OK, now I’ve heard everything. It’s enough that for the past few years, we’ve had to grit our teeth over white and black actors playing characters originally written as Asian in movies: Emma Stone as Allison Ng in “Aloha,” Scarlet Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in “Ghost in the Shell,” Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in “Dr. Strange,” Chiwetel Ejiofor as Venkat Kapoor and Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park in “The Martian.” (Can I stop now? I want to throw up.)
Now we have a white-washed comic book editor-in-chief (he got the gig just last month). Between 2002 and at least 2005, pasty-looking C.B. Cebulski wrote for Marvel Comics (home of Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy) under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida.
In 2004, “Yoshida” even did an interview with Newsarama.com pretending to be a Japanese national, explaining his love for Japanese history and how it helped him write an Elektra mini-series (he also did stories about Wolverine and the X-Men in Japan). You can read the interview here.
Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski, aka Akira Yoshida
In 2005, he told Bleeding Cool an elaborate story about his background: “Yoshida grew up in Japan reading manga. Since his father was in international business, he spent parts of his childhood living in the U.S., where he learned English by reading superhero comics and watching TV and movies.”
When Cebulski became an associate editor at Marvel in 2002, “Yoshida” did talk to Marvel editors over the phone pitching ideas for new stories. So how far did he go to maintain the ruse so they wouldn’t recognize his voice? Did he speak with a Japanese accent?
Rich Johnston at BleedingCool.com had been suspicious since 2006, but Cebulski denied he was Yoshida. Johnston talked to Marvel staffers who said they’d seen the Japanese writer in the offices. Editor Mike Marts even swore he’d had lunch with him.
“Marvel Comics at the time had made it policy not to allow Marvel staffers to write or draw comic books — or at least, if approved, not to get paid over their salary for doing so,” Johnston said. “Previous to Joe Quesada being made editor-in-chief, editors used to write comics for other editor’s departments, often reciprocated, and it was seen as a corrupt practice.
“If C.B. Cebulski was getting other editors to hire him as a writer, he had an advantage over others. And that also meant that he may be lying to his employer — or that his employer was making an exception.”
Turns out the “Yoshida” that Marvel folks met was a Japanese translator posing as him.
Since so many of his stories took place in Japan, Cebulski used his fake Japanese background to get work from Marvel editors who were anxious to get an “authentic voice” writing their stories. Would other up-and-coming writers have gotten opportunities had they not concocted such an ethnic/exotic background?
Oh, and if that’s not enough, there’s an Asian American executive at the company willing to defend him. Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat (Pakistani American), who in 2014 created a Muslim superhero — a version of Ms. Marvel — told Channel NewsAsia in Singapore: “This is a world he understood. He’s one of my favorite people [and]I think many people who know C.B. will know that he is one of the most globally minded, and very culturally sensitive as well.
“I think we have to be very sensitive about cultural appropriation and whitewashing. But I do think, fundamentally, that if there’s an opportunity to create more awareness about a particular type of character, whether it’s an Asian character or a black character, that should be our primary goal – telling as authentic, as honest, as fun, as real a story as possible about that character. Because that’s what’s really going to build more awareness about a particular cultural group…
“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.”
As for himself, Cebulski told BleedingCool that the issue had been “dealt with” earlier in the year when he confessed to Marvel. “It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naive and had a lot to learn back then.”
He also claimed he only used the pseudonym for a little more than a year, but it was clear from past interviews “Yoshida” had been around for three, maybe four years.
Well, at least he didn’t call himself “transracial” like “African American” Rachel Dolezal. Still, for elaborate lies dating back 15 years, he got promoted to editor-in-chief?