SINGAPORE: Virus Vanguard, no more. The COVID-19 superhero team has disappeared, less than a day after they made their debut.
A page on the Gov.sg website on Monday (Apr 20) introducing the five-member fictional superhero team has been taken down.
In response to media queries, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said the Virus Vanguard is now "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," said a post on the Gov.sg Facebook page.
"As this is the first time we are exploring this content format, we appreciate your patience."
The post did not elaborate on the feedback received.
The superhero team was a collaboration between Gov.sg and art collective Band of Doodlers. The plan was to create a comic series to convey the different aspects of the "circuit breaker" measures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.
The introduction of Virus Vanguard - who made their appearance on the same day Singapore reported a record jump of 1,426 COVID-19 cases - drew mixed reaction from the public.
Some felt the characters - whose powers ranged from being able to detect viruses to using empathy to "absorb all negativity" - gave too much levity to the fight against a disease that infected almost 2.5 million people and killed more than 170,000 people globally.
Several people also felt that more emphasis could be given to real life COVID-19 frontliners such as healthcare workers.
One character in particular, MAWA Man, drew flak for playing up the rivalry between popular English Premier League teams Manchester United and Liverpool.
The character - whose name stands for Must Always Walk Alone, a play on Liverpool's motto You'll Never Walk Alone - is described as a fanatical Manchester United fan who enforces safe distancing by using his “repelling power” to push objects and people back.
An online petition on Change.org by Liverpool supporters, calling for MAWA Man to be removed from the Virus Vanguard lineup, had received more than 500 digital signatures as of Tuesday morning (Apr 21).
In a comment on Gov.sg's Facebook page announcing the review of the Virus Vanguard, Band of Doodlers founder Mas Shafreen identified himself as the creator of the superhero team, and apologised that the characters "came across insensitive".
"A group of us, including myself, wanted to create superhero characters to show appreciation for our frontliners, including healthcare workers, and how we can battle this together," said Mr Mas, who also goes by the pen name Wanton Doodle.
He said he was later approached to develop a comic series to help raise awareness of circuit breaker measures.
"The current situation has affected us all and I know as an artist myself, I am very appreciative of such opportunities given that jobs are hard to come by," he said.
" I am sorry for the trouble caused and I hope local artists can still be supported with creative projects."