Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Card Thing

I've weighed in on this elsewhere, but I keep seeing people who otherwise should know better saying utterly stupid things about this fiasco. Nothing I'm about to say here hasn't been said better by Dave or Siskoid or Brett White, but I felt like it was important to put all my thoughts on the subject in one place.

Orson Scott Card has been tapped to write the first (digital) issue of a new digital-first Superman ongoing series, "Adventures of Superman." Card's story is to be illustrated by the immensely talented Chris Sprouse, and in the print edition, will appear alongside a story by Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee, who are great.

Orson Scott Card's comics work has been rather limited. He's worked primarily at Marvel where, as far as I can see from the Wiki page, the only thing he's done that wasn't an adaptation of his prose works was a run of "Ultimate Iron Man" that has been widely panned and retconned as a not-very-accurate cartoon or something.

But his name is recognizable outside of comics fandom, and so DC placed him on the first issue of their new digital series, presumably hoping it would go as well as the last time they hired a big-name sci-fi author to write Superman. Scoff if you want (I certainly did) but Straczynski's presence gave the books a big sales boost, at least until he got distracted by something shiny and let better writers clean up his messes.

There's been a backlash, for good reason, because Orson Scott Card is an enormous bigot. I've seen people framing this as a "difference of opinion" or a "belief" or a "personal political position." It's certainly the latter two, but I think calling this a "difference of opinion" is an insulting trivialization. It's easy for the privileged to suggest that other people's basic rights and humanity of are matters of opinion, but such opinions affect actual people's actual lives. At best, Card's opinions are reprehensible, ignorant, often based on blatant falsehoods, and in some cases borderline treasonous.

But if you frame this as a "difference of opinion" and a matter of "personal beliefs," then it makes the people suggesting Card should be pulled from the issue, fired, or otherwise penalized, look like unreasonable, irrational censors. Doing so allows DC to distance themselves from Card's views while also trying to shrug off the controversy without actually doing anything.

We can ignore, I suppose, that this is a company that has fired at least one writer for expressing his opinion that their dealings with creators and their heirs have been unethical. So, for the record, believing that a corporation should treat creators with respect is a firing offense; believing that people should overthrow the government if certain groups of unnatural sinners obtain equality under the law, that's "steadfastly support[ed] freedom of expression" and "personal views."

But Card's bigotry goes well beyond beliefs or views or even odious essays filled with the typical clich├ęs of homophobes. He has been actively campaigning against LGBT causes for several years, and serves on the board of the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage, which works to prevent equality by trying to force a particular religious definition of marriage on public policy and a civil, legal institution. I can't decide which is worse: that they hypocritically couch their discrimination in terms of others trying to force their beliefs on the nation, or that a group opposed to "redefining marriage" has strong ties to the Mormon church.

In short, calling the boycotts and protests and petitions a matter of Card's views and opinions is dismissive not only to the people affected by Card's activism, but also to the magnitude of his bigotry and the actions he's taken on behalf of those beliefs.

One would think that a corporation that just a month ago seemed so proud to announce their GLAAD award nominees would be more aware of Card's views, actions, and how the hire would be received, but I'm increasingly convinced that DC has absolutely no idea how their actions and stories might be received by anyone outside of mainstream comic fandom.

I'm not sure what DC can do at this point. I mean, this is a company that pulled a Superman comic because it might cause controversy for Superman to have a Muslim superhero friend (and replaced it with a story pulled years before because a Krypto-centric tale didn't fit with the current tone of the series), so if they're standing behind this story, they must have some serious investment in it (more on that later). But I'd certainly be happier if they pulled the story and led off with the Parker/Samnee joint.

I've bought every regular Superman-starring comic for years (the last one I missed, near as I can tell, was "Superman/Batman" #77 or #78). I'm not sure what the last Superman #1 I didn't buy was, outside of maybe a few one-shots or miniseries. But I'm not buying this one. I'll get Parker's story digitally, and I might eventually check the issue out when I can get it on the secondary market and not put any money into DC or Card's pockets. Or Hell, I might pirate it. It's unethical, but then, so was hiring Card, so I think it pans out. My local comic shop has said that they won't stock it on the shelf, joining at least a few others around the country, and that continues to convince me that I'm shopping at the right place.

Orson Scott Card shouldn't be writing Superman. He really shouldn't be working for any company that promotes diversity, justice, and equality, but I'd settle for him working only on his own creations and adaptations. DC has dropped writers and issues for reasons that didn't involve making a group of people into second-class citizens or inciting armed rebellion, so they must have a reason for trying to keep him around and happy.

My suspicion? They wouldn't snag a big-name sci-fi writer for one short digital-first story. But they might snag one to headline a sci-fi series where the long-time writer is leaving an epic run. I'd lay odds that we'll see at least one arc on a Green Lantern book by Card, and I imagine we'll see at least part of one by JMS. And, well, you wouldn't want to drive away the guy who you hope is going to keep one of your tent pole lines from collapsing come June. I hope that's not the case. I hope that this hoopla makes DC rethink whether or not they want to associate with Card and his toxic hate. I hope a lot of comic fans and professionals who should know better learn that a boycott is different from a ban or censorship, and that the right to free speech doesn't mean "free from consequences" or "the right to a paid platform and audience."

And I think those all have about equal chance of happening.

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