Batman is best known for his hi-tech gadgets, but a more violent, low-tech version of the Dark Knight is upsetting fans in China for some unexpected reasons.

DC Comics, also the publisher of popular superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, recently deleted an Instagram post promoting an upcoming Dark Knight Returns comic after Chinese netizens complained. The promotional poster depicts Batwoman throwing a petrol bomb against a backdrop of large, pink letters that read, "The Future Is Young." Because of the imagery, some Chinese netizens suspected it was a show of support for Hong Kong’s anti-government protests.

The Dark Knight Returns is a series of comics by writer Frank Miller that depict Batman in an alternative dystopian Gotham City. The original comic was released in 1986, but the poster is promoting the latest sequel titled Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child.

DC Comics posted the promotional poster to Instagram, but it disappeared soon after. (Picture: DC Comics/Instagram)

Chinese netizens were quick to point out similarities between the poster and the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which have been going on for more than five months. As the protests have grown more violent, many have turned to throwing hundreds, if not thousands, of petrol bombs in the streets, at police and even at the stores of Chinese smartphone brands. Batwoman’s black garb against a pink backdrop was also seen as an allusion to protesters’ black clothing and pink tear gas masks.

“Why don’t they focus on making comics and not getting involved in politics? Be careful not to burn yourself,” one Weibo user wrote.

Although Instagram is officially blocked in China, screenshots of the post have been circulating on Chinese social media. DC’s quick response was criticized by comic fans who saw the move as yet another American company caving to pressure from China. More than a dozen brands ranging from Tiffany & Co. to Versace have faced similar backlash in China. Tiffany removed an ad in October because the model covering her right eye was also seen as a reference to the protests.

In response to the controversy, Brazilian artist Rafael Grampá, who worked on the comic, simply tweeted, “Surreal.”

DC owner Warner Bros. has financial reasons not to upset fans in China. Its superhero films like Aquaman and Shazam have raked in significant revenue there.