The Divided States of Hysteria’s shocking cover should never have been printed

Kieran Shiach in The Guardian:

DividedA cartoon of a lynched Pakistani man hanging with mutilated genitals and a racial slur on his name tag might seem obviously incendiary, and to put it on the cover of a comic book the epitome of poor decision-making. But Image Comics did just that with the fourth issue of The Divided States of Hysteria, a new comic by industry legend Howard Chaykin – and then undid it a day later. An official apology was quickly released and the cover whisked away from the web. Which leaves the question: who the hell thought it was a good idea? And with so many recent examples of studios having to retract and apologise for their comics, how could such an image have made it all the way to print? The “how” might be explained by Image’s response – or rather, the stark difference between their account and Chaykin’s. While Image was remorseful – “Image Comics recognises that we could have responded to readers’ concerns about the graphic nature of this cover more quickly and with more empathy and understanding” – Chaykin focused on explaining why his comic was a Good Thing. “For the record, the cover depicts the horrific wish dream of some 45% of their fellow Americans,” he told website FreakSugar. “Perhaps if they spent a bit more time paying attention to the fact that the world they were born into is on the brink of serious disaster, they might have less time to get worked up about an image of genuine horror that depicts an aspect of that impeding disaster.” Chaykin’s comic was – according to its creator – intended to shine a light on the worst parts of our society by turning the dial to the nth degree in a future setting. But although only one issue is out, it isn’t the first controversy The Divided States of Hysteria has stirred up: in June, it made headlines when the first issue, published during Pride month with a special Pride cover, featured a group of men attacking a transgender sex worker.

Image is far from the only publisher to let questionable images go to print. Marvel Comics has run several, including J Scott Campbell’s Invincible Iron Man cover, which depicted teenage Riri Williams in a textbook example of how black women are stereotyped as hypersexualised.

More here.