Artist Quits Orson Scott Card Superman Comic; When Will DC Get The Message?

USA Today is reporting that artist Chris Sprouse, citing an excess of media attention, is the latest to wise up about working alongside “Ender’s Game” creator and outspoken homophobe Orson Scott Card on the digital “Adventures of Superman” anthology.

It seems at this point that DC editorial and Card are really the only ones to not realize that his involvement on the book is a very bad idea.

In a statement released this morning, Sprouse explained “It took a lot of thought to come to this conclusion, but I’ve decided to step back as the artist on this story,” adding that The media surrounding this story reached the point where it took away from the actual work, and that’s something I wasn’t comfortable with. My relationship with DC Comics remains as strong as ever and I look forward to my next project with them.” I’m not going to second-guess Sprouse’s given motivations for his departure, although you’d really expect Card to be the one penning this statement.

The media attention Sprouse cites centers on Card’s very public views against gays and lesbians and support of laws which would prosecute the commission of homosexual acts along with his prominent membership in the National Organization for Marriage (he’s super-convinced gays are strictly “created” via a cycle of molestation). Card’s lent his time and money to NOM, supporting their scientifically-unsound views over the years, even weighing on the the Prop 8 ballot initiative back in 2010.

DC is intent on keep Card on, though saying “We fully support, understand and respect Chris’s decision to step back from his Adventures of Superman assignment. Chris is a hugely talented artist, and we’re excited to work with him on his next DC Comics project. In the meantime, we will re-solicit the story at a later date when a new artist is hired.” At this point, the story is no longer “DC releases high-profile ’Superman’ comic in advance of movie,” it’s become “DC hires homophobic writer and now they’re stuck with him.”

And they’ve positioned themselves as the champions of free speech here, back in February saying:

“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.”

But in this case, separating the art from the artist is tough to do when the artist releases art that creates a gross feedback loop about his views (see Card’s molestation-heavy take on “Hamlet”). It doesn’t even make sense given this particular character (who’s for years been about inclusion and acceptance) to have this particular creator involved.

Card’s noxious views (look, there’s no way around it–they’re gross and borderline crazy) have led to boycotts of the comic as well as an online petition to pull Card off “Adventures of Superman.” While I think the simplest and most direct message to DC would simply be to not buy the book, some retailers are also refusing to carry it (while the Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, CA plans to hold a fundraiser for the non-profit Freedom to Marry, which I think is lovely). Let’s not forget: Card’s not the only writer working on “Adventures of Superman” and Sprouse wasn’t the only artist.

If this post seems especially strident, well it’s disheartening when DC axes well-regarded creators who disagree with their policies like Chris Roberson or (and this situation was a little more complicated) Dwayne McDuffie while embracing Card. You can say any horrible thing and support a known hate group like NOM, but if you speak out against the company, you’re out. It’s this weird little dance where we, the reader must accept the intolerance of a known bigot if we want to get our comic books.

The big shame of it is that DC seems to think that someone, anyone out there is crying out for the great, untold Orson Scott Card Superman story, maybe on the back of his “Ender’s Game” movie this summer. I completely get that and the business sense behind it, but you really have to weigh the balance of hiring a high-profile bigot against moving a couple more units of your digital to print anthology.

The book’s not coming out until late May. Perhaps between now and then, as they search for a replacement for Sprouse, DC or Card will decide the author’s involvement just isn’t worth the time or hassle. Or better still, maybe it’ll open up more outpourings of support for the gay and lesbian community like the Comic Bug effort.