Marvel to change name of “King Conan” character following backlash from Indigenous community

"Stan Lee would be rolling in his grave . . ."

By Joy Saha

Published March 10, 2022 4:05PM (EST)

In this photo illustration, a Marvel logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
In this photo illustration, a Marvel logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Following outrage over its "backwards" portrayal, Marvel is changing the name and look of an Indigenous character who made an appearance in the third and latest issue of "King Conan."

The character, formerly named Princess Matoaka, was depicted as a scantily dressed femme fatale who attempted to seduce the series' titular character, Conan the Barbarian, on the undead island on which they were both trapped. Per CNN:

The princess, as it turns out, has a dark past: She hails from "a land far to the west," and once fell in love with a man who tried to colonize her people. When the man ransacked her home, she killed him, but her father nonetheless exiled her to the island, where she's now cursed to lure other would-be colonizers away from her native land.

Critics were quick to point out that Matoaka's name and story greatly resemble the real-life Pocahontas. The tale of Pocahontas saving colonist John Smith from execution has long been romanticized and exaggerated in pop culture, especially in the animated Disney film "Pocahontas." In reality, Pocahontas was only a child when the European settlers arrived in her native Powhatan. 

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"The real Matoaka was a pre-teen girl who suffered at the hands of her English captors," Kickapoo comic book artist Arigon Starr wrote to CNN. "What's even more shocking is that most of this information is online; a quick search would have informed the writer, artist, editor and publisher that it was a poor choice to give this character the name of a famous victim of violence."

Among the Indigenous creatives who demanded for Marvel to pull the character was writer Kelly Lynne D'Angelo, who called out the comic book publisher on Twitter in all-caps for its "DISRESPECT."

"@Marvel - i HIGHLY RECOMMEND you pull this from your canon. you create something amazing like echo, then pull this crap out? for SHAME. stan lee would be rolling in his grave..." D'Angelo tweeted.

"this is active violence against us and our community. the sexualization of a real young girl that was r*ped and killed young affects our murdered & missing indigenous women TODAY," she added. "you are backwards, sick, and should donate every penny you earned creating this to #MMIW"


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Other Twitter users echoed D'Angelo's sentiments, wondering how the story was greenlit in the first place. 

"What the f**k is this @Marvel? Who greenlit this??!" one user asked in a quote tweet.

"Marvel is so two-faced. promoting their poc content creators and stories while simultaneously showing pocahontas like this in their comics," another user wrote.

In response to the criticisms, "King Conan" writer Jason Aaron issued a statement calling his decision to give a character the name Matoaka "ill-considered." He went on to say the following: 

This new character is a supernatural, thousand-year-old princess of a cursed island within a world of pastiche and dark fantasy and was never intended to be based on anyone from history. I should have better understood the name's true meaning and resonance and recognized it wasn't appropriate to use it. I understand the outrage expressed by those who hold the true Matoaka's legacy dear, and for all of this and the distress it's caused, I apologize. As part of that apology, I've already taken what I was paid for the issue and donated it to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. The character's name and appearance will be adjusted for the rest of this mini-series and in all digital and collected editions."

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Joy Saha

Joy Saha is an editorial fellow at Salon, covering Culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Brief Comics Disney Indigenous King Conan Marvel Pocahontas