Marvel Comics Alters Art for King Conan #2 After Pocahontas Criticism

Marvel Comics has changed the digital comic book file for King Conan #2, originally published in January. The original final page originally looked as below:

Marvel Comics Alters Art for King Conan #2 After Pocahontas Criticism

It has now been redrawn to look like this. The text is unchanged.

Marvel Comics Alters Art for King Conan #2 After Pocahontas Criticism

 

Why? Well, it all came down to the comic book that follows this one, which has yet to be digitally altered but that Marvel has promised will be. In the Marvel comic book title King Conan #3 released in February, writer Jason Aaron, artist Mahmud Asrar, colourist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Travis Lanham told a Conan story set in a further age than has previously been explored, as the aged Conan finds a woman marooned on an island of the undead – the same island he himself is now marooned on – who calls herself Princess Matoaka.

King Conan

This is seen as being a direct reference and parallel to that of Native American historical figure, Pocahontas. The real-life Pocahontas' name was Amonute, and she went by Matoaka privately.  After this was pointed out in one of Chris Arrant's final articles for Games Radar as a preview for the comic in question, it caused considerable concern on social media, especially given the use of the character by Marvel's owner, Disney.

King Conan

The real-life Pocahontas is believed to be 12 or 13 years old during the period the Disney movie covers, yet she was depicted as 18 to 19 in the film. In real life, she was married to John Rolfe, not John Smith, and historians state this was a forced marriage, after she was kidnapped. She was also forced to travel to Europe as an ambassador and/or attraction and died of pneumonia on the voyage back to her homeland. All of this was removed from the film, which was created without consulting Native American communities or historians. And the King Conan #3 portrayal of the character as Princess Matoaka emphasises the sexualisation of a character, whose real-life story is one of rape and abuse.

King Conan

Native American stage musical writer and staff writer on TV shows Miracle Workers, Final Space, Mao Mao and My Little Pony, Kelly Lynne D'Angelo of the Haudenosaunee Tuscarora posted to Twitter saying;

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. 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… 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. you are backwards, sick, and should donate every penny you earned creating this to #MMIW

I am truly AGHAST. How did you not have a sensitivity reader for this?? And you used her REAL NAME? You made this even WORSE? The writers, creatives, @Marvel – everyone involved – you should be donating everything made on this to #MMIW: I am truly just at a loss… the DISRESPECT

HEY @jasonaaron – you are a shittttt writer! :) i originally wrote a much worse insult, but i decided to keep the peace, because nothing that i say to you will be ANYTHING near the mauling you're going to receive in the spirit world once you enter it, bud!

In response to those pointing out that Marvel published a Marvel's Voices issue devoted to indigenous comic book characters and creators, she followed up, saying;

"three steps forward, a hundred steps back @Marvel. literally a hundred. what you just did to Pocahontas is… obscene. you lead us in one direction, then push us down in the mud and kick dirt on our face, and laugh at our pain. it's absolute mental TORTURE, you know that? you do understand: this exchange, this offer and take away, is what we go through EVERYDAY, EVERYWHERE? Ugh, my heart…"

Indigenous cartoonist from Little Pine First Nations in Canada, and editor of The Woman in the Woods and Other Cautionary Fables from Iron Circus Alina Pete… has also revived criticism of Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra's comic book Scalped, published by DC/Vertigo. They posted;

For those who are unfamiliar, he's a white guy from Alabama who got a lot of critical acclaim for the series Scalped. (The title of which, already, should be ringing alarm bells for most of you.) In this series, the protagonist ran away from his terrible life of poverty and hopelessness on the reservation, but now is back to be a noir detective and solve crimes. F-cking whatever, fine. In the right hands it could even be a really interesting, nuanced story – something that examines themes of desperation, being disconnected from the community you left, etc. I understand Aaron even tried to do some of this in his noir tale. BUT. But. Fundamentally, this story is poverty-porn. It's not an examination of the systemic problems that Native people face – it's a chance for the author to go, "wow, look at how f-cked up the reservations are, isn't that dark and gritty?" THIS is why we need Native voices writing Native characters. We're not show pieces to make your world even more noir. We're not here for you to make money off our murders and suicides, even fictional ones. So, f-ck this guy and his fascination with Indigenous people. And f-ck Vertigo and Marvel for publishing this sh-t. In particular, f-ck Jason Aaron for making money and a career off of our suffering. And f-ck anyone else who does the same.

Michael Pierre of Yakama Nation added;

Sooooo not only do they blatantly hypersexualize a real life person who was a child when she was kidnapped and r*ped, name her Princess Matoaka, but they actually plan on using this character in following Conan comic issues? @Marvel, this is unacceptable.

Twitter user Rightturn_only, a reconnecting tribal citizen, posted:

This new comic is sexualizing a girl who was trafficked at a young age and @chrisarrant is out here praising it and ignoring the racism and misogyny of it. @marvel needs to do better. Gamesradar needs to do better. These should have never been published.

And Blue Corn Comics, a site that explores the portrayal of Native Americans in the popular culture, tweeted;

Jason Aaron ("Scalped") gives us a super-sexy version of the teenaged Pocahontas! Try not to rape, kidnap, or murder this Pocahottie or Conan will make you sorry! #MMIW

The backstory of the character also has similarities to various versions of the Pocahontas King Conan #3 places the version of their Princess Matoaka in the South Americas, and has her encounter a visitor from Greece.

King ConanAcheron is a river in Greece, which turns this into a story of the West plundering the Americas. But has Princess Matoaka fall in love with the visitor in an intimate relationship.

King Conan

Until he falls for her tribe's treasures instead, spurning her for the appeal of gold.

King Conan

Bringing back an armada to seize the treasures sees the Princess' father, "a great chief and shaman" summon the "spirits of the land", exhibiting themselves as spirit animals.

King Conan

And for Princess Matoaka to kill her former Greek lover in cold blood.

King Conan

Only for her family to turn her, and their treasure, into a sacrifice to appease the spirits.

King Conan

Which is where King Conan comes in. And, as a result, the sexualisation doesn't end there. Again, par for the course for a Conan comic book, but the use of Pocohantas is what concerns a number of people.

King Conan

While Marvel Comics declined to make comment, Bleeding Cool understands that Marvel still believes that the new character in King Conan was meant to be fictitious, and not based on any real-life figures or culture, despite the numerous parallels and similarities. However, I am to expect that Marvel Comics will correct the use of such names in future printings, upcoming issues of the series, and digital editions. We have now seen that happen in the digital version of issue 2, and expect that issue 3 will follow. Jason Aaron gave Bleeding Cool comment. He writes; "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. 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."

And thanks again to Kelly Lynne D'Angelo for helping guide a Brit like myself through some of the intricacies of this situation.

KING CONAN #3 (OF 6)
MARVEL COMICS
DEC211054
(W) Jason Aaron (A/CA) Mahmud A. Asrar
A BEASTLY COURT! The mysterious PRINCESS of the cursed island reveals her secret to CONAN…one powerful enough to rock the foundations of the king's journey! But will her temptation save the king…or lead to ruin? It won't matter if Conan can't survive the assault of the island's violent beasts! And, as one plan fails, what does THOTH-AMON'S newest scheme bring? Parental Advisory In Shops: Feb 16, 2022 SRP: $3.99

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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