In an era of entertainment that constantly pushes moral envelopes, the right to censor has become a frequently discussed topic. Comic books are one form of entertainment often criticized for its visual portrayals of women and political agendas. From the much-deliberated political tones of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, to Frank Cho’s controversial sketch covers, individuals often look at comic books as a realm for controversy.
It was never more prominent this week when Image Comics revealed the cover for issue four of Howard Chaykin’s The Divided States of Hysteria—a half-naked man lynched in front of a diner with a blur over his mangled torso—drawn by Chaykin. This title previously caught flack for its depiction of an assault on a transgender laborer. Now, Image’s recent cover reveal has forced the independent publisher to resend the original cover and replace it for the time being.
The decision’s backlash erupted on Twitter over the weekend. Creators gave their opinions on Image’s decision. The consensus is that as Artists, creators must be respectful and responsible with published art. It’s one thing to have personal works that may insult or degrade others—to each his own. However, pushing agendas that could be deemed “nihilistic” on comic book covers are placed on shelves that also contain the Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 and I am Groot #2—two comics that are a far cry from Chaykin’s violent Divided States.
Comic book retailers could find it problematic to “hide” comics that have such harsh visual depictions. Larger shops have it easier than others when it comes to displays of the “adult” titles. It’s safe to say Chaykin’s new series isn’t for younger readers who are interested in Batman and Elmer Fudd comics. This begs the question: How do the publisher and creator respond to censoring Art?
Image Comics and Howard Chaykin promptly released an apology. Despite Image acknowledging their negligence in accounting for the sensitivity levels of their readers, one can only wonder what this will do for not only the sales of Divided States of Hysteria, but also for the sales of the rest of their series. The Walking Dead, Spawn, and Invincible have their lifelong readers, but the preview of new series on the horizon may be taken with a grain of salt by newer readers. It’s safe to say that for the time being, Image Comics will be mindful of the possible political ramifications of the stories they produce.