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Struggling with Superman: Should Orson Scott Card Write A Superman Comic?

Star Trek writer David Gerrold comments on the debate

February 13, 2013|Elliott Serrano, for Redeye

This week has been a tough one for me, both as a fan of comics & science fiction AND as a professional writer. See, for the last few days, comic book readers have been debating DC Comics’ hiring of Orson Scott Card to write a Superman story for their Digital First initiative. Card is best known for writing “Ender’s Game” the Hugo Award winning science fiction novel and one of my all-time favorite books.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, it just so happens that Orson Scott Card is vehemently homophobic and has campaigned against marriage equality. Now, I had always heard rumblings of Card’s politics in the past, but dismissed them because I feel that you have the right to believe whatever you want, express whatever opinion you have, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. It wouldn't be until I started looking more closely that it became evident Card was using his influence as a popular writer to do just that. To discover someone I admired was oppressing others and speaking out against equality for a minority was disappointing to say the least.

And now he was going to write Superman? That’s something that I have a hard time reconciling. Superman has always been about “Truth and Justice,” and the philosophies that Card espouses are antithetical to that. How can I - in good conscience - support someone who is now on the forefront of the Anti-LGBT movement? I view it the same as denying rights to people of color or religion. To me there is no difference.

I’ve been struggling with this. And reading the message boards on comic book media sites doesn't help much since the discourse often degenerates into angry insults and flame wars that do nothing but obfuscate the issue.

I got a bit of cheer when I came across a Facebook post by another one of my favorite science fiction writers, David Gerrold. For those who don't know of him, Gerrold first came to prominence when he served as a writer for the classic Star Trek television series. He wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles,” one of the series’ most beloved episodes. He's also the author of my favorite sci-fi series “The War Against the Ch’torr.” It should also be noted that Gerrold is openly gay. I've long admired him and wondered where he stood on this issue. This is what he had to say about Orson Scott Card:

DC Comics has hired Orson Scott Card to write the first issue of a new Superman book.

Because Card is on the board of directors for the National Organization of Marriage (an organization that wants to keep gay people from marrying) and because he has written some very aggressive anti-gay screeds, many LGBT (and straight) fans of Superman are outraged. There is even an online petition asking DC to drop Card. (There is also a petition to SUPPORT him. - Elliott)

DC has replied:

“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.”

They are correct. As much as I disagree with Card's position on homosexual relationships, I do not feel he should be penalized for his political views. It would be as wrong as an anti-gay group petitioning a publisher not to publish a book of mine because I am gay. It would be censorship based on enmity. No one should be penalized for their political views, no matter how egregious any of us might judge those views.

It is our responsibility as rational people to engage in reasonable and rational discourse on difficult issues. It is only when people actively work to hurt others that we have a responsibility to halt or prevent that harm. But we are never justified in penalizing each other based on beliefs. If it's wrong in one direction, it's wrong in the other direction.

Let me say it in the clear. I despise Card's position on marriage equality -- but I do not despise Card. He is an intelligent man and a gifted storyteller. As an American citizen, protected by the US Constitution, he is entitled to freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom to publish, etc. That I disagree (aggressively) with what he has said does not give me license to demand that his rights be infringed or that his ability to find work be compromised. I expect the same respect in return.

I do not expect that Card's political beliefs will be part of his Superman story. That's not Superman and I think Card understands that. And the good folks at DC likely understand that too. I hope he writes a good story. I also hope that someday he will recognize that some of the things he has said, some of the things he has advocated, are simply not in keeping with Jesus' commandment that we love one another.

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