A Tale Of Two Covers: Black #3 And Divided States Of Hysteria #4
Bleeding Cool has written extensively about the controversy surrounding Howard Chaykin's Divided States Of Hysteria over the past few weeks. The book first came under fire in early June for an interior scene depicting the violent beating of a trans sex worker. Then, to close out the month, the book became embroiled in controversy again for the cover of Divided States of Hysteria #4, which depicts a brown-skinned man hanging by a noose, with his genitals mutilated and a racial slur on his chest. The book has divided even Chaykin's fellow Image Comics creators, with some speaking out to denounce the cover, and at least one speaking in its defense.
Of note, unlike some other controversial covers that have made news in the past few years, the cover to Divided States of Hysteria is not a variant cover, requiring special orders from retailers and likely being seen only by those who choose to purchase it, or drawn on a sketch variant to be sold on eBay. The Divided States Of Hysteria #4 doesn't have any variant covers, and its only cover is displayed right on Diamond's website.
But that alone is a privilege not all controversial covers are afforded.
Last year, for instance, Khary Randolph's cover to Black #3 was censored by Diamond for featuring a racial slur on its cover. The uncensored artwork could not be viewed anywhere in Diamond's catalog or ordering system, and while retailers could choose to order the uncensored version or a censored one, only the censored version, replacing one n-word with another more acceptable to Diamond, could be found in any Diamond materials:
So why would Diamond insist on a censored version of the cover to Black #3, but willingly display the cover to Divided States of Hysteria #4, when both featured racial slurs, but Divided States also featured a hanging man with blood spurting from his groin as an added bonus? The unsatisfactory answer may be that Diamond had no choice in the latter instance.
For premiere publishers like Image (and Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and IDW), Diamond is a client, contracted to distribute the premier publisher's comics, affording them more control than Black Mask over what can go on the cover. It's not so different than the relationship between Image and the creators it publishes. Image doesn't exercise control creative control over what goes in the books; it simply provides a service for them in publishing it.
It's a system that seems perfectly configured to diffuse blame and muddy the waters of accountability. Though, whether that's by accident or design we couldn't say. What we could say is that, for this and many other reasons, the current system of publishing and distributing comics needs to evolve.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't mention another comic whose cover was censored by Diamond. It's a comic by Bleeding Cool's own Rumormonger-in-Chief, Rich Johnston. And when we say we would be remiss if we didn't mention it, what we mean is he's been subtly hinting to us that he wants us to talk about it since he heard we working on this story.
"Pip pip, Jude, feel free to include my Holed Up #2, if you like," is the sort of thing he's slyly mentioned to us on several occasions, along with "Oi, all speech balloons were removed," and "Cor blimey, you wot, cheerio, argy bargy, Bob's your uncle" and to be honest, we don't even know what that last one is supposed to mean, but it sounds like he's threatening us. So we figured it's probably for the best that we give him whatever he wants.
Here it is, the cover to Rich Johnston's Holed Up #2, UNCENSORED: