Singapore pulls COVID comic heroes who drew epic hate, cringe

Clockwise from top left, Silhouette of Virus Vanguard characters, Circuit Breaker, Care-leh dee, Dr. Disinfector, Fake News Buster, MAWA man. Images: Gov.sg
Clockwise from top left, Silhouette of Virus Vanguard characters, Circuit Breaker, Care-leh dee, Dr. Disinfector, Fake News Buster, MAWA man. Images: Gov.sg

Maybe it was MAWA man, whose acronym stood for Must Always Walk Alone and was described as a fan of Manchester United that disliked Liverpool FC, whose popular motto is You’ll Never Walk Alone. Or perhaps the Orwellian antihero Fake News Buster, whose sincerity was always going to be under doubt.

Whatever was specifically lame about them as well as other members of the Virus Vanguard – Dr. Disinfector, Circuit Breaker, and Care-leh Dee – their combined uncool, general lack of purpose and suspect use of resources saw the government disband the coronavirus-fighting team after it drew a lot of cringe and hate. 

“[W]tf the stupid virus vanguard shit is so tone deaf LOL imagine putting resources into coming up w something like that at a time when no of cases are exploding??” Twitter user Cedric Choo said. 

The five superhero comic characters that fought the disease using different powers, including safe distancing, lived only a few brief, unremarkable hours on the Gov.sg government communication portal yesterday before being taken down.

“The Virus Vanguard is undergoing a review. We have received quite a lot of feedback on the characters and we will be reviewing them. We are sorry if we offended anyone,” read the sullen announcement posted to Gov.sg’s Facebook page late last night, which included one final glimpse of the very derivative group of characters in silhouette.

It also highlighted that the comic was the work of local art collective Band of Doodlers, widely known in Singapore for creating vibrant murals. 

“As this is the first time we are exploring this content format, we appreciate your patience. The Virus Vanguard is a collaboration with the Band of Doodlers (BOD) to create a comic series to convey different aspects of the Circuit Breaker measures. If you have an idea or suggestion on Virus Vanguard, do share with us,” it added.

Some say Gov.sg threw the art collective “under the bus” due to the mostly negative feedback it was getting by clearly mentioning its name in the statement. 

“When all things fail, throw the artist under the bus. That is the G for you. And the citizens? Well, some Singaporeans are still arguing online about [their] identities as ManU and Liverpool supporters. With each day in this CB time, and rising numbers infected, we lose the plot and grow more and more absurd,” Facebook user Oniatta Effendi wrote online. 

Band of Doodlers has not commented publicly about the campaign. Earlier this month, they posted a separate superhero comic touching on the same themes that got less hate.

Singapore recorded its highest daily increase of 1,462 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, more than half of which were linked to migrant worker dormitories where it has been spreading out of control. Nearly 2,000 cases are now linked to the hardest-hit dormitory, S11 Dormitory @ Punggol.

Related:

Must-reads: Entertaining virus comics with a Singaporean context

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CITY: SINGAPORECATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: POLITICS, VIRAL, WEIRDTAGS:

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