DC Comics deleted a poster for its new ‘Batman’ comic after Chinese internet users piled on the company, accusing it of hiding a pro-democracy message in the image to support protesters in Hong Kong. The poster—which showed Batman lobbing a flaming Molotov cocktail in the foreground, with the phrase, "the future is young" behind him—was to promote DC's new comic, "Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child." However, some commentators in mainland China claimed the poster had a secret agenda, and likened the superhero’s black mask and improvised grenade to the tools of the youthful activists who have taken over Hong Kong’s streets to protest the city’s government and its close ties to Beijing.
The vitriol on platforms like Weibo, China’s social media juggernaut, was harsh. “No matter what the reason, to put an image like this up at a sensitive time like this means you have a death wish," wrote one user. After DC Comics took down the poster from its Twitter and Instagram accounts, a backlash to the backlash flamed up, with critics slamming the company for bowing to economic pressures (China is a huge market for DC’s parent company, Warner Bros.) and silencing free speech.