Was often hired to give an “authentic voice” to Japanese-infused comics.
Thirteen years ago, a young writer from Japan was making waves in the comic book world. After some success in the world of manga, Akira Yoshida wrote comics for Dreamwave, Dark Horse and Marvel Comics, among others.
He was especially prolific at Marvel where he wrote 12 issues of Thor: Son Of Asgard, six issues of X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, five of Elektra: The Hand, five of Wolverine: Soultaker, five of X-Men: Kitty Pryde – Shadow & Flame and five of X-Men/Fantastic Four.
Marvel editors and executives sung his praises. They claimed to have met him at conventions, received him at the Marvel offices and even taken him to lunch. Then — as suddenly as Akira Yoshida appeared — he vanished.
There was only one problem. He didn’t exist. It was confirmed this week that “Akira Yoshida” was a pseudonym for C.B. Cebulski, who worked as an associate editor for Marvel at the time, and was just named Editor-in-Chief on Tuesday.
As an editor working for Marvel, Cebulski was prohibited from writing for other companies for competitive reasons, and prohibited from writing for Marvel to avoid favoritism — where the various editors would pass work back and forth to each other to pad their own wallets. So Akira Yoshida was born.
But this week, after Cebulski was announced as EIC for Marvel, Image Comics Brand Manager David Brothers tweeted out a challenge to industry journalists:
Hey comics journo friends: we should definitely be asking Marvel and new EiC CB Cebulski on why he chose to use the pen name Akira Yoshida in the early 2000s to write a bunch of “Japanese-y” books for them.
Hey comics journo friends: we should definitely be asking Marvel and new EiC CB Cebulski on why he chose to use the pen name Akira Yoshida in the early 2000s to write a bunch of "Japanese-y" books for them. https://t.co/jXGKZdmyD4
— "the david, the david, the brothers, the brothers" (@hermanos) November 27, 2017
Journalists took him up on the challenge, and discovered that “Yoshida” wrote frequently about Japan, infused his books with Japanese culture and created Japanese characters. Part of the reason this worked so well was that Yoshida could speak with an authentic Japanese voice. He actually was Japanese — except he actually wasn’t.
Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston cracked the case on Tuesday.
Cebulski confessed to Marvel execs what he had done. He could have been fired, but he pled his case internally to the highest authority at the company. The story was that back then, he had been planning to leave Marvel, but set up a writing career first — and Akira Yoshida was a fiction he created to get his first writing gig on Darkstalkers for Dreamwave and then Conan for Dark Horse. And it was from that gig that his fictional pseudonym was approached by another Marvel editor, quite unaware that Cebulski was Akira, and Cebulski found himself hired by his own company. And kept the lie going.
And as to the Akira Yoshida that Marvel people had met, including his bosses, that was a Japanese translator who had visited the offices – and yes, who had had lunch with Mike Marts – and who was mistakenly identified as Akira Yoshida. So everyone remembered having met him – even though they never did
Cebulski did live in Japan on and off in his 20s, and even edited some manga — but “living in Japan” is not the same thing as “being Japanese.” Yoshida was often hired because he brought an authentic voice to comics infused with Japanese culture. Now that it has been revealed that Yoshida was actually the very white Cebulski, accusations are flying of “cultural appropriation” and “yellowface.”
Cebulski gave a statement to Bleeding Cool, explaining his side of what happened.
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.
Whether this will be enough to placate Cebulski’s numerous critics is anyone’s guess.
Big H/T to Bleeding Cool.