Suppose you’re a fan of the original nerd material—comic books. In that case, you may know how Marvel Comics’ scribe Jason Aaron and his artist Mahmud Asrar has fans wondering what just happened. The ballyhoo causing Marvel to receive the wrath of cancel culture began with Aaron using Native American inspiration for his latest project, King Conan #3. In the story of King Conan, we are introduced to a new character, Princess Matoaka. While you may not know that name with instant recall, she goes by another name she was given as a child that is recognized a little more—Pocahontas, which is an Algonquin word meaning “playful one.”
That’s where the trouble begins because historians believe Matoaka is the Native American princess’ actual name that had been concealed from English settlers (including Captain John Smith). As research has shown, Pocahontas was provided the name of Princess Matoaka for her protection and to give her some more appeal and intrigue. So, she was presented to the English as a princess “of the Powhatan Empire of Virginia.” However, in this comic, fans believe it was highly offensive to give the object of King Conan’s desire the name of the real-life Pocahontas. This comic edition was her debut, so Aaron was determined to make a big splash. He did, but that’s the thing–the splash may get many unsuspecting people wet when you do a cannonball off the diving board. And have they ever been upset. Take this tweet that is catching fire from a Native American comedic writer Kelly Lynne D’Angelo:
That emotion is visceral, and her comments are torrid, directly focused on Aaron and Marvel Comics. The hashtag she uses, MMIW, is referring to the approximately 5,700 missing and murdered indigenous women. With enough research, you will see D’Angelo’s main point of contention—Pocahontas was allegedly 11 or 12 when she met Smith in the Virginian Colony. Smithsonian Magazine has a detailed account that claims the reality of Pocahontas’ life may have been very different from most fictionalized tales people know today.
As the story goes in King Conan #3, the lovely princess is stranded on an “island of the undead.” While this isn’t some hot tourist destination, it turns out the famed Barbarian is there as well. So, she approaches Conan in a particularly seductive fashion. Before she puts on her A-Game, Matoaka tells the king her homeland is “a land of plenty, farther west across the many waters, where her people lived in great numbers, in grand cities built to the sun gods.”
She is scantily clad, drawn with most of her body exposed, and made to look like her looks and outfit is a strategy to make the king allegedly do her bidding. That’s where Ms. D’Angelo drew the line, if you’ll forgive the pun. To her recollection of what is written in history books, the sex appeal of the character doesn’t reflect the true story of the woman who shares the exact name of Aaron’s newest addition to the King Conan storyline.
What is most ironic and possibly the death knell to any retort from Marvel Comics or Aaron himself; it’s not the first time he has written about Native American characters. When working for DC Comics, he published a 60-issue crime and western comic book series under the Vertigo imprint called Scalped.
Marvel Comics has recently enjoyed rekindled awareness and discussion over the selection of Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars titles. Since Marvel Comics has been discussed given their global takeover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has been a while since people were interested in their printed product. It’s also not the first time Disney has been in the crosshairs over Pocahontas, given what happened on Big Thunder Mountain. As of this story posting, there has not been a comment from either Aaron or Asrar, much less from Marvel Comics or even Disney.