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Comic books becoming a battleground for gay rights

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 5:39 a.m. MDT

Author Orson Scott Card (Deseret News archives) Author Orson Scott Card (Deseret News archives)

This past month has seen a number of developments in the world of superheroes and superheroines that have brought issues like same-sex marriage and civil rights to the forefront of popular culture.

At the center of it all is Mormon author Orson Scott Card.

Card, who is still best known for his 1985 sci-fi classic “Ender’s Game,” was announced Feb. 6 as the first writer on a brand new series from DC Comics called “Adventures of Superman.”

Although the first issue was slated for release April 29, it looks like fans will have to wait a lot longer to see Card's take on the Man of Steel — that is, assuming it ever sees the light of day.

Following a public outcry over Card’s involvement, including a movement by several organizations to boycott the title, “Adventures of Superman,” artist Chris Sprouse recently decided to step away. DC put the comic on indefinite hold.

“It took a lot of thought to come to this conclusion,” Sprouse explained in a statement released March 5. “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.”

DC’s decision to hire Card — who was appointed a board member for the National Organization for Marriage in 2009 and has published several articles arguing against same-sex marriage — was met with an almost immediate backlash.

Within the space of a few weeks, an online petition demanding the publisher drop Card from the new title generated close to 17,000 signatures. A counter-petition in support of the author, by contrast, had just more than 200.

Similarly, comic book stores like Zeus Comics in Dallas made headlines for refusing to sell “Adventures of Superman.”

Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Association Against Defamation commented, “Anti-gay activists like Card can’t expect to spread the same hateful and dangerous rhetoric they once did without it negatively impacting how the public views them. As a board member of NOM, one of the most visible anti-gay organizations, Card is not merely a holder of anti-gay views but someone who has used his own fame and resources to actively make life more difficult for hardworking LGBT people and our families. He might still want the buying public to financially support his creative endeavors, but the public is responding with an affirmative ‘no.’”

Earlier, DC refused to fire Card for his personal beliefs. However, responding to Sprouse’s statement on Tuesday, DC said it would “re-solicit the story at a later date when a new artist is hired.”

Over just the past month, both DC and Marvel have featured storylines involving gay characters. In the most recent issue of DC’s “Batwoman,” the titular character, which came out as a lesbian in 2006, proposed to her longtime girlfriend.

Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, is one of two older DC characters that have been rewritten as homosexual in the past few years. In 2011, the original “Golden Age” Green Lantern, Alex Ross, was similarly reintroduced as gay as part of DC’s new 52 lineup.

The latest issue of Marvel’s “X-Treme X-Men” features a Wolverine (James Howlett) from a parallel universe sharing a kiss with Hercules. One text box from “X-Treme X-Men” No. 10 reads, “Hercules, son of Zeus. Boyfriend of Howlett. (That’s right. Get used to it.)”

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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