The comic book artist who was due to work on the latest Superman series has pulled out of the project, after a row over the appointment of an anti-gay campaigner to write the stories.
Chris Sprouse made the announcement on Tuesday, saying he was “wasn’t comfortable” with the backlash that followed the appointment of Orson Scott Card as writer.
Superman fans and gay rights groups had criticised DC Comics’ decision to hire Card, author of the best-selling Ender’s Game books and a fervent critic of gay marriage.
Award-winning artist Chris Sprouse’s decision to pull out will set back Card’s inclusion in what was set to be a high profile addition to the Adventures of Superman series.
“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.”
Card is a board member of the National Organisation for Marriage, a group at the forefront of the fight against same-sex marriage in the US. He has called being gay “a reproductive dysfunction” and once suggested people would rise up and overthrow any government that supported gay marriage.
His appointment led to threats of boycotts by some fans and comic shops and an online petition against the hiring. Michael Hartney, an actor and writer who has been campaigning for DC to drop Card said Sprouse’s decision was “amazing news”.
DC issued a statement distancing itself from Card’s views last month.
“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,” DC said in a statement. Hartney called the statement “cowardly and lame”.
“They should just drop him. This man campaigns against gay rights. It’s not just about his beliefs, it’s that he is trying to push for those beliefs to become public policy. If he was against inter-racial marriage, DC would never have hired him,” said Hartney.
Jono Jarett of gay fan group Geeks OUT said DC had been targeting the LGBT community and he was disappointed that they were still working with Card:
Chris Sprouse is a talented artist and it’s not surprising that he’s chosen to distance himself from this radioactive project. It is, however, surprising that DC continues to stand by Card, whose very public bigotry and anti-gay activism remain at odds with the publisher’s attempts to engage their fans in the LGBT community.
DC Comics said on Tuesday: “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.”
The publisher said it was looking for a replacement artist.
Fans’ anger over Card’s views are now threatening promotions of the filmed adaptation of his sci-fi novel Ender’s Game, which hits theaters in November and will star Harrison Ford.
One studio executive told the Hollywood Reporter that the film’s production company Summit should “keep him out of the limelight as much as possible”.