Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

ORSON SCOTT CARD, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, PUBLIC OUTRAGE, AND ARTISTIC INTEGRITY

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The most recent solicitations in Previews showed the listing for the upcoming Adventures of Superman anthology title, slated to include a story written by Orson Scott Card and illustrated by Chris Sprouse. Card of course is best known for writing Ender’s Game, a terrific piece of sci-fi literature, and being a homophobic prick with ties to the National Organization for Marriage, a group openly opposed to equal rights for homosexuals and transgenders. DC has been standing behind their decision to hire Card for the title, stating that a person is entitled to their views and therefore he should not lose work as a result. I think that a company has the right to make judgment calls about the quality of their employees’ character as well, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.

What is here is an announcement that artist Chris Sprouse saw the writing on the wall and extricated himself from the situation before the shitstorm became a hurricane,

“It took a lot of thought to come to this conclusion, but I’ve decided to step back as the artist on this story,” Sprouse said in a statement released Tuesday. “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.”

Due to the creative change, the Card story will not appear in the first collected issue out May 29. Instead, it will feature a story by writer Jeff Parker and artist Chris Samnee, as well as a tale by Jeff Lemire and one by writer Justin Jordan and artist Riley Rossmo.

DC is also looking for a replacement illustrator for Card’s story.

“We fully support, understand and respect Chris’s decision to step back from his Adventures of Superman assignment,” the company said in a statement. “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.”

Here is where I begin to editorialize, so if you just wanted to know the details, that part of the article has ended. Now we get onto my personal rant bus and start shooting through logical intersections. Some rhetorical pedestrians may be collateral damage.

I do believe that DC comics had the right to hire Card for this project. I don’t think they are beholden to the public to remove him because a section of the population doesn’t agree with the personal views of the artist. In fact, I think they should be forced to deal with the repercussions of hiring someone like Card. This is already a PR nightmare for DC. They are feeling it. There is no way that they can come off looking good because of this little fiasco. They made an error in judgment hiring Orson Scott Card to write this story. They banked on name recognition to boost sales. They seemingly did not imagine that name recognition works both ways. I think they reckoned that the controversy would not be so large that the readership wouldn’t meet a respectable quota for the title. I’m sure they expected folks to pick up the book in speculation, wondering if Card might do something off-kilter that would get people talking about Superman and, by proxy, DC as a company. This is indicative of so much of why I am all but done reading DC books. I read Batman out of habit. The same way I instinctively brush my teeth in the morning. It is part of a routine. But DC has for the last few years made mistakes that have alienated me in a way that makes me weary of taking a risk on new titles they publish and getting invested in their products. There is no sense of cohesion to DC’s publishing strategy and the way they handle the reactions of their readership to their nonsensical decisions is just the icing on the cake.

Chris Sprouse leaving the title makes sense. He knows it isn’t a good move for him to be associated with this project. As a result, Card’s story is without an artist and thus won’t be in the issue when it goes to print. Will people support the title now that Card is temporarily gone? I don’t know for sure. Let’s say they do. Does DC take note that numbers went up after the announcement of Card’s absence? I’ll say no, because they really won’t have any way to compare until an issue with Card’s involvement hits the stands and they see the difference in sales. The book is going to be a lightning rod any way you look at it. In short, DC is going to be dealing with this for a while.

What am I trying to say with all this? I’m saying that DC has the right to hire someone like Card. They also should have the good sense not to. This isn’t a plea to get rid of Card on my part, more of a plea for the people at DC to make better decisions. All across the board. Have they scored a PR win AT ALL since the first launch day of the New 52? All we’ve heard about is artist discontent, shuffling creative teams, sales slipping down the charts, the furor over the Gail Simone fiasco and now this debacle. When was the last time Marvel had to deal with this sort of bad press? I honestly can’t remember. I don’t want to start an argument about DC vs. Marvel in terms of editorial decisions, because that would be an article too frustrating to write. What I do want to do is put the idea out there that DC can, could, and should be better than all of this.

Be better DC. Be better.

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