Could fan-subscription provide a way forward for Class Comics or is this the end of naked superheroes?

Things continue to get harder for creators of erotic art.

Could fan-subscription provide a way forward for Class Comics or is this the end of naked superheroes?

When it comes to erotic fiction, Class Comics are the guys that create the kind of graphic art filth that makes all our geek-boy wet-dreams come true.

Patrick Fillion and Robert Fraser are the creative geniuses behind Class Comics. The couple have been publishing together since 2002.

However, they've been unable to operate their online store since January of this year because of issues with payment providers.

The problems began when their existing payment provider - the platform that processes credit card payments - withdrew their services and refused to process payments for the business.

Fillion and Fraser have since been applied to every potential operators to try to set up an account with a new payment provider, but none of their applications have been successful and they have now exhausted all banking options.

Based on feedback that Class Comics has received in its applications, one of the factors at play is that the business is based in Canada. It seems that the Canadian banks take a more restrictive view on businesses that work with adult content - it might be easier to find a supportive bank in the US.

While it's not something that we often think about, the way that credit card payments are processed is fairly complicated. There are usually six different parties involved in processing the transaction:

  • Merchant: The business owner who accepts credit card payments online.
  • Payment Processor: The go-between for merchants and the acquiring bank, they facilitate credit card transactions.
  • Acquiring Bank: The “merchant bank” which settles and distributes credit card payments to business owners.
  • Card Brands: Visa, Mastercard, Amex are card brands that allow payments to be processed via their card network.
  • Issuing Bank: These are the banks who supply the credit card to the customer to use.
  • Cardholder: The customer using the network to make purchases.

It's with the Acquiring Bank that Class Comics are having problems with. A business such as Class Comics, selling adult content and based in Canada, is being classified as too risky for the available Acquiring Banks to take on.

It seems that the banks are taking an over-simplified view of what adult content is, and not differentiating between erotic art and content that features real-person performers. For example, the application process requires Class Comics to disclose whether their content contain violence, blood, weapons, water sports, or the exchange of bodily fluids. Obviously, they do - in illustrations, in comic-book form. However this automatically raises red flags for an Acquiring Bank.

While the obvious move would be to move to a different type of payment system - such as Paypal, Venmo, or Stripe, Square - Class Comics have confirmed that they have explored these and they all prohibit adult content.

To try and address the objections of the financial institutions, Fillion and Fraser have completely rebuilt their online presence - creating a new website so that it doesn't have any adult material displayed, they've re-made the covers of their publications, edited website text, and created redacted sample images. However, none of those changes have been sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the banks. As at the time of writing, their online shop remains offline and they are still unable to trade.

Is this the end for Class Comics?

Fillion and Fraser are determined to find a way forward. One option is to establish a US subsidiary but that appears to be an enormous undertaking for a small creative business.

The recent move by online marketplace Gumroad to stop supporting the sale of erotic content may create an unexpected opportunity. Fan-subscription platform JustFor.Fans are exploring with their payment providers whether they can step in and enable erotic artists to connect with their audiences in that way. This is something that Class Comics is now embracing.

Naked Men Talking

I recently caught up with Patrick Fillion for the Naked Men Talking podcast.

In the conversation we talk origin stories, horny alter-egos, and the undeniable appeal of men in spandex.

Click to listen

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