Frank Miller’s Batman returns in a month. But DC Comics backed down from pressure originating in China. A backlash over the cover to Miller’s new Dark Knight Returns saga, The Golden Child, was sparked after a promo for the cover hit social media.
Variety reports users on the microblogging Chinese website Weibo were unhappy because they believed the cover showed solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
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The cover shows Batman dressed in black, as usual, and flinging a Molotov cocktail in front of the slogan “The Future Is Young” in bright pink lettering. When the image was released on Instagram and Twitter, Weibo users pounced.
They complained there is a connection between the Molotov cocktail – a weapon protesters are accused of using – Batman’s age-old outfit color (worn by demonstrators), and the title Golden Child which symbolizes yellow, another color associated with the protests.
One Weibo comment read this way:
“No matter what the reason, to put an image like this up at a sensitive time like this means you have a death wish.”
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No real, tenable connection exists, of course, between Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child and the Hong Kong demonstrations. But that isn’t stopping observers from drawing tenuous, oblique parallels.
As one anti-Hong Kong independence commenter put it:
“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???”
Furthermore, it was enough for DC and they gave in, pulling the artwork off social media. Variety reached out to a Beijing rep for parent company Warner Bros.; they declined to comment.
Removing the art is a move that’s met with criticism as well. American readers are saying DC Comics is just giving in to censorship – called for by a foreign power, no less. Fans who support the Hong Kong protests are speaking out on the publisher’s Instagram.
One comment went:
“Apparently China rules the world now. The future is young? No, the future is censorship.”
Another begged this pertinent outraged question:
“So now Batman loves money more than justice?”
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China is a very profitable and important market for WB. The Chinese releases of Aquaman and Shazam! broke records and helped swell the films’ box office hauls. Writes Variety:
“’Aquaman’ broke Chinese box office records last December to take in a cumulative $292 million, while ‘Shazam!’ made $43.8 million in April.”
DC and Warner are only the latest companies to fall into the geopolitical maelstrom happening in China. The NBA and Disney, Variety notes, faced possible boycotts from “Chinese nationalists” that caused them to put profit before freedom in the eyes of the public.
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China also banned the likes of PewDiePie for talking about Hong Kong and mocking the country’s leader “for looking like Winnie the Pooh.”
The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child is a DC Black Label comic that, for the most part, chronicles Superman and Wonder Woman’s Elseworld son Jonathan Kent. It hits shelves on Dec. 11th.
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