Controversial 'Divided States of Hysteria' Comic Sparks Social Media Uproar Over Graphic Cover

Artwork from the series' fourth issue, which depicts a Pakistani man hanging by a noose, has many readers demanding an apology.
Howard Chaykin

For the second time in a month, Image Comics and writer-artist Howard Chaykin are facing outcry over the Divisive States of Hysteria comic book series.

The latest round of upset surrounds the cover for the series' fourth issue, due for release in September. The cover, by Chaykin, features a Pakistani man hanging by a noose, with his genitalia exposed and mutilated, and a name badge pinned to his chest bearing a racial epithet. (The image is available here.) The artwork was originally released June 21 along with the covers for Image's other September releases, but there was no notable response to the cover until Friday morning, when social media — seemingly prompted by this tweet — started taking notice.

As of press time, Image Comics has not responded to the many complaints about the artwork for the series, which takes place during a second American Civil War, launched after a terrorist attack destroys New York City.

Outrage surrounding the cover follows an earlier controversy over the first issue of the series earlier this month. That issue, which was not only published during Pride month, but also was released with a Pride variant cover, prominently featured a transgender sex worker who is beaten by her clients once they discover she is trans, leading to her killing them in self-defense and being arrested for their murder.

In reaction to reader response at the issue's homophobia, Image posted an essay from the first issue, written by series creator Chaykin, in which he complained about the current political climate in the country by writing, "instead of 'Trigger warnings,' 'Cultural appropriation,' 'Safe spaces,' and 'Social Justice Warriors,' maybe we on the left should have put aside all this balkanizing nonsense and been fucking Americans for
f—'s sake."

A subsequent announcement of the issue returning to print included a statement from Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson that said, in part, "Rooted in the worst aspects of reality, this is indignant, rebellious fiction, designed to make readers both angry and uncomfortable, but more than that, it’s intended to provoke thought about how and why things have reached a state where the tools for progress — discourse, understanding, cooperation — are shunned in favor of treating anyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy combatant."

Chaykin, whose past comics work includes two volumes of the pornographic horror series Black Kiss as well as re-creations of pulp heroes The Shadow and Blackhawk, is no stranger to controversy. Indeed, the prerelease promotion for Divided States saw him boasting that the series "may very well get me arrested here in the good ol' USA."

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