American comics are changing to accommodate recent social progress. The X-Men are a diverse, multi-ethnic team. Batwoman is a lesbian. Gay marriage has taken place between two heroes. But writer Orson Scott Card, who has been chosen to write DC Comics' Adventures of Superman, is outspokenly anti-gay, and that's generating outrage among comic fans - especially for stories about a hero who is supposed to stand for "truth, justice, and the American way."
Such is the controversy, in fact, that 13,725 people have signed a petition on LGBT equality site All Out, to let DC Comics know that readers won't accept Card or his work, and that giving a new platform to someone who is so anti-gay is very troubling.
"Americans take their superheroes seriously," said Andre Banks, All Out's co-founder and executive director. "They are a reflection of our values and they deeply influence our shared ideals."
"Young Americans look to Superman as a champion of justice. Anti-gay extremists should be a serous concern to these Americans. It is peculiar that DC Comics would decide to bring [the two] together."
Card isn't merely a writer who doesn't care for the LGBT community. This is a man who has made extreme homophobic remarks, calling gay rights a "collective delusion," and dismissing gay marriage as "ridiculous. I do not believe homosexuals should be given a whole raft of rights." Card, by the way, is a member of the National Organization for Marriage, which seeks to prevent marriage between two people of the same gender. Other remarks of his include calling same-sex attraction a "reproductive dysfunction" and his statement that marriage equality would lead to the "end of civilization."
Perhaps most flabbergastingly offensive was his assertion that there is a "dark secret of homosexual society - how many homosexuals first entered into 'that world' through disturbing seduction, rape, molestation, or abuse."
Many consider DC's selection of Orson Scott Card as a writer to be head-scratching, given that the comics company has historically been progressive and pro-LGBT. Those displeased with the Superman situation, however, can look to alternatives that prove that, for the most part, DC Comics seems to be staying on the right side of history. Its Batwoman title, for example, follows the story of lesbian Kathy Kane, a very popular character and the first high profile, openly gay superheroine to have her own ongoing series.
As for Card taking the reins of Superman, many comic book store owners say they will not be distributing the title, due to its writer's views. Richard Neal, gay owner of Dallas's Zeus Comics, is among them.
Neal wrote on his Facebook page:
"Zeus Comics will not be carrying the print edition of Orson Scott Card's Superman. Card's essays advocate the destruction of my relationship [and suggest that] I am born of rape or abuse and that I am equated with pedophilia. These themes appear in his fiction, as well. It is shocking that DC Comics would hire him to write Superman, a character whose ideals represent all of us. If you replaced the word 'homosexuals' in his essays with the words 'women,' or 'Jews,' he would not be hired. But I'm not sure why it is still okay to 'have an opinion' about gays? This is about equality."
Photo: Superman, about a figure who has traditionally stood for "the American way," ought not to be written by someone who is vehemently homophobic, comic fans say, as they feel it would directly contradict the values of the beloved character. Pictured is a Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois. Joseph Lee Novak/Flickr