A Brazilian Supreme Court has been forced to step in to referee a row over the sale of a comic book showing two gay Avengers characters kissing. The 2010 Marvel publication was banned — and promptly unbanned — from an international book fair in Rio de Janeiro this month due to its sexual content.
Though their on-panel smooch has sparked an uproar in Brazil, it's not considered to be a major milestone in the comic book world. In fact, Marvel first showed a kiss between two same-sex characters in 2001.
So why is this particular comic causing such an uproar?
The uproar started when Rio de Janeiro's conservative Mayor, Marcelo Crivella, stumbled across a copy of the comic book at the city's International Book Biennial last week.
Mr Crivella, a former evangelical pastor, swiftly took to Twitter to denounce the publication.
He ordered law-enforcement agents to raid the festival and seize all copies of the comic that included the kiss, saying he was acting to protect children against sexual content.
Books like this need to be packaged in black plastic and sealed, Mr Crivella said in a video posted on Twitter This can't be induced, be it in schools or wherever. We always continue to defend the family
According to Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the publicity actually led to retailers selling out of the comic book before agents could complete their search.
In response to the raid, organizers of the book fair filed a preventative injunction with the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice.
They argued exhibitors should have the right to commercialize literary works on the most diverse subjects.
Federal Attorney-General Raquel Dodge also challenged the move by Mr Crivella.
She said allowing the Mayor to remove books was contrary to freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.
Though a lower court initially sided with Mr Crivella, Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Dias Toffoli ruled in favor of Ms Dodge on Sunday, blocking the removal of any books.
Mr Crivella, who attracted criticism for labeling homosexuality a terrible evil in his 1999 book, Evangelizing Africa, said he would appeal against the decision.
Though many have pushed back against the raid, labeling it homophobic and in breach of the constitutional right to free expression, it is not completely unexpected.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously labeled himself a proud homophobe, rose to power last year promising to overturn years of liberal social policies, including more rights for same-sex couples.
The far-right politician was outspoken in his criticism of a decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court to make homophobia a crime in June, and suggested it was time to appoint an evangelical Christian to the bench.
But on Saturday Brazil’s largest (conservative) newspaper took a stand against anti-LGBTQ+ censorship by printing a photo of a banned gay kiss on the front page.
The Saturday edition of the São Paulo daily Folha de S.Paulo featured above the fold an image from the comic Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, which government leaders have sought to ban over accusations it will “spread homosexuality to children.” In the miniseries, Young Avengers Wiccan and Hulkling embrace, marking the first time Marvel allowed the gay superhero couple to kiss on the page.