Writer Brian Michael Bendis has apologized and promised to remove the word "autistic" from future reprints of Action Comics #1002 after fans and journalists called him out for using the term in a derogatory manner in his script for the issue.
In the latest issue of Action Comics, which was released Wednesday, Boss Moxie Mannheim grows frustrated with a henchman while trying to determine where Superman is. When the henchman admits he's lost track of the Man of Steel, Mannheim tears him a new one in a chewing out that includes the word "autistic." Here's the panel in question, as posted by Comic Book Resources writer and comics podcaster Kieran Shiach.
In this case, as Shiach points out, the word is used only as a pejorative, without any context beyond simply being a means to call another character stupid. Readers of the issue, including ComicBook.com writer Russ Burlingame, were disappointed.
Word of this ultimately got back to Bendis himself, who both attempted to explain his reasoning for the use of the term and understood why readers found its use offensive. As a result, he also took the issue directly to DC Comics editorial, and promised that the term will be replaced by something else in reprints, including the upcoming Action Comics trade paperback.
For his part, Burlingame — possibly the most vocal critic of the use of the word in this issue — considers Bendis' response to be appropriate.
The discussion that arose from the issue is an interesting example of the fine line creators sometimes have to walk when it comes to the use of language, particularly language that comes out of the mouth of a character who's understood to be bad. Yes, a villain is an insensitive and even heartless person, so of course they don't care if they offend or hurt someone's feelings, but there's a writer behind that character who has a choice to make, and sometimes in the quest for the most biting insult that choice can be wrong.
In this particular case, Bendis seems to agree with fans who found his choice of words could have been better, even if they came out of the mouth of a bad guy.