There was Superman in red leather boots, Ronald McDonald clutching a bottle of beer, and Santa Claus about to look through a pair of binoculars.
A benign if motley bunch, you may think. But they were enough to provoke an international diplomatic rebuke, it emerged on Wednesday, after they featured in an impudent make-over of a Soviet war memorial. Members of Russia's government were said to be seething.
An unidentified street artist struck last weekend, daubing paint on a high-relief statue in Sofia, Bulgaria, to transform the monument's Red Army soldiers into a tableau of storybook characters. The artist's caption spray-painted on the statue read: "In step with the times."
Moscow was not amused. In a statement issued Wednesday, the foreign ministry urged Sofia to expose and punish the "hooligans behind the vandalism" and stop the "desecration of the memory of Soviet soldiers who fell in the name of freeing Bulgaria and Europe from Nazism".
Captain America and Batman's sidekick, Robin, also featured in the composition, which quickly became a tourist magnet.
Imposing socialist-realist war memorials have become painful reminders of Soviet rule for some countries that threw off their communist shackles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 2007 ethnic Russians rioted in Estonia when authorities there removed the Bronze Soldier statue. One man was stabbed to death and dozens were injured.
The statue in Sofia, built to mark the 10th anniversary of Russia's "liberation" of Bulgaria in 1944, has been cleaned up. Police say they are seeking the culprit.
Read more at Guardian.co.uk.