Marvel EIC's Use Of Japanese Pseudonym Points To A Greater Issue

C.B. Cebulski was Akira Yoshida.
C.B. Cebulski was Akira Yoshida. Marvel Entertainment

When news reports outed current Marvel Comics Editor in Chief C.B Cebulski for his produced work in the company, in addition to Dreamwave and Dark Horse, under a risibly Japanese pseudonym Akira Yoshida, fellow Marvel editor Sana Amanat defended her colleague:

“He’s one of my favorite people (and) I think many people who know CB will know that he is one of the most globally minded, and very culturally sensitive as well,” Amanat told Channel NewsAsia.

“That man has lived in Japan, speaks Japanese, and has lived all over the world. He very much associates with Japanese culture. And I think that him writing, for whatever time it was, was him trying to be a writer more than anything else.”

The following question isn’t meant to be some cheeky attempt to impugn Amanat’s estimation of the matter, but it must be posed nonetheless: Would Cebulski currently face a significant degree more backlash had he adopted a pseudonym from another culture? Without exploring the validity of Cebulski’s reasoning too much, it seems Asian culture is more vulnerable to the controversy of cultural appropriation.

Cebulski’s decision to embark on a career under a false moniker, a career that saw him participate in written interviews as the fictional Yoshida by the way, was made even more suspect when it was revealed that Marvel Comics had been aware of this chicanery for some time and allowed it to continue, even substantiating it.

Akira Yoshida can be found listed as a writer on Marvel’s website since 2004. Via Bleeding Cool, Marvel even conducted phony interviews with Yoshida, describing him as a Japanese writer who provided an “authentic voice,” but also wrote well for an American Audience. Not everyone that worked with Cebulski was made explicitly aware of his deceit, but supposition existed for years before he finally decided to come clean.

Bleeding Cool journalist Rich Johnston first confronted Cebulski on the matter back in 2006:

“It was at the beginning of 2006 that I first asked then-Marvel associate editor C.B. Cebulski if he wrote using the pseudonym Akira Yoshida. He had heard the rumor and denied it, telling me that Akira Yoshida was an actual person and that his numerous office visits and convention appearances debunked it. He promised pictures, but none were forthcoming.”

Cebulski has since come forward and issued a statement that acknowledged his actions. He had this to say to Bleeding Cool:

“I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year. 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.”

I’m not calling for Cebulski’s head, but it does flummox me that this story did not get more traction, especially in consideration of the trajectory activism has taken in recent years. The kind of mitigation expressed by Cebulski and his colleagues feels so outdated. Instead of hiring a Japanese creator to implement that aforementioned “authentic voice,” Marvel allowed a “globally minded” member of the staff to take up the mantle. Is that in and of itself such a bad thing? I’m not so sure. It certainly isn’t without context though.

There should not be a monopoly on perspective or experience, nor does someone need to look like for you to be able to relate to them. I’m ambivalent about Cebulski’s logic: he wanted to produce work as a writer while maintaining his position as Editor and Chief without colleagues raising conflict of interest concerns. That may very well be the case, but what deems this whole affair tone deaf is his use of a Japanese pen name when Asians currently lack representation in the pop culture sphere.

Irrespective of my stance on the matter, imagine if a work as iconic to Asian culture as Ghost In The Shell is cast a white lead for virtually any other culture. Imagine Samuel Jackson starring as King Arthur or if Armie Hammer played Black Panther—not only would it never occur to a studio to make that decision, but if by some luck of lunacy they managed it, the backlash would be nothing short of insurmountable. Controversy like the one surrounding Cebulski at the present, if nothing else, challenges perspectives.

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