Image for Gay sex scene sparks comic book battle

Gay sex scene sparks comicbook battle

The removal of a comic book from display at Melbourne’s pop culture festival due to a gay sex scene has sparked outrage on social media in recent days.

Was homophobia at play? Same Same’s Melbourne editor Dean Arcuri investigated.


The Supanova Pop Culture Expo saw thousands of fans flock to the Melbourne Showgrounds this weekend to dress up, geek out and catch celebrity guests such as Lucy Lawless (Xena), Freeman Agyeman (Doctor Who), Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio (Adventure Time) and more.

After the convention their social media feed is usually filled with pictures of fans dressed in cosplay and thanking them for a fantastic weekend, but due to a local comic creator being told to remove her comic from display at the con and posting this message to Facebook, the nationwide event was accused of being homophobic and banning queer content.

In the final hours of the weekend, artist Scarlette Baccini went to get a drink and returned to find organisers from Supernova had removed her book Jesus Realoth’d, which had a panel showing two men having sex, from her table.

“When asked why the book was removed I thought maybe it was because it wasn’t sealed, but I was told that it was a bit more complicated than that,” Baccini tells Same Same. “Daniel (one of the organisers of Supanova) said he was flicking through my book, and that while he has a sense of humour and can laugh at Jesus stuff, he stopped when he saw an image of two men having anal sex. He was concerned that kids might see it.”

“There were certainly other adult material that was not sealed – mature content is everywhere at the cons.”

Supanova is an event for pop culture fans and their families, letting children under the age of 12 in for free. Exhibitors are given a pack outlining the rules about inappropriate or adult content.

“I pointed out that I had an adult content warning, and was making sure I was aware of who was reading it, but was told that it couldn’t be on display. There was certainly other adult material that was not sealed – mature content is everywhere at the cons.”

Baccini was inspired to write the comic book after witnessing aggressive fundamentalist Christians in the US. The story is about hypocrisy and how Jesus probably doesn’t want to be misrepresented.

“The whole point of that scene particularly is to show how ludicrous it is to be so offended by something so ordinary and nice,” she says. “It’s so silly. Amongst all this violence and mayhem, it cuts to this image of two guys having sex under the word ‘tolerance’, and it’s kind of funny that it got picked out primarily for that.”

“I felt worried and embarrassed to have caused a problem at first,” Baccini adds. “After all, it is their festival and there’s not really much I could do. I do think the sex depicted in my book is quite vanilla compared to some of the sexual content in other books at Supanova, though.”

Over the next 24 hours via social media, the organisers of Supernova were accused of being homophobic by banning gay content from the event. One of the event director’s personal views on homosexuality was also called into question.

Same Same got in contact with the organisers, who were keen to clear the air.

“A lot of misinformation is being shared, and so we appreciate this opportunity to clear things up,” he tells us. “The discussion involves a comic book which was removed from sale at Supanova in Melbourne, and the separate issue of Supanova’s interaction with the LGBTIQ community.

“Supanova has an Exhibitor Manual which contains the terms and conditions for our vendors, as well as display guidelines. There’s a specific section regarding restricted or illegal material, which states: ‘Pornography is strictly forbidden for sale or giveaway at Supanova Expos; so too are items that would be classified as illegal under any or all state or territory law within Australia including but not limited to extreme, restricted or explicit materials or those that contain paedophilia in any form. All other adult material must not be visibly displayed or within reach of any minors, and carry appropriate or comparative classification.’”

“At no point was the creator ‘banned’ and Supanova is not in the business of banning books.”

Supanova is a family expo, and this policy has been devised to prevent adult material from falling into young hands, he explains.

“Sadly, not all vendors abide by these rules, so the policy has to be enforced by spot checks. Because the inspections are random, the results and solutions can be inconsistent.

“Occasionally, the event organisers ask for an item to be removed from display or sale due to adult content. This has happened several times in Supanova’s history and has not previously caused much controversy.

“At Supanova in Melbourne, an independent comic book was discovered to contain explicit imagery of a sexual act, and so the vendor was asked to remove it from sale, particularly because the book itself was visibly displayed and could have been viewed by a child,” Zachariou continues.

“At no point was the creator ‘banned’ and Supanova is not in the business of banning books. In this instance given the nature of the offence, and with only three hours of trade left on Sunday, the vendor was asked to remove the comic from sale. We do our best to encourage the vendors to abide by the guidelines above and be responsible when dealing with adult content.

“The creator of the graphic novel in question posted about it on Facebook with the implication that Supanova and our Event Director were discriminating against LGBTIQ content. This is not the case, as the objection was to the adult nature of the content only, in accordance with exhibitor guidelines.”

Acceptance and inclusion are fundamental to geek culture, and Supanova’s team and community are particularly diverse, Zachariou adds. “Our organisers, volunteers, patrons, vendors, and Supa-Star guest line-ups all include people who identify as LGBTIQ or are LGBTIQ allies.

“Recently, discussions have arisen online about our Event Director’s personal beliefs regarding same sex unions. Unfortunately, a personal comment he made some time ago regarding the terminology used to describe them (i.e. ‘union’ or another similar term instead of ‘marriage’) has been misinterpreted to infer that he is homophobic or discriminatory, which is absolutely untrue.

“The subsequent suggestion that the Event Director and therefore Supanova is not LGBTIQ-friendly is demonstrably false when you consider the content and guests at our events over a decade, and the diversity of our team and patrons.

“We at Supanova share the view that discrimination on the basis of sexual preference must not be tolerated; there is no place for it at our event. Everybody is welcome to come to Supanova and celebrate their pop-culture fandom in a manner that is respectful of their fellow patrons. Have fun. Be kind. Geek out.”


Intrigued by Scarlette Baccini’s comic book Jesus Reloadeth’d and want to see what all the fuss is about? You can buy it here via Milkshadow Books or visit the author’s website here.

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