DC Comics teased Frank Miller's upcoming The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child on social media this month --- the sequel comic releasing in December -- using artwork by Rafael Grampá, only to remove the promo posts shortly afterwards, following backlash from vocal readers in China.
The issue here revolves around the variant cover featured in the posts, which depicts Carrie Kelly as Batwoman, hurling a Molotov cocktail against a backdrop that included text reading, "The Future is Young." Those opposing the artwork claimed that it implies DC Comics' support for the protesters in Hong Kong, largely owing to Batwoman's outfit and pose and their resemblance to the general aesthetic of Hong Kong protesters.
According to Variety, unsettled readers took to the Chinese social media site, Weibo, to voice their complaints. One user wrote, "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???"
The response allegedly compelled DC Comics to delete the post, which in turn sparked backlash from protest supporters. This especially came from fans in the United States, who criticized the publisher for being yet another large-scale company to acquiesce to the will of Chinese audiences, opting for what some fans have called a bid for financial gain over moral integrity.
Aside from the vague visual similarities on this particular cover, the variant covers for The Golden Child seem to be completely unrelated to the ongoing conflict between pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong and the Chinese government. The previously unsolicited cover art was released several weeks ago. However, as the protests in Hong Kong have escalated in intensity, pro-Beijing supporters have become increasingly critical of any and all indications of protester support from the western world.
DC Comics' decision to remove the image comes at a time when large-scale businesses across several industries, from the NBA to Disney, have come under intense scrutiny for their willingness to appease Chinese audiences, often by acquiescing to China, at least ostensibly. In so doing, these companies have come under fire for seemingly expressing support for the unlawful and inhumane practices of the current Chinese government.
CBR has reached out to DC Comics for comment but has yet to receive a response.