After backlash over a female Indigenous Conan the Barbarian comic character that debuted last month, famed Marvel writer Jason Aaron (Avengers, Thor, Star Wars) issued an apology and vowed to alter the character’s name and depiction.
Marvel on Tuesday confirmed that a female character who appeared in the latest issue of the King Conan mini-series last month would undergo changes in all the comic’s future printings.
The move comes after the popular comic book publisher faced criticism for the new character who is alleged to resemble the historical Native American icon Pocahontas and carry her reputed name “Matoaka,” which some saw as offensive toward the Indigenous community.
“[D]isgusted isn’t even close to a word for it. how?? how is this okay??” wrote Kelly Lynne D’Angelo, a Native writer. “[S]he was a REAL LITTLE GIRL – to do this her, to us, over and over again… i am just at a loss. disgusting.”
“[D]oes she not deserve rest? reclamation? Honor?” she added. “[Y]ou colonizers make me vom[it].”
disgusted isn't even close to a word for it. how?? how is this okay?? she was a REAL LITTLE GIRL – to do this her, to us, over and over again… i am just at a loss. disgusting. does she not deserve rest? reclamation? honor? you colonizers make me vom https://t.co/AKunXYAUHs
— Kelly Lynne D'Angelo ✨ (@kellylynnedang) February 28, 2022
Calling the femme fatale “remarkably offensive,” one Twitter user urged Marvel to: “Please listen to indigenous voices.”
“Cancel this book. This should never have been approved,” the user added.
“Hey @Marvel and @jasonaaron, did it ever occur to you that using the name of an actual victim of colonial violence (the kind that is still being perpetuated today against Indigenous Americans) for your male power fantasy comic was insensitive, distasteful, and deeply offensive?” asked another.
“THIS is why we need Native voices writing Native characters. We’re not show pieces to make your world even more noir,” another user wrote. “We’re not here for you to make money off our murders and suicides, even fictional ones.”
In a statement to Comic Book Resources (CBR), the company said that though the character who was revealed in the third part of the King Conan series: “The Princess of Golden Ruin” was neither based on real-life figures nor culture, her name would be changed in all upcoming issues, digital editions, and reprints.
The writer of King Conan, Jason Aaron, also issued an apology for his “ill-considered decision.”
Apology from Jason Aaron re: The Pocahontas character in King Conan. Marvel will change name in future reprints, digital issues and new publications. pic.twitter.com/Qay6VRgCCV
— Liam McGuire (@LiamRMcGuire) March 3, 2022
“In KING CONAN #3, I made the ill-considered decision to give a character the name of Matoaka, a name most closely associated with the real-life Native American figure, Pocahontas,” he wrote.
Claiming the new character — “a supernatural, thousand-year-old princess of a cursed island within a world of pastiche and dark fantasy” — was “never intended to be based on anyone from history,” Aaron said he “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,” he wrote, adding that the character’s name and appearance would be “adjusted” for remaining issues of the mini-series as well as in “all digital and collected editions.”
As part of his apology, Aaron said he has donated his pay for the issue to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, a Native-led nonprofit that aims to end violence against Native women and children.
But not everyone accepted his apology.
“It’s still a hypersexualized, demeaning, misogynistic stereotype of an indigenous woman,” wrote one Twitter user. “This doesn’t let Aaron or Marvel off the hook.”
“Changing the name is not enough,” wrote another. “The comic needs to be pulled for violence and Jason Aaron needs to seriously stop writing about Native Americans. This isnt his first offense. It’s habitual. I will never read Jason Aaron. How he has a job for sub par writing and racism beyond me?”
However, others saw no need for an apology over the matter.
“Over[ly] sensitive people getting upset over fiction again. People need to learn to CALM DOWN,” wrote one Twitter user.
“That’s truly ridiculous to have to apologize for the name of a fictional character,” wrote another.
“Wow, it’s Land of the Lakes all over again!” another user wrote. “Leftists erasing a Native American historical figure, Pocahontas in Marvel’s Conan!!”
“They could poke fun to South Europeans and nobody would blink,” wrote yet another.
“Just ridiculous,” another Twitter user wrote. “Way to bend the knee to the woke mob that doesn’t even read the title.”
The controversy comes as cancel culture continues to swell, with those sharing views and depictions deemed controversial risking being deplatformed or suffering ostracization.
Last month, podcaster Joe Rogan called the recent cancel campaign against him a “political hit job” after taking criticism from conservatives for apologizing over a surfaced compilation video showing him using a racial slur in clips of episodes over a 12-year span.
Stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle has also come under fire, being attacked by woke transgender activists following the October release of his Netflix special “The Closer” in which he tells several transgender and gay jokes and declares that “gender is fact.”
Despite growing calls for censorship over anything deemed even mildly controversial, a majority of Americans continue to view cancel culture as a threat to democracy and freedom, according to a recent survey from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
In April, historian Victor Davis Hanson suggested that tens of millions of Americans coordinating a counter-boycott of corporations pushing left-wing politics “would have a profound effect,” as he called to fight leftist cancel culture by counter-boycotting woke corporations.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein