Apple Relents, And 'Ulysses Seen' Is Seen After All

Ulysses Comic Book i i

The Goddess, Revealed: After several months of back and forth, Apple finally decided that Ulysses Seen could be published along with this previously censored image of the bare-chested goddess. Throwaway Horse hide caption

itoggle caption Throwaway Horse
Ulysses Comic Book

The Goddess, Revealed: After several months of back and forth, Apple finally decided that Ulysses Seen could be published along with this previously censored image of the bare-chested goddess.

Throwaway Horse

Almost 90 years since the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses, the novel is still pushing the limits of the publishing business.

When the makers of the Web comic book adaptation Ulysses Seen submitted their work to Apple for sale as an iPad application, the company required them to remove images containing nudity. But as word of the censorship spread, Apple changed its mind, just in time for Wednesday's celebration of Bloomsday, the day the action in the novel takes place.

It was after a recent Bloomsday celebration, and a few pints of Guinness, that a group of Joyce enthusiasts got the idea to adapt Ulysses — all 700 or so pages of it — as a graphic novel and reader's guide. They started a publishing company, and earlier this year they submitted the first chapter of Ulysses Seen to the Apple Store. Business manager Chad Rutkowski then got a call from an Apple representative.

"They asked two things of us," Rutkowski says. "One, please remove the image of the bare-chested goddess on page 37. And please rate it NC-17."

Rutkowksi says he argued vigorously to keep the image of the goddess and naked drawings of the character Buck Mulligan a few pages later.

"I asked if we could pixelate or if we could put bars over it," he says. "And he said no. What he said was that Apple was having a lot of trouble trying to sidestep their guidelines. And they didn't want to start a slippery slope."

So no nudity, period.

The original novel was also accused of obscenity. When it was first published serially in a U.S. literary magazine, the publishers were sued and found guilty. But in a famous court case in 1933, a judge ruled that Ulysses was not, in fact, obscene.

"We knew getting into it Ulysses has caused trouble with the authorities for everyone who's ever taken it on," says Mike Barsanti, the editor of the graphic novel adaptation. "And the only thing you can do in that case is to be as true to the book as you can be."

Reluctantly, the publishers submitted a version of the comic without the offending images. But the story of Apple's censorship started to spread, first on blogs, then in print. And on Monday, artist Robert Berry found out that Apple had changed its mind.

"It's a victory for Mr. Joyce's little blue book, that now 88 years after it was published, it shows how artistic freedom still shatters the ceiling of prudery and guidelines that people set," Berry says. "It did it at Apple. It wasn't me."

The original artwork is now for sale in the Apple Store.

"We made a mistake," company spokeswoman Trudy Muller says. "When the panel edits were brought to attention, we offered the developers the opportunity to resubmit their drawings."

Apple also reinstated a graphic novel adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde that includes a drawing of two men kissing.

Berry says he's glad Apple was willing to bend its obscenity policy in these cases.

"But I don't know what to tell somebody else about what we've learned from this," he says. "I would like to know if there are new guidelines or if they're setting up a different review panel for things that are artistic usage?"

Berry says that would be an even better reason to celebrate Bloomsday.

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