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The stupid saga of Saga #12

by  in Comic News Comment

I wonder if I have something to rant about in this post?

By now you may have heard about the idiotic tempest in a teapot that is the “banning” of Saga #12 by Apple. In turns out that Apple didn’t actually ban Saga #12, with its totally-germane-to-the-plot bukkake scene, as much as … well, not know Saga #12 existed. Oh dear.

It started thusly: On Tuesday, 9 April, it was reported that Apple was not offering Saga #12 through any of its iOS apps. As I am an old person who reads comics the way God intended, i.e. by killing a shitload of trees to print pictures on the paper that we make from said trees, I didn’t even know what an iOS app was until I looked it up (well, I knew what an “app” is – I’m not my mother – but I didn’t jump to “Apple Operating System” for “iOS,” which is what it is). So this news had nothing to do with me – I was going to buy an actual, real-world copy of Saga #12 on Wednesday from an actual person, and I could enjoy its absolutely-necessary-and-not-just-for-shock-value-in-any-way ejaculation scene wherever I wanted! But, this being the Internet … well, Shit. Hit. The. Fan.

The Mothership reported this story. Comics Alliance wrote about it. Robot 6 had Brian K. Vaughan’s “quote of the day” in which he said he wouldn’t change a damned thing about the comic. People went nuts and proposed boycotts of Apple. Others pointed out that it really wasn’t that bad. BATTLE LINES WERE MOTHERFUCKING DRAWN!

And then … whoops. It turns out that ComiXology never submitted it to Apple. Oh, shit. Well, that was stupid. All is well in the universe, and everyone who wants to can enjoy Saga #12’s BKV-would-never-do-something-just-to-stir-shit-up gay orgy panels to their heart’s content. Yay, everyone!

This is a pretty stupid story, and everyone comes out looking pretty stupid. I first noticed it on Robot 6, when I read Vaughan’s quote. So I read the CBR story, and I noticed something that it seems like everyone ought to have noticed in the first place. Where did CBR (and, if they weren’t first with the story, any other “news” site) get their information? From a Brian K. Vaughan press release. On Fiona Staples’ tumblr, as Vaughan is fairly notorious for hating the Internet. When I read the story, I wondered where the press release from Apple was. Where was the Apple statement saying, “Due to the fact that Fiona Staples drew a penis spewing cum all over some other dudes and, man, that’s pretty icky, and seriously, BKV, you couldn’t have implied that Robot IV was gay by showing him just hugging some dude? I mean, come on! wait, where were we? Oh yeah – due to that, we’re not putting it on our apps. I mean, Alana talking about shitting while she’s giving birth and that giant with the disgusting testicles – heck, yeah, those are TOTALLY important to the story, even though the giant dies like five minutes after Staples introduced his low-hanging balls to the world, but giving a dude a pearl necklace? Totes gross.”? All we had was Vaughan’s statement, and while that’s fine, you’d think something like banning a super-popular comic from a super-popular app would at least warrant a question to Apple. But no – everyone ran with it, and now they all look pretty dumb.

ComiXology looks stupid, too. It took them 24 hours to admit that, whoops, they just forgot to submit it to Apple? Because they interpreted Apple’s rules for them? Where are the calls to boycott ComiXology for doing the exact same thing that Apple supposedly did? I suppose this has to do with Apple’s rather odd policies about explicit content and the fact that they don’t really explain why some things do actually get banned, but they’re not in the wrong here. It’s like the MPAA – that organization doesn’t want to be seen as “censoring” “art” so they never actually tell people why a movie gets an “R” or “NC-17,” leaving the filmmakers to guess what’s so objectionable. If you say something like “NO SPOOGE – everything else is fair game!” then the pro-spooge lobby will get all up in arms. I mean, who doesn’t love spooge, amirite?

Vaughan comes off looking a bit stupid, but certainly not as much as everyone else. I mean, his statement that the two objectionable panels are completely necessary to the plot is idiotic, but writers are by nature wild egotists, so he gets his name out there for defending his art to the death!!!! and I’m sure that Saga #12 moved a lot of units, so there’s more scratch for Vaughan and Staples … not that I’m cynical about this at all. Maybe he should have asked some questions about this supposed “ban,” but it’s not really on him. I do wonder about his apology – he was “led to believe” that it was Apple’s problem, but by whom was he led to believe? Obviously Apple didn’t contact him directly, so did ComiXology straight up lie to him? I’d be a bit peeved if I was Vaughan.

The reason I call this a “stupid saga” is because of the state of journalism, and not just comics journalism. This is all too common in the world of journalism. How often have you watched a White House press briefing and the press secretary or even the president says something that screams for a follow-up question and none of the “reporters” in the room dare ask it? I first noticed this when Bush was selling his Iraq war, but it’s continued through other press secretaries and a new president. I’ve ranted before about the shoddy state of “sports journalism” that is practiced by the schmucks at ESPN. I don’t care if ESPN wants to broadcast live games and entertain us, but don’t pretend to be a “sports journalism” network until you actually get decent at “sports journalism.” “Comics journalism,” such as it is, is pretty shitty too. Whenever a news site gets a comics executive to sit down and talk to them, it’s almost embarrassing to read the softball questions and weak sauce answers that we get from the participants. I get it, though, and there’s a reason I’m not a “comics journalist” – despite this rant, I’m not really comfortable being a douchebag (YOU COULD HAVE FOOLED ME! shouts every single person reading this), and to be an actual journalist – no matter what you cover – you kind of have to be a douchebag, or at least be comfortable with being one occasionally. You have to ask tough questions and not let people off the hook when they hem and haw. In the comics world, it might be a bit more difficult, because it’s such a small world and everyone knows everyone else, so you really don’t want to piss off Joey Q or, dear Lord, you might not get to show the preview pages for Fuck It, Let’s Call Every Book X-Avengers From Now On #1 next week! And given the nature of a lot of comics fans, if they don’t get their preview pages for that comic, they’ll go somewhere else, by God! I mean, it just wouldn’t do to wait a few days until they read the entire fucking comic, would it?

I really don’t want to pick on Comic Book Resources or Comics Alliance, the two sites where I saw the story. I know that several mainstream news outlets reported it, and they dropped the ball, too. It’s this rush to be the absolute first site to report the news that makes these mistakes inevitable. Maybe if CBR or CA had tried to get in touch with Vaughan to find out where he heard this instead of relying on a press release or tried to contact Apple to find out what they told Vaughan, they might not have been first with the news. But guess what? They would have been right. It seems to me that that’s far more important.

But then again, what the fuck do I know?