Source: Global Times Published: 2019-11-28
DC Comics' official Instagram account released a cover of Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child which many netizens found offensive, as it likely shows its support for Hong Kong's rioters, sparking a strong backlash on social media.
Experts told the Global Times that Chinese netizens are reminding foreign companies such as DC Comics to speak and act cautiously, as they risk losing the Chinese market.
In the cover, a character dressed as Batman, one of DC's most iconic characters, holds a flaming Molotov cocktail and tries to throw it. "The future is young. Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child out 12/11," the DC Comics Instagram account said in the post on Wednesday, though the post was later deleted.
In another picture of The Golden Child, a group of rioters screamed, holding sticks in their hands with fire behind them.
Some users on various social media have demanded a clarification from DC Comics and called for a boycott of the company. They linked the cover to the unrest in Hong Kong, interpreting Batman's gesture as supportive of Hong Kong's unrest and violence.
On LIHKG, a major social-networking platform used by rioters to incite violence and spread false information, users praised the cover.
In the Batman series, Batman saves the citizens of Gotham City and battles various criminals like the Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman and the Joker. After the recent release of The Joker, some people compared the city of Hong Kong with Gotham, saying the movie represents Hong Kong rioters.
A Weibo user asked, "Is Hong Kong really becoming Gotham City? Hong Kong rioters are not Batman. Instead, they are the criminals of Gotham City." Some fans of DC Comics explained on Weibo that the character on the cover is not Batman, but others said the timing of the post and the cover is problematic.
Non-Chinese users on Instagram also noted that DC Comics is "playing with fire." "DC just killed Batman, Batman will never bow to evil," a user said.
A great number of Chinese net users said they would "refuse to buy or support anything of DC Comics from now on," calling for further explanations and urging the US firm to clarify its stance on Hong Kong.
"It's reasonable for Chinese people to ask a clarification from DC Comics, because such metaphorical behavior of DC Comics would cheer the Hong Kong rioters on," Dong Shaopeng, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Dong noted the post by the US firm was done on purpose as media have been reporting all day on how Hong Kong rioters used Molotov cocktails to attack police and the residents.
"Batman in the Western world stands for a force against evil. DC Comics is glorifying the rioters in Hong Kong in the cover," he said. "If DC Comics does not respect China's mainstream values, it will never win the hearts of Chinese customers and may lose the Chinese market to Marvel Comics."
Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that the reaction of Chinese netizens is a warning to foreign companies.
"Chinese people are reminding foreign companies that they cannot make money from the Chinese market while humiliating the people," Zhang said.
He noted the Chinese market remains the fastest-growing in the cultural sector in the world due to the strong purchasing power of Chinese people. "Due to the significance of the Chinese market, I think DC Comics deleted the post under huge pressure," Zhang said.
"I advise foreign companies to speak and act cautiously and not to provoke Chinese consumers," he noted.
The Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child will go on sale on December 11, US comics news media Newsarama reported.
As of press time, DC Comics has not responded to the Global Times.
Dong Shaopeng is senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.