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February 14, 2013

A Few More Things On Orson Scott Card Writing Superman

* In case you haven't been following it, this is a story about a range of negative reactions and calls for boycott on the occasion of DC Comics announcing it would use the writer Orson Scott Card to anchor a Superman-related digital/print anthology aimed at I believe a more general readership, maybe, than the continuity-tight regular comic books series. Card is actively opposed to gays and lesbians being married, has publicly advocated in severe terms on that issue, and is a member of an organization that works to block legal and political gains in that direction.

* Yesterday DC Comics released a response, perhaps only to The Advocate and a Fox News radio program -- or they're the ones that initially picked it up and other people jumped on. I can't tell. I saw the Fox News radio one first, but I'll spare you the direct link there and its discouraging-for-humanity comments thread in favor of this more summary-oriented write-up at Robot 6.

image* There's nothing in that response that surprises me. The nature of this protest isn't really designed in some way that allows DC an escape hatch, nor should it be: it's a human rights line-in-sand stance, not a plot thread on an episode of a political TV show. I've imagined all along that DC makes a stab at expressing what they express here -- that the private opinions of their authors are just that, and blah blah blah -- and then perhaps quietly and quickly makes it unofficial policy to not use public political advocates, including Card, on big characters like this ever again, never giving this as a reason except in maybe a connect-the-dots way down the line in some interview. Then again, what we don't understand about how DC operates right now could fill a magic library in heaven, so who knows?

* Chris Butcher offers up a strong statement here. If you read one thing, read that one.

* I have to admit, the issue as it has developed presents in opposition to my understanding it a kind of a League Of Extraordinary Things About Comics Culture I Have A Hard Time Wrapping My Mind Around. The Fake Geek Girl thing was kind of like this, too. So some of what I might try to articulate here and over the next several days might be super-stupid or swept away in eddies of self-regard.

* That said, hopefully none of that stupidity extends to the real-world issues involved, on which I am of basically a 100 percent opposite mind to Orson Scott Card. I think that guy is so wrong about this stuff that I could actually change my mind and agree with him on a dozen things and still come to the opposite conclusion. I think his a stunted, pitiable worldview.

* Incidentally, I think it's a worldview that has something in common with comics culture, in that the tendency to look to secular institutions and wider expressions of culture to support one's core beliefs -- with attendant rage and desperate panic when they do not -- is not all that dissimilar from the way comics fans used to be hyper-sensitive about the way comics and the act of reading comics were portrayed in other media. I'm not drawing an equivalency between those concerns, mind you, quite the opposite: applying the same construction to your pursuit of aligning yourself with God's will on earth and to people making fun of you because you own an Avengers comic book is a horrible, goofy, dangerous thing.

* That was one of those eddies. Sorry.

* here's an on-line petition asking DC to drop the author. You can start to see mainstream news coverage of the story flickering to life here, here and here.

* Butcher's line about Superman having power as an icon above and beyond his role as a corporate-owned character attached to a dubious history of exploitation and issue-alignment, and that this matters, is well-taken. That is very much a blind spot for me. For me, Superman is an empty suit. One of my first Internet fiascoes was a mid-1990s declaration that no adult person actually considered Superman a role-model and being lectured by an array of adults on CompuServe that told me that they very much considered Big Blue a role-model and how dare I suggest otherwise. Live and learn. I'm still always a little confused that the ideal outweighs the uglier aspects for folks that are routinely exposed to both. This expression of that notion here, that being assigned to Superman means something more than if Card were given, say, his own entire comics line, comes from hardcore comics fans, not from like my Mom or from my friends growing up or their kids. It's sort of like if the press corps and Secret Service that dealt with JFK on a daily basis had a more hardcore idealized version of the president than Catholic households in Boston with his picture above the television had, although maybe that doesn't explain it well, and maybe those men and women did hold Kennedy in higher regard.

* It's legitimately fascinating that Superman seems to me to have been traditionally claimed by conservatives as having ideals in that direction, and here is claimed for what we tend to think of as American liberal values such as inclusiveness. In fact, the irony from the perspective of this being a headache for DC Comics is that they've sold and sold and sold this viewpoint where they are in shared custody with generations of fans of an important set of ideas and principles wearing a cape, and in this instance they have to deal with the fact that people are going to hold them to that. Good.
posted 5:20 am PST | Permalink

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