The Card Controversy: Can We Separate the Artist from Their Art?

Orson Scott CardAnother week, another boiling-over controversy coming out of DC Comics.

This time the flap comes on the heels of the publisher’s announcement that award-winning science fiction writer Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Homecoming, Seventh Son) had been tapped to pen the upcoming Adventures of Superman, a digital-first release set in the mainstream New 52 universe.

On its surface, this announcement would seem like a home run. Card is a celebrated writer whose novels have won Hugo Awards, been placed on nearly every “Best Of” list, and who recently turned in a solid run on Marvel’s Ultimate Iron Man. The writer would seem to be eminently suited for the task of penning the Man of Steel.

The problem arose when fans became aware of Card’s well-documented history of opposition to the LGBT community, resulting in petitions requesting that DC remove him from the title and several comic book retailers, led by Zeus Comics of Dallas, TX, releasing statements that they would refuse to carry the print version of the comic on their shelves.

Bret White at CBR summed up the “fire Card” argument very succinctly when he wrote:

Imagine if Card had previously made comments about how great segregation was, or how he believes it’s his right to own slaves. Imagine if Card had gone on lengthy diatribes about how all women should be expunged from the work force and shoved back into their kitchens, where they belong. What if Card was on the board of directors for a group dedicated to keeping interracial marriage illegal? At one point in the past, the majority of society could, disgustingly, view every single one of those statements as a valid opinion. This is where history has proven to be on the side of progress and equality, and it’s here where every argument against gay marriage and LGBT equality is obliterated. History holds the truth. So why are anti-gay beliefs so easily dismissed as mere opinions whereas similar beliefs against people of color labeled as racist and are therefore, rightfully so, looked at as reprehensible?

White raises an excellent point. If a creator were as blatantly bigoted towards people of color as Card is towards the LGBT community, they would be on their rear in a heartbeat.

That said, industry heavyweight Mark Millar made an interesting point on Twitter yesterday when he said:

Mark Millar @mrmarkmillar

One of the caveats of freedom of speech is that we should occasionally not try to bankrupt people we, as liberals, disagree with.

Now, I’ll admit, I am conflicted on this issue. For many years, I was a devoted fan of Orson Scott Card.

In a response issued to The Advocate, DC Comics defended its decision: “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.”Adventures of Superman Digital 1

The problem here, as the Advocate goes on to note, is that Card does not keep his personal views personal. He has served as a board member of NOM (National Organization for Marriage) and has penned more than a few anti-homosexual screeds on his blog and other platforms, the highlight of which was in an interview with Salon, when the writer stated “Gay rights is a collective delusion that’s being attempted.”

While the number of shops declaring that they will not stock the book is growing, one shop in particular wants to give readers a reason to buy the comic from them. Challengers Comics, located in Chicago, declared that all profits that the store receives from the book will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign. W. Dal Bush, a co-owner of the shop, was quoted as saying “‘I’d rather take his book, that his royalties might go to anti-equality causes, and use it to fund pro-equality causes. Plus our profits per book are more than his royalties per book, so, like, double f**k him.’”

The Hollywood Reporter has recently cast doubts as to the success of the big budget adaptation of Ender’s Game based on Card’s famous novel. The novel was adapted into a $110 million dollar movie that is set for release later this year. With the promotion that comes with a movie with that big of a budget, the movie makers are trying to find a way to seperate Card’s views from the movie that Card had little involvment in making. But with any press promotion for the film, an appearance by Card is sure to draw up the question of his personal views.

If the simple announcement of his involvement in the Superman comic is any indication, putting Card in front of a press room could cause a bigger controversy than what is wanted.