Alyssa

The Laziness Of DC Comics’ Decision To Hire Orson Scott Card To Write Superman

In a fairly predictable cycle of events, DC Comics has hired Orson Scott Card to write Adventures of Superman, and large segments of the internet are displeased. As Comic Book Resources reports:

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.”

I’m of two minds about the petition. As much as I find Card’s views abhorrent, I do believe that he has a right to work, which of course is not the same thing as a requirement that anyone hire him. And I think it would be worrisome to set a precedent that political views which are unrelated to the content of a person’s job should be the grounds for firing them—obviously, Card’s views on homosexuality and gay rights would be a reason not to, say, put him in a position to make benefits determinations for gay families, or to decide whether or not to prosecute hate crimes. Now, obviously Card’s views have affected some of his creative output, and I’d be willing to listen to an argument that they affect even his works that aren’t primarily concerned with adult sexuality (though I think it would be a very heavy lift to convince me that Ender’s Game and Speaker For The Dead, as stand-alone books, are noxious works).

The really interesting question for me is who else other than Card DC considered to write Superman, and why Card’s pitch, whatever it was, stood out to the company. Card seems to me to be someone who has been coasting creatively on the reputation of Ender’s Game for an extremely long time, rather than a genuinely exciting active talent. But I wouldn’t be surprised if DC went with him because, if nothing else, he’s a recognizable brand name. That’s a kind of hiring laziness that is infuriating, particularly when, as Joseph Hughes wrote in a great piece at Comics Alliance earlier this month that inspired predictable-but-still-depressing hysteria, “There is currently not a single black writer working on a monthly series for either of the two biggest comic book publishers in the United States, and precious few working for any of the others.” Hiring a white, once-innovative writer whose attitudes both offend potential readers in general, and have the potential to seep into his work in a way that makes it deeply unappealing, is apparently still more attractive to DC Comics than seeking out a new and refreshing voice, no matter what body that voice is housed in.