Channel NewsAsia

Archie comic removed from bookstore following public complaint

The Media Development Authority confirms that it asked for the withdrawal of one volume of the “Archie” The Married Life” series because of its depiction of same-sex marriage between two characters in the comic. 

SINGAPORE: The Media Development Authority (MDA) confirms that a comic "Archie: The Married Life" Book Three was pulled from bookstore shelves because its content breached guidelines by depicting same-sex marriage of two characters.

Comic artist Sonny Liew had flagged the withdrawal in a blog post dated July 11, saying he could not find it in a Kinokuniya catalog. The bookstore had told him it was removed from sale by notice of MDA.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (July 16), a spokesperson said MDA had assessed the comic in March, upon receiving a complaint. Thereafter, the authority informed the local distributor of the comic, not to import or distribute it in retail outlets.

MDA says the Publications Consultative Panel, "which comprises a cross-section of Singapore society" was consulted before its decision, and its members advised them that the theme of the comic was "not in line with social norms" and in breach of existing content guidelines.

MDA stressed that the importation and distribution publications is "largely self-regulated" and that it only reviews public feedback or complaints on a case-by-case basis. Channel NewsAsia understands book importers and retailers have to refer to a database of advisories by the regulator, when deciding on the import or distribution of publications. MDA says its guidelines, which take into account community norms, are available on its website. The guidelines for comics state that "themes or depictions of alternative lifestyles or deviant sexual practices should not be featured, e.g. homosexuality".

The revelation comes amid controversy over the National Library Board's (NLB) decision to withdraw three children's titles because of depictions that did not conform to the traditional notions of family. Three judges of this year's Singapore Literature Prize have resigned in protest over the move. The Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has said NLB's decision was based on community norms.

NLB carries four copies of the Archie comic in question and says it will be reviewing the book in light of MDA's decision. 

"It should be noted that Archie: The Married Life was acquired for our adult collection. NLB takes a broader approach for the adult's collection than it does for its children's collection," an NLB spokesperson said.

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