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Is Apple afraid of gay sex?

OPINION

April 09, 2013|By Jason Steele, @CBQSteele | RedEye

Update: The company that distributes "Saga" has said a misunderstanding led to the book being blocked and that the edition will be made availbale soon.

If you ask non-comic book readers what they think comics represent, they probably would describe "wholesome" and "family-friendly" superheroes such as Superman, Batman and the X-Men.

That would be accurate, but a slew of adult-themed comics also are very popular—and I am not talking about manga porn or XXX comics. I am referring to stories involving adult themes, language and violence. Think of "The Walking Dead" zombies versus your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Why do I bring this up? Because one such comic, "Saga," written by "Lost" scribe Brian K. Vaughan, recently had a digital issue banned by Apple for sale in its comic book app due to "graphic depiction of a gay sex act," Vaughn revealed Tuesday. Apple did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday from The Washington Post, so what are we left to infer from this decision besides bigotry?

Here's the background: "Saga," in a nutshell, is a sci-fi space adventure about bounty hunters, aliens and an extraterrestrial romance set against a galactic war. It's like "Star Wars" but with sex.

In issue No. 12, there are two tiny depictions of a presumed male alien performing oral sex on another presumed male alien. I say "presumed" because, well, they're aliens, so the gender is assumed by the reader.

These scenes take place as still images on a TV screen/face of a wounded alien. (Yes, his face is a TV screen. I told you it was sci-fi!) Due to these images—despite the fact they are about the size of a postage stamp, and despite the fact the book is rated M for mature—the issue will not be available for download through iOS apps.

Is it the sex that raised the alarm for Apple? No. In issue No. 10, two "opposite sex" characters get a full page of intimate nude relations. And another issue featured two presumed hetero aliens in a position best described as "doggie." Granted, their genitals were not visible, but they were explicit images.

So if it's not the sex act that has the Apple censors in a tizzy, it must be the illustration of genitals. Well, in issues 7 and 8, a full-page disgusting nude troll is shown with the largest, hairiest, most wart-covered ... well, you get the idea. So it must not be the male genitals that are a problem either.

And it wasn't the violence in the same gay sex panels because so far this comic has seen child prostitution, a young girl cut in half with her entrails hanging out, exploding heads, interspecies sex and language that might make a sailor blush.

Android and other non-Apple apps are not banning the book. So what's the problem, Apple? Afraid of a little gay sex, or do you have penis envy?

Jason Steele is a RedEye special contributor.

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