The artist scheduled to illustrate a series of Superman comics has pulled out amidst a controversy surrounding DC Comics’ hiring of a writer who has spoken publicly about his opposition to gay rights.

DC Comics has now announced that artist Chris Sprouse, who was set to illustrate a tale by Card and Aaron Johnston, has departed from the project.

The comic giant have been heavily criticised recently for its decision to hire anti-gay writer, Orson Scott Card, author of Enders Game, to write the first two instalments of its new digital-first comic, Adventures of Superman, due out on 29 April. Some fans called for a boycott of the company, and of the comic. 

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

“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 also released a statement regarding his departure, reports USA Today. It said that the release date for Card’s Superman story would be pushed back until a new artist had been found.

It read: ”We fully support, understand and respect Chris’s decision to step back from hisAdventures 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.”

Sprouse’s other projects include Batman for DC Comics and the Dark Horse comics adaptation of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye.

DC Comics had responded to the criticism, defending “freedom of expression”, stating that Mr Card would not be a regular writer for the comic, just two episodes.

An AllOut petition calling for DC to dump Scott Card had received over 16,000 signatures.