It’s been four days since Marvel announced that C.B. Cebulski was the new editor in chief of the company effective immediately, replacing the outgoing Axel Alonso. Beyond the initial New York Times interview and a handful of tweets, Cebulski has said nothing about his plans for the company moving forward, leaving many to wonder what to expect from Marvel’s comic book output in 2018.
Cebulski certainly takes over at a difficult time for the publisher, with its most recent relaunch (Marvel Legacy, which started in September) seemingly failing to excite comic store retailers and readers alike and sales down across the line overall compared with past performance. If there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s that Cebulski’s leadership will have to do something to turn the ship around…but what?
Those looking to Cebulski’s Marvel output in the past are likely to be confounded when it comes to clues about what’s to come; his writing is limited for the most part to continuations of other writers’ storylines and short stories in themed anthologies, with just a few miniseries suggesting his own viewpoint: While 2006’s New Mangaverse tried to fuse the aesthetics of manga onto the superheroics of Marvel’s existing IP to arguable levels of success, both 2007’s The Loners and 2009’s X-Infernus demonstrated a fondness for 1980s teen comics and teen dramas from the era in general. (Each issue of The Loners, a quasi-spinoff from Brian K. Vaughn’s Runaways, has a cover that parodies a John Hughes movie, to belabor the point.)
Of course, Cebulski will be Marvel’s editor in chief, not its head writer, so a glimpse at his editing résumé at the company might bear more fruit. The official announcement of Cebulski’s promotion singles out the fact that he was the original editor of Runaways, one of an imprint of titles Cebulski was developing at Marvel at the time, called Tsunami. Following a thread for Cebulski, who was Marvel’s vp brand management and development, Asia, before becoming editor in chief — and whose writing credits, as discussed above, include New Mangaverse — the Tsunami line was a short-lived attempt by Marvel to co-opt manga audiences with series intended to focus more on teen characters and soap opera dynamics while downplaying the fight aspects of its properties. Runaways was, by far, the breakout property of the line alongside a second Vaughn-written series centering on the X-Men villain Mystique.
Outside of the Tsunami line and a number of issues of ongoing series or existing properties — including the kids-centric Marvel Age: Spider-Man — Cebulski’s most obvious editorial credit may be his “Executive Editor” credit on all of Marvel’s Star Wars comic books since the property returned to Marvel in 2015. Since that time, Star Wars has been consistently the most successful property published by Marvel; if Cebulski’s oversight is considered an essential part of that success by executives, it could explain why his overseeing the rest of the publisher is considered a good thing.
Otherwise, what other clues can be gleaned from a career that went from assistant editor to editor to talent scout — in 2007, he went around the world as part of a talent contest to find 12 new artists for Marvel — to senior vp creator and content development before becoming vp Marvel brand management and development, Asia, is unclear.
Sure, Cebulski has certainly had a storied career at Marvel — which has included hosting his own Marvel-themed cooking and interview show on YouTube; his foodie reputation is almost as known as his friendliness to creators — but in terms of editorial point-of-view, there isn’t a lot of information out there, which could either be a good sign for individual voices wanting to be heard, or concerning to those hoping for a unified front going forward. One thing’s for sure: 2018 is likely to be a very interesting year for Marvel’s publishing arm.