this week’s controversy. But, I’ll start from the beginning.

Brian K. Vaughn had a great idea for a comic. He thought, “Damn. All this science fiction is pretty cool, but it gets a bum rap most of the time. I’m going to do something amazing with it. I’ll make it about two star-crossed lovers from feuding races, like an outer space Romeo and Juliet. They’ll have a baby in the middle of a centuries-old war and even be on the lam because of their love. Yeah, that sounds good. Then, I’ll throw a ton of weird shit in there, like freelance bounty hunters that look like sexy naked spider ladies, or bright pink disemboweled ghost governesses. There can be a sex planet with giant heads with legs sticking out of the necks, and the agent for the bounty hunters can be a sentient seahorse man. Plus, Lying Cat! It’ll be great! I’ll call it Saga and pitch it to Image!”

These are the gatekeepers to the sex planet. Seriously.

These are the gatekeepers to the sex planet. Seriously.

Now, none of that is a direct quote, mind you. But, it’s all pretty accurate to the story.

It’s no secret that Saga is pretty out there. It’s deranged and provocative, all the while maintaining a pulsing storyline, displaying great conflict, and being one of the darkest pieces of work on the market today. It’s also one of the best comics available right now.

Or, as some of you may know, not available right now.

This past week, someone at Comixology (which is a site that I love) made a bad call based on some of the policies at Apple (which is a corporation that I… hmm, let’s say “don’t love”). Either way, reports started rolling in that Apple was banning Saga #12 from being distributed through its digital comic apps. The reason: graphic depictions of gay sex.

Mind you, this is the official story as of the time this article was written. Someone at Comixology looked through Apple’s policies and said “I don’t think it complies. Best not ruffle any petticoats.” The issue was blocked, but only through Apple’s version of the app.

Brian K. Vaughn was up in arms about it, and was calling everyone to skip the digital and buy paper copies from brick-and-mortar shops. That’s generally the way I go either way, but keep in mind that before the news broke, I had never read Saga. I had kept seeing people gab about how truly fantastic it was, going so far as to say it was the best comic on the market. After the controversy, I gathered all the issues (in digital form) and read through them in about 2 hours.

I was immediately a fan.

And the surprising thing is this: I wasn’t upset by the “shocking displays of gay sex” that I was promised by the media! Now, I’m not a gay man, nor am I bisexual. Gay porn doesn’t do it for me. But, I also don’t get all bent out of shape when dicks are being sucked. So, when I saw the “offending material,” it barely registered, and I kept right on reading.

That’s right, kids. I started reading it to see what the problem was, and by the time I made it to the controversial pages, I completely forgot that was why I started reading it. The story is just that good.

I suppose you’ll want to see the offending material, right? Pages upon pages of semen-stained chiseled bodies, stacked 15 guys high, pulsing and moaning to the beat of loud trance music in a gay disco on Sextillion, right?

Well, it just so happens that we here at Let Us Nerd enjoy stirring the pot every once in a while. Well, at least I do. Makes for more thought-provoking material, right? Well, here it is! The heinous depictions of amoral sex between devious gay characters. Are you ready? Can you handle it?

Good.

LOOK AT ALL THE GAY SEX!

LOOK AT ALL THE GAY SEX!

LOOK AT HOW TERRIBLE IT IS!

LOOK AT HOW TERRIBLE IT IS!

Yep. That’s it. Two postage stamp-sized picture of a man sucking a dick of two. You feel a little gypped now, don’t you? And honestly, if you read the entire series, the displayed images completely make sense. I won’t go much into it, but the character involved is a prince who has a TV screen for a face and is stuck in a loveless marriage to help further the royal bloodline. It’s hinted at in a previous issue when he is unable to perform with his wife, but there was never any admission that he was gay. It’s safe to say that him displaying the images on his face-screen after being wounded is basically a way of coming out of the closet, and it’s clearly been extremely effective.

It’s clear that the entire issue (the problem, not the comic) started as a small misunderstanding about a policy and ended as a controversy that polarized the comic book community. I’ll admit that I came on a little strong, but I felt I should replicate in you as best I could the feeling I had when I approached this subject. Leroy and I had a chat about it in the halls of the LUN HQ today, and he said people were so upset about it, he figured it was some all-ages or teen-rated book that tried to slip something really nasty in its page. And honestly, that’s how some people were acting. Saga is explicitly marked as a title for mature readers, and as far as I’m concerned, that gives them license to do whatever they want between the covers.

And I’ll also admit that when I first heard about, I was up in arms about censorship and blocking creativity. As a writer, one of my biggest pet peeves is censorship. I do a good enough job censoring my own work, and I really don’t need anyone else telling me what to leave on the cutting room floor.

Yes, I’m perfectly aware of how many times I’ve used a variation of the phrase “suck a dick” in this post. I have my reasons.

Either way, everyone got a little bent out of shape, but Image and Vaughn did basically the best thing they could do with it: they turned a profit. The issue sold out so quickly that I didn’t even have a change to get one on Thursday. Of course, when I rolled into a local comic shop outside of Carver today (if you missed it, I’m in Carver, MA, for the next month or so. Boston nerds, look me up!) and explained my plight, the guy behind the counter did me a favor and dug into a pull they had cancelled an hour before. Turns out the pull owner hadn’t come in for quite a few months to get his rags, and the guy hooked me up with a string of Saga back issues for cover price.

That’s no easy feat after this big controversy. I’m just glad he didn’t make me replicate any scenes from the book to get the comics…

Either way, Apple claims they will have it available soon, but something about it still just doesn’t sit right. I mean, there were depictions of deviant sex between straight couples (or groups) and even a room full of lesbians pairing up with each other in any variety of ways. That took up an entire page. But the second man meat meets man teeth, all bets are off. It feels a little fishy.

Sextillion gets really crazy on Thursday mornings...

Sextillion gets really crazy on Thursday mornings…

Still, all reports have shown that everyone has finally started to calm the hell down about it. Image made bank, and from the sounds of it, they backed writer Vaughn and artist Staples all the way. They were even reported as having said all their titles are creator-owned and they didn’t feel as though they should censor the title in any way.

And at the end of the day, when I vote with my wallet, my money is going to them.

Regardless, pick up Saga. It’s only in issue 12 right now, and the early issues may be hard to come by for a decent price, especially after this happening. The first TP just released, and it collects #1-6, so that’ll get you halfway there.

Of course, you can always go digital…

One thought on “Saga’s Gay Sex Scandal

  1. I love Saga. And I was a little shocked by the sex, but it wore off quickly. I didn’t even notice the gay images until you brought them up here and it’s kind of hilarious that anyone WOULD notice if someone didn’t point it out.

    A side note, which has nothing to do with this topic, about Saga. When it came out I was working with a start-up comics publisher. I was writing a comic I’d created called Creepy Clamton about some kids who start a paranormal blog. I had a hook for the middle of issue one. I was like, “This is going to knock people on their ass!” A kid turns around and sees the ghost he’s been looking for standing right behind him…Hovering there with no legs!

    I read saga, see HIS version of the image, my heart sinks. “Damn you BKV for being equally as brilliant as I,but with way more talent, insight, know-how, discipline, and a million other things I don’t have,” I said. Of course, I could never be as brilliant as Mr. BKV.

    I e-mailed the publisher about it. He said not to worry. The context is different enough and I have other things to make it stand out. We’re all good.

    Not that it matters. The artist assigned to the book backed out, as did all the others attached, and the company went know further.

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