Rogue Element #108: To Boycott or Not to Boycott?
By Avril Brown
That was the question floating about the comic universe for the several weeks following an announcement in February that Orson Scott Card will be writing a ‘Superman’ story for an upcoming series of stand-alones starring the Man of Steel. Ever since the news broke, bringing to light some facets of the author’s beliefs which I was unaware, I have been contemplating how I feel about the situation, reading several articles, essays and commentary. Although I still cannot say how exactly I would handle the situation were I a professional comic publisher, I do feel a need to finally weigh in on the matter.
Fun fact: Orson Scott Card is the author of the immensely popular science fiction series ‘Ender’s Game.’ Although I greatly enjoy sci-fi as a genre I am woefully under-read when it comes to book series (I tend to prefer my sci-fi on a small or large screen), and despite my father’s encouragement towards reading the series when I was younger I never got around to picking up the books. Later on when I finally gleaned spoilers of how dark the series gets I avoided the books on purpose.
Not-so-fun fact: Orson Scott Card is a vocal advocate against gay marriage. He is on the board of directors of NOM (National Organization of Marriage), a virulent anti-gay marriage group, and he has written several essays explaining his negative opinions on gay rights and relationships.
When I first read the controversy surrounding the hiring of Card on a ‘Superman’ story I was shocked, saddened and a little pissed. I had no idea Card was a homophobe until this recent string of events, and although I have never read his work nor intend to, I was upset that a recognizable, and for many, beloved, storyteller in sci-fi was so adamant and outspoken in his views. Typically we comic fans are thrilled when a recognizable writer from other creative outlets tackles a big name comic as it brings fresh talent to the character/s as well as attention from normally non-comic folk. However, how excited are readers supposed to be when the author in question is an outspoken bigot, and what is the appropriate response in a situation such as this?
Petitions from both sides immediately began rocketing about; one arguing DC should fire Card and not publish his story, and one urging the opposite in support of free speech. DC settled the issue shortly thereafter by releasing a statement in support of Card’s storytelling, not his politics or personal opinions, and reiterated they were committed to publishing the story. That was, however, before the artist tied to Card’s story dropped out of the project, stating the media circus took away from the story itself and he wanted no part of something that has apparently become more about the potential statements involved and less about the content of the story. Now everyone is left wondering whether or not DC will quietly kill the project while fewer eyes are on the tainted prize.
They are extremely few in number, but some comic retailers have declared they will not carry Card’s story upon its release. My good friends over at Challenger’s Comics and Conversation here in Chicago have come up with what I consider a rather brilliant solution of their own: they will sell the book if published, but all the profits Card’s ‘Superman’ story produces will be donated to a human rights organization. The original post on their website entitled “Seriously, f@ck this guy,” explained their stance and logic behind their rational, which is solid, smart and well-spoken.
Personally I don’t read ‘Superman’ and likely never will, but hypothetically if I was a regular ‘Superman’ reader I would not pick up Card’s story knowing his stance on the LGBT community; I would feel overwhelmingly hypocritical. Some argue that Card should be allowed to tell his stories without his political and religious views dogging his every script, but would those same folk be as supportive of an author who made public his or her feelings on how interracial marriage will dissolve America as we know it? For most advocates of gay rights, the question is neither a political nor a religious one, it is a human one.
My good friend Elyse and her fiancée Anne are getting married this summer. Thankfully they live in a progressive state which has legalized same-sex marriage and they will not have to face any uphill battles with regards to their union (apart from the ones expected of any marriage). I’m very much looking forward to celebrating their love and commitment to one another, and I’ll admit I get a little ornery thinking about everything that would be denied to them if they lived in one of the forty-seven states prohibiting gay marriage. Just thinking about their smiling faces in their Facebook photos, Anne setting the bar ridiculously high by proposing to Elyse with some help from the folks at the Boston Aquarium and a friendly seal who knows fetch, the unwavering support of both their parents; I’m left wondering: why is there still a controversy?
So to answer the question of whether to boycott or not, well, that IS the question, and the answer is not such a simple one. Were I a ‘Superman’ reader, yes, I would boycott that particular story. Were I a DC reader, no, I would not boycott the company. For one, DC has shown itself to be a company of broad and varied characters, included the out Kate Kane aka Batwoman, who recently proposed to her girlfriend. Secondly, my Marvel is no stranger to Orson Scott Card. Midway through last decade Card was hired as the author of ‘Ultimate Iron Man’ and co-authored the comic book adaptation of his ‘Ender’s Game’ series. Rich Johnson of bleedingcool.com recently highlighted this fact and pointed out that there were complaints surrounding that decision as well, if not as prominent and explosive as more recent events. I do not read ‘Iron Man’ and as mentioned ‘Ender’s Game’ flies under my radar as well, so I remained ignorant of his involvement in my chosen comic company. Even if I was cognizant of his stories, and more importantly his issues with gay rights, I would have remained a Marvel reader. There are a million cogs and gears that go into an artistic business, and hundreds of decisions are made daily which affect both readers and creators, the making of which neither group likely had anything to do with. By dropping all Marvel titles I would be denying the company who wrote Card’s paycheck for his previous works my hard-earned money, but the creative team on the X-books I read also receive their paychecks from Marvel. Not to mention the retailers also need to see some coin to stay afloat to feed themselves and their little retailer babies.
In this case, being a gay rights advocate is hardly a straight line; it’s a queer one, complete with twisty turny loopholes and hard-to-avoid side effects. Should DC publish Card’s story? That’s up to DC and several people I’m glad I’m not. Marvel got away with it, so to speak, but that was several years ago before support for gay rights swelled, and now that Card’s views are more out than ever before thanks to the wildfire that is social media, he’s writing for a different world.
I object to Orson Scott Card; I will not purchase his projects nor stories from anyone who publicly declares themselves to be anti-gay rights. I will continue reading books produced by Marvel and other companies who may or may not have hired homophobic writers. I will not head out to the theaters to watch the upcoming ‘Ender’s Game’ movie, but I will continue to harbor a huge crush on Harrison Ford. I will dance my fool head off at Elyse and Anne’s wedding, and hope that the world will continue to evolve towards universal tolerance, with weddings, and rights, for all.