DC’s Orson Scott Card/Superman Controversy

The aggressively anti-gay writer will write a short story about the Man of Tomorrow. It's not going down well.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Orson Scott Card is a successful science fiction author. His book Ender's Game is going to be a movie starring Harrison Ford soon, and has already been a series of comics from Marvel, who also hired him to write Ultimate Iron Man comics in the past.

Orson Scott Card is also a Mormon and an outspoken opponent of the legalization of gay marriage, and he's on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, which ironically actually opposes marriage, at least for same-sex couples.

Now, Orson Scott Card has been hired by DC Comics to co-write a story to the digital comic project Adventures of Superman, and a backlash has hit almost immediately. CBR has published a screed against Card, claiming his selection diminishes the work DC has done to promote LGBT equality, with such titles as Batwoman and prominent gay characters like Green Lantern Alan Scott, Apollo and Midnighter. The requisite petition has started among fans at Allout.org to get Card fired from the project.

For their part, DC apparently released a statement to Fox News on the controversy. "As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that – personal views – and not those of the company itself.”

Card hasn't said anything yet, but Fox News quotes Brian Brown, the president of that National Organization for Marriage, as saying “This is completely un-American and it needs to be stopped. Simply because we stand up for traditional marriage, some people feel like it’s okay to target us for intimidation and punishment.”

Apparently, there's not even a hint of irony in Brown complaining about being intimidated and punished for trying to deny rights to other people, thereby intimidating and punishing them. No one needs to "stand up" for traditional marriage. It is not going anywhere ever, nor is it even remotely threatened in the slightest by also letting gay people get married. Straight marriage will always outnumber gay marriages just because straight people massively outnumber gay people – although it's curious to note that most Americans vastly overestimate the actual amount of gay people in the country. That may contribute to this ridiculous "oh my god, they're taking over!" paranoia that seems to permeate groups like the NOM. Relax, straight people. You are the 90%. Give or take.

“Marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” Brown said. “That is not hateful. That is not bigoted.” Again, without any apparent self-awareness of the oxymoronic nature of that statement. Brown may honestly not feel like he's hating anybody, but rather just defending some tradition that's doing just fine without his defense, but he's campaigning to deny basic rights to others in service of his own personal preferences. It's a basic inability to see things from any other perspective than his own, although it's possible his religious beliefs lead him to believe that his perspective is actually God's perspective, which makes it much harder to apply reason to the debate.

That's the organization that Card has joined. And he's about to write Superman. To be fair, it's only a co-writing credit on two chapters in a Superman anthology series that features top-notch creators like Jeff Parker, Chris Samnee, Christos Gage, Chris Sprouse, Bryan Hitch, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Ed Benes, Marv Wolfman, Jeff Lemire, Michael Avon Oeming and Bruce Timm, among others, that will only be available via the DC Comics app. But it's Superman, the guy who's supposed to love and protect everybody, even when it's hard to agree with them. The guy who's supposed to try and stop people from getting hurt. There's not allowed to be a prejudiced bone in that Kryptonian body.

Truth be told, chances are there won't be anything of the sort portrayed in whatever story Card chooses to write. It'll probably just be a nice story about a superhero doing something heroic. There also didn't seem to be a backlash back in 2005 when he was writing those Ultimate Iron Man comics (except from me, maybe, when I didn't know who he was and just thought it was weird that he was claiming that Tony Stark's flesh was actually brain matter), but the world has changed a lot even since then (and maybe I wasn't paying enough attention to things like fan backlash back then, either). There's even a counter-petition trying to let Card keep that job, claiming "Superman would stand up for Card's right to free thought and free speech, even when it isn't popular." It's got 48 signatures so far. Allout.org is nearing 7500 at the moment.

How effective can an online petition be? Well, strong enough to get the White House to take an official position on building a Death Star, but will it get Card fired from the project? DC has been quite susceptible to fan backlash before – note the recent firing and immedate re-hiring of Gail Simone, for example – not that they'd admit to it. Is trying to get Card fired the right thing to do in the first place, though? Maybe. How effective is public shaming in getting people to rethink their worldviews? How likely is Card to realize that his detractors have legitimate points as compared to how likely it is that Card will take this movement to cost him a job as further evidence to support his fear that gay people will ruin civilization?

Perhaps the point isn't to convince Card of the error of his ways, but rather to put pressure on employers not to hire people who are aggressively working to hoard rights for themselves at the expense of others. Or maybe it's to tell him "hey, you're free to make up whatever you want to – hell, try to pull an L. Ron and turn Ender's Game into a religion somehow, if you want* – but we value Superman as an ideal too much to risk putting his words in your hands."

The bottom line, I imagine, will come down to whether or not Card's active pursuit of his unfounded beliefs will prove to be more of a financial liability than his credibility and recognizability as a genre author will be an asset. In that case, maybe a good plan is just to skip those first two issues, and then make it a point to check in when Jeff Parker comes in for the third chapter and try to make it register a sales spike when Card is no longer involved. Parker's pretty cool, and plus, he's working with Chris Samnee, who's beautifully old-school art you can see above, so it'll likely be worth your time and money. Nothing speaks louder to a corporation than sales figures.

Regardless, it's a generally positive sign that the backlash in this case is stronger towards the anti-gay people than the equal rights folks. Believe me, I'm old enough to know that progress has been made here. Maybe someday there won't need to be any kind of backlash in any direction, because everybody will have reached a point of relaxed grooviness about homosexuality. Let's hope.

What do you think of all this? Let's hear it.


*Do not actually do this. This would be awful. The L. Ron is bad enough already.