Marvel writer Jason Aaron has issued an apology after his new King Conan character series sparked widespread outrage and accusations of racism over what some perceived as an appropriation of Native American culture.
Introduced by Aaron and artist Mahmud Asrar in February 16th’s King Conan Vol. 2 #3, the controversial character in question reveals herself to the titular warrior after she is surprised to find he not only crashed upon her home, the Golden Ruin, but survived a night fighting against its undead legions.
Upon their meeting, the mysterious woman gives her name as Princess Matoaka and explains that she began live in an unspecified, fictional kingdom in South America, before her love for an explorer from the similarly fictional country of Acheron led to her home being raped and pillaged by his fellow countrymen for its treasure.
Blamed for the ruin of her people, Princess Matoaka was then exiled, being set adrift at sea with a pile of treasure and cursed to serve, wherever she should land, as a diversion for all future would-be invaders of her home.
Though the entirety of Aaron’s story depicts fictional characters and locales, the Avengers writer came under fire on social media after some readers took offense to both the Princess’ sharing of a name with the real-world Pocahontas, who in her later life went privately by the name Matoaka, and her depiction as the victim of white explorers.
This backlash was best encapsulated by Final Space and My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Choose Your Own Ending staff writer Kelly Lynne D’Angelo, whose response to the character’s reveal in a previous February preview of the issue was widely cited by the outraged as reasoning for their own anger.
“disgusted isn’t even close to a word for it” began D’Angelo. “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,” she continued. “You create something amazing like echo, then pull this crap out? for SHAME. stan lee would be rolling in his grave…”
De’Angelo then declared, “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,” she added. “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”.
As she drew her thread to a close, D’Angelo addressed Aaron directly, tagging the writer and exclaiming “HEY @jasonaaron – you are a s–ttttt writer! :)”
“I originally wrote a much worse insult,” she further noted, “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!”
Ultimately, on March 2nd, Bleeding Cool founder Rich Johnston reported that he had received a statement on the matter from Aaron himself, wherein the writer conceded, “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,” he said. “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,” he concluded. “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.”
As of writing, it is unknown what new name will be given to the now-former Princess Matoaka.
What do you make of the outrage against Aaron’s new King Conan character? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!