An Open Letter to DC Comics RE: Superman and Orson Scott-Card.

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(**NOTE:  This letter is in address to DC Comics decision to hire Orson Scott Card to write the Superman comic series.  At the time of this publication, Mr. Card was an outspoken anti-gay activist, and the letter addresses this.  Also, as a point of ethics, when I wrote this I did not realize how small Mr. Card’s purported involvement with the Superman franchise was, and have since discovered he will only be a small guest author for a side series.  However, I stand by my statements still)

Dear DC Comics,

I’m writing to you to discuss your decision to hire Orson Scott Card as a writer in charge of some of your Superman titles.  I have to admit I am a little bit conflicted.  But before I talk about that, I want to be clear about what I intend this letter to do.  I don’t want this letter simply to be another protesting email you receive.  I want this letter to start a conversation, somewhere, within your organization.  I want my conflict to become your conflict, because I think we can fight together, not against one another.  But, in the end, that is up to you.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m gay.  More than that, I am a gay consumer of your media products.  When I was young, I’ll even confess that I often stole your products from Grocery Stores and Comic Stores and Garage Sales; that was because I grew up without a lot of extra money, raised by a single mom, in a pretty religious home.  But your comics were some of the only fantastical things I was permitted to own, and my mom never could keep track of how many I was supposed to have.  I also want you to know that I apologized to the star superhero of every comic I ever stole or read without buying as a child, because I knew they wouldn’t approve of my actions.

I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that I am not just some gay guy who is generically appalled, for political or moral reasons, that a major corporation would hire someone as openly anti-rights as Mr. Card is.  I want you to know that I am a gay man, who from the time I was very smallest, believed that super heroes really do matter.  I believe, like so many other children and adults do, that the make-believe worlds populated by grown men and women in silly outfits with outlandish powers, is actually a deeply important part of our cultural identity.  I believe what you do is important, is what I’m trying to say.

So, you hired Orson Scott Card; to write what is, ostensibly, your flagship character (although I can feel Batman fans bristling).  And of course, I have a reaction.  Orson Scott Card is notoriously anti-gay.  He once sat on the board of directors for NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, he penned this essay (which seems to be about courts taking away democratic process, but spends an awful lot of time after that “proving” why gay’s aren’t normal and why gay relationships don’t qualify as marriages).  In a response to criticisms of that essay, he has been quoted, regarding gays and the idea of their legal right to marry, as saying:

“Inclusion” is an empty word when used as a general virtue. Its value depends entirely on what is and is not included. Every inclusion of one group is an exclusion of another. I think even Mr. Herman would agree with me that there are certain groups that should be perpetually excluded from civilized society. Where we differ is only on our list of those groups, not on the principle.”

Of course, what he means in this statement is that, in his worldview, gays should be perpetually excluded from civilized society.

I want to be fair to Mr. Card here though.  I know that he personally does not “agree” with what I would define as my “humanity”, and that in his world view I am not deserving of the legitimate rights afforded people who contribute to meaningfully to society.  But his protestations to the legalization of gay marriage seem to stem more, in his reasoning, from the perspective that courts and single individuals should not mandate major changes to our American society, no matter how “good” those changes seem.  And further, that if gay marriage is to be included in our society it should find its way there through the legal action of Congress and voters.  As a result of that view, I can see why you might have chosen him to write Superman, who often has to deal with the ethical ramifications of individual liberty, democratic process, and the fair use of immense power.

Further, as a writer myself, I can even see how Mr. Card would be uniquely qualified to tell some really killer Superman stories.  He has the commercial success, and wealth of experience that might really reinvigorate the stories being told about one of the most iconic and beloved heroes of America and even the world. His own personal experiences and viewpoints would undoubtedly really inform and nuance his tales.  I think this is part of why you must have hired him, and why you have stood by your decision, carefully stating that the personal views of your employees are not the views of DC Comics.  I appreciate that statement.  I also appreciate the courage it has taken for you to include homosexual portrayals of your characters in your comics, which you have done to one degree or another since the late 1980s.

And as a writer, I can also reasonably look at the stories which are told about Superman, and I can see where Mr. Card’s viewpoints on homosexuality will probably never be something Superman is forced to face.  Believe it or not, even though my rights and my struggles are very important to me, and to those who care for me, I can see where they are not of overwhelming importance when faced with say, global poverty, or human trafficking  or North Korean nuclear armaments or, you know, super-villains   These are the sorts of challenges I expect Superman to face.  As a writer, I think having him become suddenly a champion for gay rights would feel contrived.  It could be done, if you wanted to.  I’d be thrilled if you did!  But I don’t think Superman’s story arc will necessarily put him on the path to the equal rights discussion.  So it stands to reason that Mr. Card’s views about people like me will likely never come out of Superman’s mouth.

Here is my conflict though. Continue reading

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