Image Comics has decided to pull a controversial cover for Howard Chaykin's creator-owned series Divided States of Hysteria that quickly attracted widespread criticism and condemnation for its graphic depiction of a violent hate crime upon its release. The publisher, in addition to Chaykin, apologized for the cover in a press release.
The Chaykin-illustrated cover (viewable here, the image above is from the cover of the first issue of the series) shows a man that’s been hanged from a noose, with his genitals mutilated. A name tag is visible, reading a racial slur commonly used towards people of Pakistani descent.
Image wrote in a statement, "It’s neither Howard’s nor Image’s intention to inflict pain on anyone already dealing with intolerance or hostility on a personal level. We ALL agree that any form of bigotry is wrong, and this comic exists due to anger and frustration over rapidly escalating injustice in a world filled with people too quick to judge others on the basis of their race, religion, or gender association."
"The purpose of this series is to sound alarms. THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA is a comic book about the terrifying future we are heading for if our country remains on its current path. Far from an endorsement of the horrible violence depicted or the ugly language used by many of the characters, Howard's goal is to give us a glimpse into a society crumbling under the weight of ignorance, hatred, and intolerance. It’s unsettling to be sure, but it’s difficult to convey the horrors of a world gone wrong without also showing what it looks like."
The statement continues, "These are trying times we are living through, and while this comic puts a spotlight on just how bad things have become and how much worse they could possibility get, it was absolutely NOT meant to harm anyone. We understand, however, that with no foreknowledge of the series’ content, the cover to this issue is painful and offensive."
"With that in mind, more sensitivity will be given to future covers of THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA. The original cover to issue #4 will not be used, and the cover for issue #6 will be substituted."
The statement concludes with a reaffirmation of Image's commitment to "free speech and artistic expression," while noting, "we also recognize our responsibility to be sensitive to all members of our readership. We listen to all feedback—from our creators, from our retailer partners, from our readers—but Image Comics recognizes that we could have responded to readers’ concerns about the graphic nature of this cover more quickly and with more empathy and understanding. We apologize for not doing so sooner."