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Just days after announcing its latest digital-first anthology Adventures of Superman, DC Comics faces a growing wave of criticism for hiring Ender’s Game author, and vocal gay-rights opponent, Orson Scott Card to write the first chapter.
An online petition calling on the publisher to drop the “virulently anti-gay writer” has already drawn more than 4,800 signers. And while comic book fans and petitions seem to go hand in hand — it was just last month Marvel was being called upon to cancel Avengers Arena — this effort is being spearheaded by All Out, an initiative of the Purpose Foundation advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. The drive has already attracted the attention of mainstream media outlets like The Guardian and The Huffington Post.
Although Card is best known for his award-winning 1985 novel Ender’s Game, he has become notorious for outspoken views on homosexuality and his advocacy against gay rights. A board member of the National Organization for Marriage, a group dedicated to the opposition of same-sex marriage, the author has tried to link homosexuality to childhood molestation, advocated home-schooling to ensure children “are not propagandized with the ‘normality’ of ‘gay marriage'” (with Card, the phrase is always in quotation marks), and floated slippery-slope scenarios in which marriage-equality opponents one day will be classified as “mentally ill” and parents who encourage their children to pursue heterosexual marriage “will be labeled as a bigot and accused of hate speech.”
Following rulings by “dictator-judges” in 2008 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Card infamously endorsed a government overthrow, writing, “How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.”
It’s a track record some fans find difficult to reconcile with DC’s iconic characters, to say nothing of the publisher’s high-profile efforts to diversify is superhero universe with the likes of Batwoman, the reintroduced Alan Scott/Green Lantern, and Bunker. DC featured a story about gay antiheroes (and Superman and Batman analogs) Apollo and Midnighter in last week’s Young Romance Valentine’s Day special, and recently trumpeted its nominees for the 2013 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Awards.
“Superman stands for truth, justice and the American way,” Jono Jarrett of Geeks Out, Orson Scott Card does not stand for any idea of truth, justice or the American way that I can subscribe to,” said Jono Jarrett of Geeks OUT!, a gay comics and gaming group, told The Guardian. “It’s a deeply disappointing and frankly weird choice.”
Andre Banks, All Out co-founder and executive director, added in a statement, “Did DC Comics forget to Google Orson Scott Card before hiring him or do they think a notoriously anti-gay activist was the best possible choice to represent Superman? Superman is the good guy who uses his strength to stand up for all the little guys. Card is the opposite — a bully who uses his platform to tear down gays and lesbians and stand in the way of full equality.”
Indeed, it appeared as if Marvel might be pulled into the backlash following Card’s 2008 essay, when commentators began to draw connections to the author’s two Ultimate Iron Man miniseries and the publisher’s newly announced adaptations of Ender’s Game and the sequel Ender’s Shadow. For any number of reasons — the infancy of Twitter? the lack of an organization to take up the cause? the absence of an iconic figure like Superman? — those complaints didn’t grow beyond a relative handful of website mentions.
However, this time, the controversy appears to have legs — and a cape. Adventures of Superman debuts online April 29 and in print May 29.