Graphic novel publishing giant DC Comics is facing online heat from fans after they removed a promotional poster for the new Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child comic.
The image on official DC Comics social media accounts depicts Batwoman about to throw a flaming petrol bomb against a backdrop of stylised text which reads “The Future is Young”.
It has since been deleted, apparently in response to comments by Chinese netizens who thought the poster was showing tacit support for the ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Frontline protesters in the city frequently dress in black, are masked and have used Molotov cocktails in clashes with police.
DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros, which produces the DC Extended Universe films. Aquaman, the most-recent film based on a major Justice League character, took in US$292 billion at the box office in China.
Comic fans have responded online by criticising DC’s move, which they see as bowing to Chinese pressure and a type of self-censorship. The plotline of the new comic appears to be unrelated to any type of protest.
This incident comes in the wake of similar situations in which US companies try to balance their financial goals in the Chinese market with what the public perceives as a decline to the right of freedom of expression.
The NBA was widely criticised in October when they called a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that supported the Hong Kong protesters “regrettable”.
Game developer Blizzard also faced backlash in October when they banned pro e-sports Hearthstone player Ng Wai-ching (gamer tag Blitzchung) from tournaments for a year after he wore a gas mask and chanted a pro-democracy slogan during a live stream of a tournament.