OPINION: From Catfish to Editor-in-Chief: Marvel Builds Its Future on Cultural Appropriation
Despite Marvel Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel’s attempts to backpedal on some straight nonsense he said last year, it appears that Marvel is hammering the point home on its anti-diversity statement – at least behind the scenes. Axel Alonso stepped down mid-November as Editor-in-Chief, ending a 17 year-long history of men of color as Lead Editor, beginning with Joe Quesada in 2000. Some speculate it was due to falling sales of titles launched under Alonso’s eye. When it was announced that C.B. Cebulski was taking over as Editor in Chief, I immediately went online to find out what I could about the man who would be shaping the future of Marvel Comics. Besides some early work as Manga editor, editing duties on Runaways, along with titles in Marvel’s “Mangaverse,” I didn’t find much of note. Thank the stars for David Brothers at Image Comics who recently asked that journalists question Cebulksi about his own alter-ego.
You see, back in 2004, Chester B. Cebulski once went by the name of “Akira Yoshida,” which is problematic on its own when you think about it. Imagine pretending to be Black, and the most “authentic” name you could pull is “Leeroy Jenkins?” See? It’s been said in the past that Cebulski had denied the allegations, but has recently come clean. “I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year.” He continues, “It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naïve and had a lot to learn back then. But this is all old news that has been dealt with, and now as Marvel’s new Editor-in-Chief, I’m turning a new page and am excited to start sharing all my Marvel experiences with up and coming talent around the globe.” Around the globe? I have an idea where he’ll start the World Tour.
Unfortunately, Cebulski goes further than a poor choice in pseudonym, as in the past he’s stooped to some truly low places, going as far as having a Japanese translator that was visiting the office pose as “Yoshida,” to further the deceit. The editor also created an elaborate backstory with notable details like working for a popular Japanese comics publisher, and growing up in Japan, while occasionally visiting the United States. Chester may feel as though this is all old news, but in 2017, it’s anything but. Further examination shows that Cebulski’s entire early career, and future opportunities were built upon the false identity as an Asian man.
Former Marvel Editor-in-Chief, and FanBrosShow alum, Axel Alonso once said, “No editor, in comics books at least, should be looking to produce only comic books that they would read. Your goal is to create comic books that will find an audience that you think speak to someone out there.” If the new position stands, let’s hope Cebulski takes that advice, because so far, he’s a one-trick pony if I’ve ever seen one.
In 2004 up until some point in 2005, Cebulski, as Akira Yoshida worked on several “Asian-themed” stories for Marvel. Stories like Wolverine: Soultaker , X-Men: Kitty Pryde – Shadow & Flame, and Elektra: The Hand. To add even further insult, “Akira Yoshida” often worked with notable, and authentic Asian visual artists such as Pat Lee, Kia Asamiya, and Jeff Matsuda. He would be the elusive writer behind the scenes, while hiding behind the faces of the actual Asian talent. C.B. Cebulski literally built a name on Japanese identification, and to suggest that it’s been “old news” and “dealt with” is an insult to actual writers of color, Asian or otherwise. I mentioned Axel Alonso and Joe Quesada, two names that, again, along with Brian Michael Bendis were Marvel creative, for the same 17-year span, oddly enough. I’m not at all saying that the Editor in Chief position should always go to a person of color, but there have got to be better choices than someone with an identity complex!
People need to be held responsible for their actions; not only responsible, but accountable. It’s clear to see how harmful the actions of C.B. Cebulski were, and continue to be to this day. C.B. Cebulski stole work from Asian writers, while relying on his own interpretation of Asian cultures, along with genuine Asian artists to further his own career. To those who remember the story of Michael Derrick Hudson, there’s a disturbing precedent within the literary world in particular, of Caucasian men falsely portraying an Asian identity. This one just got to become Editor-in-Chief for one of the biggest comics publishers in the world.
Lastly from exiting Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonso, “What your responsibility to do is to make it real. To find the right people to tell that story, and most occasions listen to those people about what they want to do.” Though I’m open to being proven wrong, I have serious difficulty in believing that Chester B. Cebulski is the right person to take Marvel Comics into the future. If Marvel truly wants to move forward as a publisher, this situation had to be remedied, in some way. You know where to find the door, C.B. #StepDownCebulski
Read more from Dom Watkins, right here.
Keep it tuned to FanBros.com for more as it develops.