In the most surprising comics news since, well, a few weeks ago, news came this week that Marvel’s newest editor-in-chief, C.B. Cebulski, spent a year (from 2005 to 2006) writing under a Japanese pseudonym.
As “Akira Yoshida,” Cebulski wrote various stories featuring Wolverine and Thor, getting around a then-existing-rule against Marvel editors writing or drawing on their own books. He eventually dropped the pseudonym and started becoming a talent scout for Marvel under his own name.
At best, this looks embarrassing for a major comics publisher. It’s at least the second time in several weeks (after Berganza’s firing at DC) the comics industry’s been in the news for questionable reasons.
Yes, writers use pseudonyms all the time, and the superhero genre has “secret identities” as a theme.
However, the comics industry still has ongoing problems hiring women and minority creators. The news that the editor-in-chief of one of the two biggest comics publishers passed himself off as a Japanese man to get writing work (for a company he was already working for) looks, well, less-than-welcoming.
Marvel was also specifically looking for a Japanese writer (for a manga line starring the Marvel heroes) when they hired “Yoshida.” That’s one less non-White writer given a shot, in favor of someone who doesn’t have to worry about racial discrimination.
The fact Cebulski likely won’t suffer any consequences from this has also drawn some criticism.
Twitter’s pretty much ripped into all of this. C. “Spike” Trotman, the head of Iron Circus Comics, chimed in:
So just to recap? Marvel, publisher of cape comics, a subcategory of comics notorious for freezing out PoC creatives, just made a white dude who wrote comics set in Japan in yellowface its Editor in Chief.
There will be no repercussions. It's all considered "dealt with."
— Iron Spike (@Iron_Spike) November 29, 2017
A decade or so ago, that’s probably where the story would’ve ended. However, with the rise in popularity of comics and superheroes, this story’s made it into mainstream news sources. Mashable, the Los Angeles Times, and others have reported on Cebulski.
Marvel in 2017
This year seems to be a pretty embarrassing one for the comic book side of the House of Ideas. Looking back:
- Marvel got a lot of backlash over “Secret Empire” depicting Captain America as a Hydra agent, in a time with a spike in concerns about actual Nazis.
- Marvel’s sales slumping (somewhat; they’re still higher than DC), with one exec blaming as the reason… a focus on diversity. (Huh?)
- A retailer-only event held by Marvel at NYCC saw a few retailers get vocal and blame Marvel’s recent focus on books starring minorities and women for slumping sales.
- Also at NYCC, Marvel pulled (after immediate online backlash) a special one-shot promotional book for Northrop Grumman.
- One of Marvel’s top creators, Brian Michael Bendis, decamped for rival DC.
- I suppose there’s also Marvel’s CEO, Ike Perlmutter, who’s a prominent Trump supporter; however, that came up during last year’s election run-up.
Meanwhile, Marvel’s cinematic side is the polar opposite. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” and “Thor: Ragnarok” (and the Sony-released, MCU-set “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) were popular at the box office and well liked by critics. Marvel’s next movie stars Black Panther, American comics’ first Black superhero.
Hopefully, 2018 sees things improve for Marvel, including a stronger effort at hiring more (actual) minorities and women.