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Overwatch holiday comic banned in Russia after character is revealed to be gay

Blizzard’s recently published Overwatch holiday comic book has been blocked in Russia for portraying a tender, romantic kiss between two women. The comic, an innocuous and heartwarming story that follows some of the characters from Blizzard’s first-person multiplayer online battle arena game during the holidays, confirms the character Tracer as canonically queer by depicting her kissing her partner, Emily, after giving her a gift. Twitter user Malkythera noticed and shared that the comic is blocked from viewing in Russia.

Fellow Twitter user YellowAfterLife translated the text on Malkythera’s post as follows: “In accordance with russian law we cannot share this comic with our players on territory of Russian Federation” [sic]. The particular law to which the block alludes was passed in 2013 to protect children from “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships.”

Blizzard subsequently clarified to Eurogamer that the company withheld the comic voluntarily, in order to be compliant with the law.

Businesses or individuals distributing material that is perceived to promote or normalize non-hetero-normative relationships can be subject to fines or deportation if they are non-Russian. Russia has a long history of being conservative with regard to homosexuality, but President Vladimir Putin’s regime has been particularly aggressive in its anti-LGBTQ stance, earning the ire of human rights organizations and activists around the world.

As is traditional on the internet, many fans had already made Tracer queer in their headcanon. There’s even a subreddit for fans shipping the pair of Tracer and the sniper Widowmaker.

Lead hero designer Geoff Goodman actually teased the reveal in a November interview with the Kotaku gamer’s guide: “There is an LGBT character in the game. It’s difficult, because we don’t want to just be weirdly heavyhanded with this. We have comics and a bunch of other media to show this. We don’t want to force something in the game that is just going to feel like it’s in people’s face. We don’t want people to be like, ‘This just doesn’t make sense.’ There is a character, though, and we’re going to go into that more soon.”