The old Orson Scott Card story is becoming the new Orson Scott Card story, and for those who have been left out of the loop, the story is Orson Scott Card isn’t a fan favorite in the LGBT community. While his outspoken beliefs against homosexuality has been well-known for over two decades, it has been in the news more and more with the advent of the Ender’s Game movie, and his new upcoming two-issue comic for Superman. The latter, of course, is what brought the age old issue to the media forefront once again.
Recently, LGBT activists have been calling for boycotts of his works on the grounds that any money he earns is money that he puts towards criminalizing homosexuality. AllOut.org has even issued a petition seeking his immediate removal from the comic, and it has reached over 13,000 signatures of its goal of 15,000.
Comic book stores have been ignoring the call to not stock their shelves with the comic, which is really not a surprise. Having worked at a comic book store, and being very good friends with several comic store owners, I know how difficult it is to keep business by not having something your customer wants. It’s hard enough to keep customers when they can’t have an issue and it isn’t your fault; it would be impossible if you were willingly denying it. So this is the customer base the LGBT boycotters are up against, and I don’t envy them their struggle. That being said, Zeus Comics in Dallas became the first this February 13th, 2013 to declare that his store will not be carrying issues written by Card.
Strangely, there has been no talk of actually boycotting DC works in general, which one would think would send a stronger message.
And that leads me to the story that isn’t being told. It’s not about what stories Orson Scott Card writes specifically for, but the writers the companies hire. Now, it’s important to note that both DC and Marvel have been having issues with social justice, not the least of which is commented on by one of my favorite things, The Hawkeye Initiative, which seeks to examine, through parody, how women in comics are overly sexualized by taking famous female superhero poses and drawing Hawkeye performing them. In fact, Marvel had Orson Scott Card write two issues of Ultimate Iron Man six years ago. Yet where was the outcry that is happening now? Well, times were different in 2006, yes, but not really all that different.
What it comes down to is that Marvel has been making efforts, under Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso, to hire more inclusively. This included the openly gay Allen Heinberg, the creator of Billy and Teddy, the super boyfriends who star in Young Avengers. Some of you die-hard fans would be quick to point out that Heinberg also wrote five issues of JLA for DC, but let’s remember this was after Young Avengers became a smash hit, and JLA involved using established characters and working with another writer. It was hardly a coup for DC to hire him.
This is not to say that DC hasn’t made attempts to have gay representation, after all Alan Scott’s sexuality was big deal six months ago. It’s just that it can be a meaningless exercise if not done by a more inclusive writing staff. It becomes evident, then, why DC would have no qualms hiring someone like Orson Scott Card, and why they would not bow to pressures to remove him, if only because they are still outdated, as much of the comic book industry can still be.
There are those, naturally, who suggest that despite how disgusting Card’s beliefs may be, that it shouldn’t stop people from enjoying the Ender’s Game movie seeing as the book itself is not homophobic. It is true that homophobia does not exist in his books nor is it glorified. But Card doesn’t keep his views as simply a personal matter. The boycotters are more concerned with the money Card will earn and then use to fund anti-gay campaigns. After all, Orson Scott Card is on the National Board of Marriage, an infamous opponent of gay rights.
Glen Weldon, an avid Superman fan who also happens to be gay, summarized the controversy well on NPR’s All Things Considered:
Card isn’t just a guy whose opinions I happen to disagree with. Trust me, the comics industry is rife with writers, artists and editors whose politics I don’t share, who hold views they’re quite public about in interviews and various internet forums, and I would defend — to the mild inconvenience — their right to hold those views. This isn’t about that.
Card is different. Card is an activist. He sits on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, an entity entirely devoted to attacking and defeating marriage equality and spending millions of dollars lobbying to do so.
He also goes on to state that Superman is different than other superheros, and is exactly the character Card should not be writing for.
DC Comics has handed the keys to the “Champion of the Oppressed” to a guy who has dedicated himself to oppress me, and my partner, and millions of people like us. It represents a fundamental misread of who the character is, and what he means.
It is dispiriting. It is wearying. It is also, finally, not for me.
One of the other nicknames that accrued to Superman right away – that predates “Man of Steel” by a good amount – is “The Man of Tomorrow.” And much of his early iconography bears a distinctive Socio-Realist, Diego Rivera vibe: a lot of burnished golden sunrises, eyes raised to the horizon, gazing into the future.
Because that’s where he lives, Superman. And that’s what he says to us: We can do better. We can be better, to ourselves, and to each other.
Hey, DC Comics? Be better
Essentially, what this boils down to is that boycotting Orson Scott Card’s works isn’t a baseless act, though whether or not it will have an impact on sales is really up to how strongly the individual customer feels on the subject. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the next few months.