This just in from the WTFiles, a friend of mine just got into some trouble, and her belongings confiscated, when she tried to order one of our favourite comic book series to the Middle Easy. Now, the comic book in question, Garth Ennis’ The Boys, is, admittedly, a bit … how shall I put this … “fucked up.” But it’s also very, very good.
The basic premise of The Boys is this: superheroes are real … and they’re cunts. The less-basic premise (be warned, there be *SPOILERS* ahead) is that just after WWII, a failing corporation called Vought American, in a desperate attempt to land some high-tech weapons-making contracts, developed a serum called Compound V, which essentially grants humans superpowers.
Unfortunately, the screening programs for intended subjects of Compound V are laughable, as is testing and training, so the so-called superheroes are little more than overpowered, overexcited and completely useless idiots.
This develops over the years to present day, and while I won’t go into specifics, the “Supes” have gotten even worse, basically making the world their personal playground, doing anything they want, any time they want, up to and including wild partying, excessive drug use, stealing from terminally ill kids, rape, pedophilia and of course mass murder.
This is all covered up by Vought American, of course, because the superheroes are making them a mint by starring in comic books, which are written to misdirect the hero-obsessed public into thinking they are saving the world from constant alien attack and nefarious villains, when really they’re just doing blow off of hookers they’ve just killed with heat vision.
They even have a huge, annual get-together called Herogasm, wherein, under the pretence of saving the world from some universe-shattering crisis, they meet up and screw each others’ brains out and smoke aborted fetuses. So there’s that.
To keep this new breed of supes in check (often VERY violently), the C.I.A. put together a team of calculating badasses called The Boys, equally-powered, but well-trained secret government agents who each have a gripe with the supes.
So, in the words of Simon Pegg, who is the visual inspiration for one of The Boys, and who wrote the introduction to the series’ first volume, “Who watches the watchmen?” The Boys of course, and they kick the living, fucking shit out of them to boot. Hell, I’m in.”
And who wouldn’t be? It’s raucous, it’s gory and it’s profane, but it’s also well-written and succeeds in throwing the superhero mythos and dynamic, as well as some of its history, into a tizzy, which is always good fun. Also, as you can tell from the pictures I’ve thrown in with this article, it basically tries with all its might to insult the delicate sensibilities of … well … everyone. You have to respect that.
Unless, of course, you live under Sharia law.
This brings us to Qatar, a country which, while relatively liberal, still has vast and tightly-controlled censorship. Not often, anymore, will you see black marker ink scrawled across models in magazines, but the grip of control is still present.
You’d be hard-pressed to see any kissing in a movie, for example (even if it’s animated – seriously, they blacked out a kiss in Megamind once), let alone read a page out of 50 Shades of Grey, which as far as Qatar is concerned, doesn’t even exist … which is actually kind of nice when you think about it. Maybe they could do something about Twilight…
Anyway, my equally comic book-loving friend, who I shall refer to here as “Patrocitus,” to both protect her identity and make her squee with nerdy in-joke delight, attempted to order the entire 11 volume (and counting) series of The Boys to Qatar, something she has done with other comics in the past, because there are no book stores in Qatar, let alone COMIC books stores.
So, to make a long story even longer, here is a short letter my good friend Patrocitus posted over on TheComicsReporter.com), describing her experience of being called into Qatar’s “Ministry of Culture” (aka, The Ministry of Fun) to explain why she was trying to order multiple stacks of “homoerotic pornography” to an Islamic state. Enjoy!
Garth Ennis is banned from Doha.
Well his comics are.
I recently ordered 11 volumes of The Boys and got it sent to me through Aramex. I’ve lived in the Middle East long enough to know that was stupid, but I’ve also ordered truckloads of comics and never had a problem before. I tried getting them for my iPad at first but was having problems and there isn’t a lot of Apple support over here so I figured I’d just buy hard copies.
Apparently the time I decided to order a slightly more graphic series, is the time Customs decided to open the package. And the time the Ministry of Culture decided to go through every single page of every single volume. If you’ve read The Boys, well then you know what I was up against.
The first time I went to the Ministry of Culture to try and pick the comics up, I had to walk around showing everyone the customs paper that said “homosexual magazine” in Arabic. Each person would stop, stare at me, look at the paper, look back at me, call someone over, show them the paper and stare again…
I’m a tall, skinny white girl that looks 25.
The second time I went to the Ministry of Culture, I found out The Boys now live in a box labeled BANNED. I tried to talk them into letting me keep them (“Come on, they’re drawings! Cartoons!”), but they said absolutely not. I couldn’t even get them back to return them for a refund.
I did however, get to sit there while they showed me some of the pages they found offensive (all of them). I mean, I’ve read them before so I knew what was coming, but that might have made it worse. It’s very different than reading them in front of an older woman in the government who is waiting for an expression of disgust and outrage that didn’t come.
Not at all awkward.
So basically I won’t get to read or finish The Boys until I move to another country. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been labeled as some kind of deviant on some secret pervert list which would have been totally worth it if I got to keep the comics.
One thing is for sure though: Every person that works at the Ministry of Culture in Qatar now knows Garth Ennis and The Boys.
You’re welcome, Garth.
And there you have it, in all of its cringe-laden glory! Honestly, I think Eisner Award-winning writer, and author of The Boys, Garth Ennis, should send Patrocitus, at least some props for trying to import the entirety of his comic series into a country where, clearly, they would never be allowed – if for no other reason than her tapping into the ethos of the comic, itself. If he was REALLY cool, he’d send her a signed copy of each volume she lost to the authorities … which I will be happy to hold onto until she leaves Qatar.
For my own little tribute, I’d like to dedicate this little classic to Patrocitus for her bravery, commitment and questionable judgement. This one goes out to you, neighbor!
If you’re reading this … you ARE the Stevolution.