Comics fans and LGBT rights advocates are protesting DC's selection of science fiction author Orson Scott Card to pen a Superman comic. Earlier this month, DC announced that it would kick off its new Adventures of Superman series with a two-part story written by Card. But while Card's most lasting achievement is the classic novel Ender's Game, he's become more known in recent years for his outspoken views on homosexuality, calling same-sex marriage a "monstrous social revolution" that must be defeated. In response, Marriage equality group All Out has launched a petition asking DC to drop him as a Superman author, and USA Today reports that some comic book shop owners have pledged not to carry the title when it's printed.
"It's hard to reconcile Superman's principles with the values of Orson Scott Card."
So far, DC has 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." For many, though, the problem isn't that Card is writing for DC. Instead, it's the act of handing over both a huge platform and one of America's most treasured fictional symbols. "It's hard to reconcile Superman's principles with the values of science fiction author Orson Scott Card," writes Andrew Wheeler in The Guardian. While smaller characters' or anti-heroes' beliefs may vary, Superman is often seen as representing what's axiomatically good in human beings (or Kryptonians), especially in his own series.
Regardless of how you see Superman's principles and Card's, the bigger issue is who gets to officially interpret his belief in "truth, justice, and the American way." Plenty of authors have written material that's essentially unrelated to their political beliefs, but Card has repeatedly referred to same-sex marriage as a mortal threat to American society, including not-so-veiled calls to overthrow the US government if it's widely legalized. The question isn't just whether or not Card's beliefs are acceptable — it's what kind of standards we set for the makers of national myths, even a small part of them, and how much weight we place on these icons.
Both DC and Marvel have spent the past years integrating gay and lesbian characters into their worlds
Card's selection is especially fraught because both major comic book houses have been pushing to make gay and lesbian characters a more integral part of their worlds — something that has itself been protested by anti-gay groups. In mid-2012, original Green Lantern Alan Scott was introduced as a gay man in DC's New 52 canon, and Marvel depicted the marriage of X-Men character Northstar to his longtime male partner a month before that. The revamped Batwoman series has also won multiple awards from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Though they're still sometimes criticized for catering to straight men, the major comic houses are entering a new era, and Card's place in it is a strange one.
The medium of comics is huge and varied, but DC and Marvel's core superheroes are a major proving ground for social and political movements. For better or worse, they've helped express the norms of our society for decades, and publishers are attempting to strike a balance between maintaining a platform for unpopular ideas and shaping the archetypes that countless authors have spent dozens of years creating.