An artist who was to illustrate an upcoming Superman comic has quit the project over the controversy surrounding writer Orson Scott Card's anti-gay views.

Card and Aaron Johnson are collaborating on a tale to be included in the forthcoming Adventures of Superman.

The decision to hire Card, a board member of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, has drawn loud protests.

Nearly 17,000 people joined an online petition organized by asking DC Comics to drop Card from Adventures of Superman.

In a statement released Tuesday, artist Chris Sprouse said he's decided not to participate in the project.

“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. “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.”

The decision means the anthology will not premiere in May with the Card story.

DC Comics has previously defended its decision to hire Card, who is best known for writing Ender's Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead, both of which won Hugo awards.

“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,” a spokesman told gay glossy The Advocate.