The internet may be celebrating the announcement that a main character in the Overwatch digital comic based on the popular video game is LGBTQ, but unfortunately fans in Russia will miss out. As Mashable recently reported, due to laws in the country limiting the depiction of homosexuality, the comic will not be made available.
Since its release earlier this year, the first-person shooter published by Blizzard Entertainment has become a huge hit. With an eclectic cast of characters, engaging narrative, and multi-player interface, Overwatch appeals to a wide variety of people. With the recent announcement by Blizzard that one of the lead characters, Tracer, would be a lesbian—even showing a scene in the digital comic in which the character engages in a sweet kiss with her girlfriend—the appeal grew that much more. Fans across the internet may have expressed their glee and support, but not everyone was happy about the decision.
Upon visiting the Russian site for the game’s digital comics, fans are confronted with the following message: “In accordance to Russian law we cannot share this comic with our players from the Russian Federation territory.”
From imprisoning those who possess what the government deems “extremist” materials, to pulling Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from bookstores for its supposed “Nazi propaganda,” Russia’s historical relationship with media has been contentious. Moreover, a 2013 law essentially banning the depiction of homosexuality to anyone under 18 makes the Overwatch digital comic another victim of the country’s battle to control published content. “Rather notoriously, Russia has federally outlawed anything it deems to be ‘gay propaganda’ that might be promoted toward minors,” writes Kotaku, adding:
On paper, this means people are subject to fines, imprisonment, or deportation for anything from public demonstrations, to speeches, to discussions of gay rights with Russian youths.
Although banned in Russia, players can still read the comic on other language sites. In an email exchange with Mashable a spokesperson at Blizzard noted that “due to local legislation in the Russian Federation, we are unable to bring our recent Overwatch digital comic to players in the region. We regret that those who were eager to read this story comic are unable to do so in their native language.”
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!