Creator of Covid-19 superheroes in public campaign quits artist group he founded amid plagiarism rumours

Artist Mas Shafreen said he would leave Band of Doodlers and take responsibility for the Virus Vanguard.
Artist Mas Shafreen said he would leave Band of Doodlers and take responsibility for the Virus Vanguard.PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM LINKEDIN, GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - In the latest twist to Singapore's Covid-19 superhero drama, the creator of the ill-fated Virus Vanguard has quit the community artist group he founded as rumours swirl online that he may have plagiarised the work of other artists.

The Gov.sg public campaign was taken down abruptly from Gov.sg's website and Facebook page on Monday (April 20) just a day after its launch, seemingly in response to widespread public criticism.

Netizens had lambasted the Virus Vanguard as an ill-timed attempt at levity that made a joke out of Singapore's ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Vanguard is the product of a collaboration between Gov.sg and local artist group Band Of Doodlers (BOD).

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, artist Mas Shafreen said he would leave BOD and take responsibility for the Virus Vanguard.

"As such, I hope that BOD will not be associated with (the Virus Vanguard). BOD has been about inclusivity and collaboration and I am so very proud of how it has grown," he wrote.

"I am forever grateful for the many artists that have contributed to the cause and hope BOD will continue to be supported, especially during these difficult times."

Local pop culture and gaming news site Geek Culture published an article on Tuesday highlighting how Internet users had found some of the Virus Vanguard character designs to be almost identical with the work of other artists.

In particular, the teenage girl pilot of the Circuit Breaker robot drawn by Mr Shafreen appears to have an identical pose and facial expression to a drawing, also featuring a giant robot, done by a Korean artist.

The five-member Virus Vanguard superhero team, comprising Dr Disinfector, Fake News Buster, Must Always Walk Alone (Mawa) Man, Circuit Breaker and Care-leh Dee, made its first appearances on the Gov.sg website and Facebook page on Sunday.

Mr Shafreen did not comment on the allegations in his Facebook post.

 

Prior to collaborating with Gov.sg on the Vanguard, he also worked with other artists in BOD to create another group of Covid-19-themed superheroes. None of these was part of the Virus Vanguard.

The Straits Times has contacted the Ministry of Communications and Information, which oversees the Gov.sg portal, for comment.