A Superman toy on display at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg on Jan. 29, 2019. Photo: Daniel Karmann / dpa / AFP
The DC Comics franchise’s latest animated movie Injustice left some Indians in a fit of rage. The source for their anger were scenes of Superman and Wonder Woman fighting the Indian military and declaring the Indian-controlled state of Kashmir an arms free zone.
In true online fashion, as a knee-jerk reaction, some suggested banning Marvel—a rival comic company—but then comic book fans jumped in to correct them.
Based on the graphic novel Injustice: Gods Among Us, the film takes place in a world plunged into chaos, and Superman embarks on a dangerous quest to save it.Injustice was scheduled for worldwide release on October 19. However, a bootleg copy of the movie was leaked earlier this month, and snippets showing Superman and Wonder Woman ending a series of conflicts in various regions of the world have gone viral. The video clips show the two fictional superheroes fighting military forces and destroying their equipment, with a voice over saying, “In disputed Kashmir, Superman and Wonder Woman destroyed every piece of military equipment, declaring it an arms free zone.”Varun Puri, a member of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, called on DC Comics to delete the scene. He tweeted: “Westerners are now using animated movies to propagate Anti-India propaganda. These cheap stunts won't work. Kashmir is our integral part and we won't tolerate these offending attempts to malign us.”The hashtag #AntiIndiaSuperman trended on Twitter for a few hours with approximately 47,000 tweets after a local news outlet carried a segment on it. The news segment hosted by Sudhir Chaudhary asked DC Comics to issue an apology. “In films and comics, superheroes are shown to be very powerful. But today, 135 billion people of India will prevail on Superman,” he said.
Enraged crowds took to Twitter and other social media platforms to highlight how DC Comics has portrayed Kashmir as a contested region and painted India in a bad light. One Twitter user even claimed that the fighter planes destroyed by Superman in the movie “showed” Indian Air Force F/A-18D Hornets armed with AIM-9L Sidewinder InfraRed Close Combat Missiles—when the video showed no specific markings on the planes. After seeing the news on national television, many Indians called for a complete boycott of the movie. However, the call to cancel was shared with an image of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, a different movie altogether.
But not everyone saw what the fuss was about. Many DC fans in India called out the impulsive reactions on social media. Jatin Varma, founder of Comic Con India, told VICE World News, “In my opinion, most Indians are far more secure in their national pride than to let a clip from a fictional animated film affect them. I'd rather focus on better news out of India, like us hitting one billion vaccine doses.”This is not the first time Indian fans were outraged by a Hollywood film. In 2018, India’s Central Board of Film Certification cut references to Kashmir in Mission Impossible: Fallout.
Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority region, where 12 million people have lived under military restrictions and periodic clampdowns for decades. It is known as the most militarized zone in the world with one soldier for every 30 civilians. The region was a semi-autonomous state with its own flag and was disputed between India and Pakistan since 1948, but was brought under New Delhi’s direct control in 2019. Since then, military presence has surged, internet blockades and curfews became frequent, and the state is constantly on high-security alert. Follow Kris Thomas on Twitter.