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Tuesday marks the first day new Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski is spending in the New York offices of the company’s publishing arm, and he’s marking it with a very unexpected statement. He has confessed having used a Japanese psuedonym more than a decade ago to circumvent company policy surrounding editorial staff.
After days of the story circulating on social media, Cebulski told Bleeding Cool that he was, in fact, the writer Akira Yoshida who had consistently published work through Marvel from 2004 through 2005, as well as intermittent work from Dark Horse in 2004 and 2006.
“I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year,” Cebulski said in a statement. “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.”
The characterization in the statement of Yoshida being simply a pseudonym ignores the fact that “Yoshida” gave interviews where he explained a complex backstory. (Yoshida claimed to be a Japanese man who had spent part of his childhood in the U.S. and learned English by reading superhero comics. It should be noted that, as many have pointed out, “Akira Yoshida” as a name marries the title of a fan-favorite manga series that had been reprinted by Marvel in the 1980s with the surname of one of Marvel’s first Japanese superheroes, so at least there’s a level of strange synergy at play.)
Cebulski isn’t alone in appropriating Japanese culture — or, for that matter, a Japanese identity — in an attempt to gain success. In the mid-1990s, the poet Araki Yasusada was revealed to be a hoax after receiving favorable coverage from major literary journals in the U.S. including the American Poetry Review. (The identity was created by a white man in Illinois.) More recently, Michael Derrick Hudson was revealed to be the true author of (fictional) poet Yi-Fen Chou’s work, after one of Chou’s poems was selected for the 2015 edition of the Best American Poetry anthology.
Although Cebulski has yet to comment on the reasons why he created the pseudonym, it’s likely that he did so as a way of working for other companies while on staff at Marvel. It helped, however, in letting Cebulski get around official Marvel policy at the time that prevented editorial staff from working on a freelance basis for the company as a creator.
That policy, which had been around in various forms since the mid-1980s, was put in place both to prevent gaming the system — originally, it was simply an edict that editors couldn’t commission work from themselves — and to prevent editorial nepotism and ensure quality control. (Yoshida’s work was, on multiple occasions, edited by Mackenzie Cadenhead, Cebulski’s co-editor on the original Runaways series; it’s unknown if she was aware of Yoshida’s actual identity.)
As Yoshida, Cebulski regularly wrote stories for Marvel that featured Japan as a setting or a cultural influence, albeit in a limited manner; the Elektra: The Hand series focused on the origins of the ninja clan that resurrected Elektra, while Wolverine: Soultaker also featured ninjas as one of its primary threats and X-Men: Kitty Pryde — Shadows & Flame saw the character travel to Japan to take on… a ninja clan. Amusingly (or, perhaps, appallingly, in retrospect), Yoshida’s writing also features a number of mistakes no Japanese writer would make, including in Elektra: The Hand, declaring that Japan is made up of five main islands, instead of the actual number (four).
Yoshida’s name disappeared from comic credits in 2005, just ahead of Cebulski leaving his editorial role at Marvel. Speculation that Yoshida had been a false identity for another writer has existed for more than a decade — with Marvel staff denying it, claiming to have had dinner with him — before resurfacing earlier this year when a former Marvel staffer released a podcast which told a fictionalized version of Yoshida’s tenure at Marvel, with all names changed to those of The West Wing characters to protect the guilty — although the suggestion was again denied by multiple Marvel sources.
Cebulski’s statement on Tuesday that “this is all old news” may be true from his perspective, but not from the point of view of anyone else. Indeed, by confirming the speculation for the first time, Cebulski raises multiple new questions: Who else (if anyone) at Marvel was in on the ruse? Did Cebulski face any punishment for flouting official company policy when it was discovered?
Marvel declined to comment when approached.
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