When DC Comics Censored A Kiss Between Apollo And Midnighter

The WildStorm Oral History has been released. A massive collection of interviews with people who worked at or worked for Jim Lee's WildStorm Studios in the nineties and noughties before – and after – the DC Comics buyout, stripped and stranded chronologically and by theme. And what better time to release it than on WildStorm's 25th Anniversary as DC Comics is preparing its own celebration? It's available right here, in print and in digital.

I have the digital version. So what is the first thing I do? Naturally, I search for my name. And I find a piece quoting John Layman, who used to be an editor at WildStorm, working on The Authority, and is now better known as the co-creator of Chew. He is quoted as saying,

John Layman: There was all this attention on Authority, but it was selling like gangbusters. Everyone loved it, and they wanted to spread it out, to maximize the heat, so they gave Mark and John McCrea this [spin-off] Jenny Sparks mini-series and in it was a gay kiss, and it was no secret that Paul Levitz didn't get The Authority. He thought Midnighter and Apollo were nothing more than gay Superman and Batman and making fun of Superman and Batman. So, this Jenny Sparks thing rolled around, and there was a gay kiss, and they flipped out, and they censored it. Mark Miller was very good about using the social networks and using [comic book blogger] Rich Johnston. He's a shameless self-promoter, and I mean that in the best way, and he was always good with me because I had his back. I was trying to make the best books I could. He'd get on [website] "Lying in the Gutters" and be like, "Oh yeah DC, they're censoring us left and right. They're horrible, they're terrible, but you know, Layman's great." I'm like, "You know Mark, you're not doing me any favors when you do that because you're setting me against my bosses." And something about the gay kiss got out, and I was having a bad day, and I got all these pieces of hate-mail calling me a homophobe and an asshole and all that sort of stuff, and I responded to one, which really was the end. That decision was the decision that marked me for death. I wrote the person back, I said, "Hey man, this wasn't my decision. I think it was dumb. If it was up to me, the gay kiss would stand, but it wasn't up to me. Get off my f-cking back." And the guy wrote me back, he's like, "Oh, can I quote you on this?" and I was just fed up, I'm like, "Yeah, f-ck it. I don't care," and he did. Paul wanted my head and Scott, Jim, and John all had my back and went to him and basically got Paul not to fire me, but it was made clear that I would never go any further…. Now, in retrospect, I was correct. I don't regret making that decision.

This was definitely a story I covered at the time – quite a bit, it seems, before Lying In The Gutters even existed, it was All The Rage for what is now Comics Bulletin. I recall that at one stage, ex-Comics Alliance EIC Andrew Wheeler owned the original John McCrea artwork from that scene.

This is the amended panel on the right. As you can see, it doesn't even look like John McCrea.


Note to pedants, for those who often complain, to censor does not imply or necessitate governmental intervention. It is defined as "acting like a censor", and implies no governmental oversight. So, yes, when a private business does something like this, it is censoring something. No, it is not a contravention of First Amendment rights but censorship isn't defined by that. If you disagree, go punch a dictionary.


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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