Anger as comic book hero beats up homophobes with a Pride flag

A comic book that sees a superhero defending a Pride parade from violent homophobes has stirred anger in Poland.

The Swedish edition of Fantomen, which features long-running superhero the Phantom, came under fire over the controversial cover of its latest issue.

The comic strip, written by Polish writer Philip Madden, sees the hero attend a Pride event in Poland’s capital, Warsaw.

However the situation grows out of hand when a group of violent homophobes – depicted wearing grey militaristic uniforms and waving Polish flags – threaten the parade.

The hero fends them off with a Pride flag, adding: “I have to act quickly before blood flows on the streets!”

Fantomen editor Mikael Sol has defended the issue, telling the Swedish-language Expressen: “I thought it was a nice symbol, with the colourful flag, which stands for tolerance, against the colourless gray dressed villain who stands for intolerance.

“I understand clearly that the cover is controversial, but sometimes you have to feel comfortable and stand safe in your choice.”

Sol added: “There is always someone who reacts [negatively, but] overall there has been a positive response.

“I think people should read it before they have an opinion about it.”

He added: “The Phantom is always going to do the right thing and to stand on the side of the oppressed.

“It may be against companies that ruin the environment or eradicate animal species for economic gain, and it may be to fight slave trade, or stand up for religious freedom.”

The comic appears to have been partially inspired by real accounts of violence at previous Pride events in Warsaw believed to have been perpetrated by far-right nationalists.

The comic has not gone down well in Polish media, however.

Polish broadcaster Telewizja Republika hit out at the comic, claiming it perpetuates stereotypes of Poland as intolerant.

The broadcaster tweeted: “The latest Swedish edition of [the Phantom] s stirring up emotions on social media.

“The writers have decided to send the superhero to Poland in order to defend a Gay Pride March against evil Polish nationalists.

“They should have sent Captain Sweden.”

In an English-language video the broadcaster accuses Sweden of trying to be “the vanguard of the global social justice movement” and portraying Polish people as “aggressive savages”.

The broadcaster goes on to share homophobic and transphobic artwork created as part of a far-right meme to mock Sweden, showing a ‘Captain Sweden’ in fishnet stockings.

Intolerance towards LGBT people in Poland has been a major issue in the country, which lags behind much of its neighbours on LGBT rights.

Poland does not recognise same-sex unions or same-sex adoption, and although gay people have legal discrimination protections required by the EU, stigma is rife in the country.

The 2014 Eurobarometer found that anti-LGBT discrimination in Poland is among the highest in Europe.

2017 polling found overwhelming opposition to LGBT rights reforms in the country, with 80 percent opposing gay adoptions and 57 percent opposing equal marriage.