Marvel Exec Defends Editor-in-Chief After Japanese Pseudonym Revelation

"That man has lived in Japan, speaks Japanese, and has lived all over the world," Sana Amanat says of C.B. Cebulski, who created a fictional Japanese alter ego so he could write comic books for the company.
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

While Marvel Entertainment has yet to issue a statement about the fact that its new editor-in-chief has admitted to creating a Japanese alter ego which he used to circumvent company policy over a decade ago, the company’s director of content and character development has spoken out in support of her new boss.

Describing C.B. Cebulski — who published as “Akira Yoshida” for more than a year at Marvel while also working in editorial at the company — as “one of my favorite people” as well as “one of the most globally minded, and very culturally sensitive [people],” Sana Amanat told Channel NewsAsia in an interview that Cebulski’s cultural appropriation wasn’t a big deal because of his background.

“That man has lived in Japan, speaks Japanese and has lived all over the world,” she explained. “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.”

Amanat’s comments coincided with Newsarama.com sharing an interview with “Yoshida” it originally ran in 2004 that includes Cebulski (in character as Yoshida) sharing thoughts on the issue of cultural appropriation.

“People always ask Japanese writers and artists why Catholic and Christian religious symbolism is so prevalent in many Japanese manga and anime series, like Trigun or Helsing or Chrono Crusade. They seem to think that the creators are trying to make some kind of statement about Western religion in contrast to Buddhism and Shinto. Sorry, but it is usually nothing that deep,” Cebulski-as-Yoshida explained in response to a question about the Western interest with samurai and ninja.

He continued, “The answers are much more simple... 1.) Crosses and religious symbolism look cool and provide great imagery, 2.) Japanese people don't really understand Western religion so the creators can take a few more liberties in telling stories about these practices, and 3.) there is an air of mystery surrounding Western religion and its history of violence that makes for great stories. I think these same three points hold true for the Western fascination with Japanese history and culture. It's cool, it's mysterious and it makes for exciting, violent comics and games.”

The same interview sees “Yoshida” respond to the question, “With your background, what uniquely Japanese influences have you brought into the history and origin of [Marvel’s ninja clan] the Hand?” by saying, “My version of The Hand is greatly influenced by my love of Japanese history, Kurosawa movies and samurai manga, like Lone Wolf and Cub, Blade of the Immortal and even Naruto.” All of which, of course, are easily available in the United States.

In her response to Channel NewsAsia, Amanat continued by conflating Cebulski’s pseudonym with Marvel’s fictional character library. “I think we have to be very sensitive about cultural appropriation and whitewashing,” she admitted, “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. Of course we want cultural authenticity and tp make sure we’re casting those people behind the scenes, but the primary goal is getting those kinds of characters out there.”

Amanat, who is Pakistani-American, pointed to the work of recently departed writer Brian Michael Bendis — who created characters of color such as Miles Morales and Riri Williams for Marvel before signing with DC Entertainment earlier this month — to attempt to make her point.

“He is as white as they come [but] he happens to have a daughter who's African-American. So it meant something to him,” she argued, ignoring the important differentiator that Bendis created those characters under his own name, and never pretended to be an African-American writer. “We have to stop dismissing people when they want to be able to promote that. Because then we’re actually going to create a deepening dividing line between cultures in a way that is antagonistic. We have to start communicating and not being so angry.”

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