DC have recently announced that their latest Superman title, Adventures of Superman, will be written by Orson Scott Card. Card is perhaps best known for his Ender’s Game series and for his two volume run on Ultimate Iron Man. He is also vocally homophobic. Cue the Internet outrage.
At the time of writing over 11,000 people have signed a petition to have DC give the boot to Card. Some comic stores are even boycotting Card’s Superman comic. I don’t dispute that Card’s views are anything from misguided to disgusting. But can we not separate the creator from his content?
Ender’s Game is a great book. So are the sequels (although they can get a little preachy) and I recommend them to every SF reader. They are clearly written by a talented writer. I own the book and I enjoy the book but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything Card believes in.
Similarly, can’t DC pay for Card’s work without condoning his views? The argument behind the petitions and boycotts is that DC shouldn’t be associating itself with hateful people. But if I can buy Ender’s Game without condoning homophobia, can’t DC buy Card’s comic work without being associated with his views?
On the flip side, of course, DC wouldn’t hire an outspoken racist. And, putting aside how women are often drawn in comics, they probably wouldn’t hire an outspoken sexist either. Although Frank Miller’s work might make you think twice about that one. But given that they wouldn’t permit racists and sexists on their staff, why will they permit homophobes? And should they?
Freedom of speech means you get to say the most appalling things and not be punished for it. So it doesn’t make sense to not hire someone for having views other than your own. That might even be discrimination. I believe the problem comes when those views make it into the work. To bring up Frank Miller again, his work is filled with misogyny and that should have been unacceptable to DC. Will Card fill his Superman comic with his anti-gay bias? It’s unlikely. But if he did, that would be the time for DC to drop him like a hot rock. Not before.
Despite having written that last paragraph, I still feel uneasy about DC’s decision. I can’t quite put my finger on why. But I think, logically, that’s the right answer: separate the content from the creator and enjoy it until their objectionable views taint it.
I’m just not sure if I feel that’s the right answer. Which might be why so many people are upset about this.
Update: This story just won’t go away. All the controversy around Card has led the artist he was due to work with, Chris Sprouse, to quit. But is Sprouse standing up for what he believes in or is he letting the issues get in the art?