DC Comics, the US publisher behind superheroes such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman, has deleted social media posts after Chinese users linked the imagery used to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
The original posts on Instagram and Twitter (platforms that are technically blocked in China) showed a promotional cover image for DC’s upcoming comic, Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child. The post showed a comic cover in which Batwoman (naturally dressed in black) throws a Molotov cocktail.
Chinese users complained that the image resembled pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and that the company was therefore implying support for the protest movement, seen by many Chinese netizens as a threat to China’s territorial integrity.
After DC removed the Instagram post, artist Rafael Grampá, the artist behind the cover, posted to Twitter that the situation was “surreal.”
Surreal. https://t.co/NbfGXYpBRB— Rafael Grampá (@Rafael_Grampa) November 27, 2019
— Rafael Grampá (@Rafael_Grampa) November 27, 2019
While DC Comics has not cancelled the cover itself, its self-censorship on social media has ignited a barrage of criticism in the other direction, with comic fans worldwide incensed at the company’s kowtowing to apparent Chinese nationalism at the expense of artistic expression.
Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child is written by comic and film legend Frank Miller who is known for titles such as Sin City and 300. The new Dark Knight comic charts the rise of a new young hero, Jonathan Kent (the golden child). That theme of youth, though, seems to be unavoidably allegorical, as the Hong Kong protest movement is often portrayed as being largely driven by young people. Since the controversy erupted, the image’s text, “The Future is Young,” has made its way onto Hong Kong’s streets as graffiti.
DC’s parent company, Warner Bros., derives a lot of value from the Chinese market, with films such as Aquaman and Shazam! scoring big at the Chinese box office. DC and Warner Bros. now join a long list of international businesses, from Versace to the NBA, that have faced vitriolic social media backlashes from Chinese users angry with any sign of suspected solidarity shown to protesters in Hong Kong.
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