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Sunday, March 10, 2013 

Glen Weldon misses the boat

Salon spoke with Glen Weldon, the author of the upcoming Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, about why he doesn't think Orson Scott Card is fit to write the Man of Steel. He seems to misunderstand quite a bit, and repeats the leftist stigmas leveled against Card:
Why is it so important that Card not write Superman comics? He’s a fairly successful author of sci-fi novels like “Ender’s Game,” where gay rights don’t really enter in.

Well, in this particular case — Superman represents compassion. He’s an icon of fairness. The fact that a guy who has dedicated himself to hate and discrimation would be handed the keys to the character just shows that DC Comics doesn’t understand who the character is for. There was a period when the “Superman” radio show dropped out the whole “truth, justice, and the American way” thing and he became a fighter for racial tolerance. It was an arc called “Operation Intolerance.”

What did that entail?

On Feb. 5, 1946, the radio show’s introduction included this revision: “Superman: defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant crusader against forces of hate and prejudice.”
I've got an unpleasant feeling he's trying to distort something, while at the same time suggesting there's something wrong the catchphrase "Truth, Justice and the American Way". I get the vibe he's suggesting the it doesn't fit with the cause the radio writers were taking up at the time, and at that time, even liberals weren't going miles out of their way to equate race and homosexuality as though there's no difference between the two subjects. Weldon even comes up with some more odd defenses, his acknowledging a certain problem a liberal writer caused notwithstanding:
But couldn’t one argue that Card is being censored? After all, none of us know what his “Superman” comics would have been about.

Superman exists to be about fairness. People will say this is a witch hunt, this is censorship. But it’s the marketplace of ideas. Card gets the chance to say what he wants, and we get a chance to say, not this.

Is there a history of DC misunderstanding its character?

This won’t have been the first time a comic company has disappointed me. J. Michael Straczynski wrote a series of “Superman” stories, and they were terrible, a sign of fundamentally not understanding who the character is. Straczynski’s story arc was called “Grounded” — Superman feels like he’s lost touch with humanity, so he walks across America, encounters people, takes up social issues. It was the exact opposite of Card — taking the character and putting a liberal agenda on him. The reason he did it is because a woman comes up to him, slaps his face, and says “Because you were away saving the planet, my husband died of a brain tumor.” This is what causes him to do the soul searching. Is Superman supposed to be a freelance oncologist now?

Over and over again, well-intentioned writers have done this. In the 1970s, they took away his powers, made him struggle more and deal with racial intolerance. At one point, Lois Lane transforms herself into a black woman and visits Metropolis’ “Little Africa” — it’s just hamhanded. When you try to make him relevant to today’s world, you don’t bridge the difference between our world and his. You just shine a spotlight on it. He’s a dude in blue tights and a cape.
Wait a minute, isn't that what the radio writers for the Superman program in the 40s were doing too? If he thinks the Bronze Age stories were ham handed, does he think the 40s radio program was too? This is one of the most puzzling arguments I've ever seen. On the one hand, he's implying that they went too far in their focus on combating racial prejudice. On the other hand, he's trying to use some kind of moral equation by suggesting Card will use his opportunity as a Superman writer to go soapboxing against homosexual practices, when the interviewer just indicated that Card's personal politics don't factor into much of his writing at all. Why, even if he wanted to, it's pretty obvious that with the kind of liberals minding the store at the big two, there's no chance he could ever inject a clear, straightforward conservative viewpoint into any story he's written for them, unless maybe it conforms to their ideas of what a conservative should be like. This has been the case with the comics medium, just like any other medium, for at least two decades and maybe even before that: homosexuality cannot be referenced negatively by the good guys (and abortion probably can't either).

And if Supes stands for fairness, doesn't that include parental values as well? Weldon might want to ponder how he's forgetting one of the biggest audiences for Superman that's been abandoned over the years, and thanks to the overly liberal agendas the medium's domineers have taken up, parents and children alike have abandoned them.

I'll give Weldon credit for citing one of the biggest problems with Stracynski's run on Superman, which was also the case with Spider-Man - injecting liberal bias into quite a bit of the story. But if he thinks that's going to serve as any defense for discriminating against a conservative who's less likely to stuff his personal politics down the reader's throat than Stracynski, forget it. Besides, something tells me that if Stracynski's offered another chance to write Superman, he'll withhold judgement and let JMS and the assigned artist complete the story without protest.

In fact, where was Weldon when DC was publishing Identity Crisis? He may think Card isn't one to tell him a Superman story, but if Weldon can't put his morale where his mouth is, I don't think he's one to tell me the history of the Man of Steel.

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Apparently, Weldon was alluding to the radio serial in which Superman fought the Ku Klux Klan. But there is a difference between the KKK (a criminal, maybe even terrorist group) lynching victims, and the National Organization for Marriage lobbying against gay marriage. Both groups may want to impose their ideologies on society, but the N. O. M. has not (AFAIK) resorted to violence. For that matter, there would be a difference between the Brady Center lobbying for anti-gun laws, and some radical group blowing up a Glock factory. Either you have freedom of speech or you don't; but leftists want a double standard, in which they can petition the government, but their opponents (the "hate mongers," "racists," and "homophobes") can't.

So how is Card in real life: is he nice or is he a grouch?

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