Marvel Comics’ Princess Matoaka Mishap Could Cost Company More Than Money

Following widespread fury and disapproval over a new comic, Marvel has announced it is changing the name and look of an indigenous character who made an appearance in the third issue of “King Conan.”

But many are questioning whether the decision is too little too late.

The character, previously named Princess Matoaka, was portrayed as a scantily clad—almost nude—femme fatale, who sought to seduce the protagonist, Conan the Barbarian, on an island on which they were both trapped. 

The name may ring a bell, as Matoaka is the birth name for Pocahontas. While the writers don’t directly refer to Princess Matoaka as Pocahontas, her backstory and character in “King Conan” correlate with the actual Powhatan princess’s life. She's essentially a knockoff version of Pocahontas.

The glaring issue, however, is that the story shows illustrations of sensual scenes where Conan and the princess become intimate. Had this story fallen in the erotica genre and not depicted an underaged girl, as Pocahontas was, this might not even be newsworthy.

But it's a Marvel Comics creation and it does depict an underage girl. 

Some who have spoken out about this comic are worried that this blatant disrespect to girls and women only perpetuates violence. Kayla Shaggy, a comic book artist, wrote to CNN:

“The fact that they depict an Indigenous woman as this nubile prize to be won by non-natives in stereotypical, fetish-y clothing contributes to the current, ongoing harm and ignorance of missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

On a recent episode of her late-night talk show, “The Amber Ruffin Show,” Ruffin issued a callout to Marvel over the Princess Matoaka debacle.

Marvel’s New Comic Princess Is Racist As Hell | The Amber Ruffin Show

Other weighed in on Twitter:

In reality, Pocahontas was a pre-teen girl who endured violence from adult men. Depicting the story in this way only serves as a reminder of the trauma that many girls and women have experienced. In their lifetimes, one in every three Native women is subjected to some form of sexual violence, which makes this storyline very personal for many.

While Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has been asking his writers and illustrators for more diversity and inclusion in the Marvel Universe, this wasn't what we, the indigenous community, had in mind.

Disney, the parent company of Marvel, has recently launched Stories Matter.

Stories shape how we see ourselves and everyone around us. So as storytellers, we have the power and responsibility to not only uplift and inspire, but also consciously, purposefully and relentlessly champion the spectrum of voices and perspectives in our world.

As a form of reparation, writer Jason Aaron issued an apology to Marvel’s fans and those he offended. 

“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 in a statement shared by Marvel. “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.”

This might be a hard lesson for Marvel; the company could lose sales, fans, and above all, respect. Marvel made the right decision to change the name and look of Princess Matoaka, but the fact that it happened at all is deeply concerning, to put it mildly.

Thankfully, Marvel fans, Native activists, and journalists have stepped up and spoken out against the publishing of “King Conan.” Without bravery, we are silent. And silence is what sustains ignorance and violence. 



Last Updated on January 18, 2023 by Paul G

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