DC Comics pulled a new Batman comic book poster after Chinese fans claimed it supported Hong Kong protests

A composite image of a Hong Kong protester preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail, and Batwoman doing the same in the upcoming comic book

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A composite image of a Hong Kong protester preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail, and Batwoman doing the same in the upcoming comic book “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child.”
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Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters; DC Comics

  • DC Comics yanked an ad campaign for an upcoming Batman comic book after Chinese fans claimed it supported the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
  • The poster for “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child,” which was posted on Wednesday, depicts Batwoman preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail.
  • Chinese social media users immediately slammed the poster, saying it was a veiled reference to Hong Kong’s black-clad protesters throwing Molotov cocktails.
  • They also said the fact that Batwoman is wearing black and has her face covered shows support for Hong Kong demonstrators.
  • Batman and Batwoman have always dressed that way.
  • The China market is extremely important for Western brands and Hollywood production studios, such as DC Comics’ parent company Warner Bros.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

DC Comics pulled its ad campaign for an upcoming Batman comic book after Chinese fans claimed Batwoman looked like a Hong Kong protester and accused the company of supporting the city’s anti-China demonstrations.

The deleted images showed Batwoman preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail imposed on a text background that read: “The future is young.”

They were promotional materials for the upcoming comic book, “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child,” due to be released December 11.

The book is about Carrie Kelley, aka Batwoman, teaming up with Lara Kent – the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman – to fight “a terrifying evil” in Gotham City, according to DC Comics’ synopsis. It makes no mention of Hong Kong or China.

The company removed the poster from all its Twitter and Instagram channels on Thursday, Newsweek reported.

DC Comics removed this poster for the upcoming Batman comic book,

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DC Comics removed this poster for the upcoming Batman comic book, “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child.”
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DC Comics

Hours after the ad campaign was released on Wednesday, Chinese fans claimed the book depicted ongoing anti-China protests in Hong Kong, representing veiled support for the demonstrators. Thousands of people have been protesting the Chinese government’s increasing encroachment on the semi-autonomous city since June.

People on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media platform, said Batwoman’s throwing a Molotov cocktail symbolized Hong Kong protesters doing the same, Variety reported.

Demonstrations have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, with police officers deploying tear gas and live rounds, and activists using Molotov cocktails and acid on numerous occasions.

A pro-democracy protester throws a tree branch at a burning barricade outside Mongkok Police Station, Hong Kong, in September 2019.

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A pro-democracy protester throws a tree branch at a burning barricade outside Mongkok Police Station, Hong Kong, in September 2019.
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Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Chinese commentators also said Batwoman’s black clothing and masked face referenced the de facto uniform of the Hong Kong protests – a black t-shirt, black trousers, and a gas mask.

Batman has virtually always dressed in black.

Chinese fans also claimed that the “golden child” in the book’s title referred to the color yellow, the unofficial color of pro-democracy protests in 2014, Variety said.

One person wrote on Weibo, according to a screenshot posted on Twitter: “I don’t even know what the hell DC is trying to hint at. I’ve truly never seen Batman hold a Molotov cocktail before.”

Another Weibo user wrote: “I don’t know what exactly [DC Comics] is trying to say, but it’s certainly a bit sensitive.”

Another person wrote, according to Variety: “The black clothes represent Hong Kong, the mask represents Hong Kong, the Molotov cocktail represents Hong Kong, what else here doesn’t represent Hong Kong???”

Chinese President Xi Jinping in December 2017.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping in December 2017.
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REUTERS/Fred Dufour/Pool

China’s state-run Global Times tabloid also joined in the fray, reporting that the poster “implied its support of Hong Kong’s rioters.”

Business Insider was unable to find any posts relating to “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child” on Weibo on Friday, suggesting that the platform’s censors had blocked all mention of the topic.

Weibo often removes posts and censors key words to prevent discussion of politically sensitive topics.

People watch a movie at a cinema in Wanda Group's Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, on April 27, 2018.

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People watch a movie at a cinema in Wanda Group’s Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, on April 27, 2018.
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Aly Song/Reuters

DC Comics has not yet responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

It is one of many Western companies to have bowed to pressure from Chinese consumers in recent years – a testament to the China market’s enormous clout.

Dozens of brands, from Dior to Versace to the Houston Rockets, have groveled to Chinese customers after running ad campaigns or products that did not appear to respect China’s perceived borders and internal politics.

China has proven itself to be an increasingly valuable market to Hollywood production studios, including DC Comics’ parent company Warner Bros.

US and Canadian box offices earned a total of $11.9 billion on all films last year, while China alone earned $9 billion, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Warner Bros’ 2018 movie, “Aquaman,” reaped more than $232 million in Chinese box office sales last year, some $44 million more than what it gained in US box offices.