New Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski dropped a major bomb on his first day on the job. He revealed he’d been writing under the Japanese pen name Akira Yoshida. That’s when the Diversity Police came out in droves.
Who is Akira Yoshida?
But let’s start at the beginning. About 13 years ago there were rumors that the Japanese writer known as Akira Yoshida was really C.B. Cebulski. However, Cebulski flatly denied the rumors. Yoshida described himself as a Japanese writer who worked for some manga publishers, hit the con circuit, and in time got hired by a number of American publishers. Dark Horse, Dreamwave, and even Marvel Comics were companies he’d worked for in his short career. This lead to him writing a few important miniseries such as twelve issues of Thor: Son of Asgard, five issues of Elektra: The Hand, five issues of X-Men: Kitty Pryde- Shadow & Flame, six issues of X-Men: Age of Apocalypse and a few more.
Akira was able to do all of this work while being a relative ghost for the company. Few had ever met the man, or as we now know someone claiming to be Akira. But as quickly as he’d gained so much prominence within Marvel, suddenly he vanished. Work from Akira just stopped all of a sudden.
Way back in 2006 people started asking questions. Even Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston brought up the question of Akira Yoshida really being C.B. Cebulski’s pen name. Cebulski at the time claimed to have heard the rumor as well and flatly denied it. Cebulski claimed that Akira was a real person, not a character or pseudonym. Many people in the industry claimed to know Akira, but when pressed realized that no one really had met the man. Even with those questions, the story fizzled out. Until now.
The Tweet that Broke the Camel’s Back
Everything changed when C.B. Cebulski officially took the Editor-in-Chief position at Marvel Comics. That’s when Brand Manager at Image Comics, David Brothers, revealed Akira Yoshida was C.B. Cebulski’s pen name.
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
— pshaw brothers (@hermanos) November 27, 2017
“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.”
In a statement given to Bleeding Cool, Cebulski confirmed he was Akira Yoshida.
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.
However, a firestorm on social media erupted.
Well no, it's a pen name attached to often Japan-centric stories in a company that struggles to find Asian writers to write for an American office, it's disingenuous. Basically the literary equivalent of yellowface because they capitalize off the idea of the writers identity
— Joseph Sannicandro (@thenewobjective) November 28, 2017
The editorial deceit is an issue but the pseudonym is a problem because he passed off as "authentic" a minority identity he didn't belong to! Not that complicated
— Joseph Sannicandro (@thenewobjective) November 29, 2017
Company is looking for Asian writers for authenticity. White editor at that same company uses Japanese sounding pen name to fill that “authentic” voice they need. See how fucked up that is?
— mikeyzjames (@mikeyzjames) November 29, 2017
Wow, x-men/fantastic four was one of the all-time worst comics I’ve ever read, no wonder he’d use a pen name
(but also the appropriation and racism is bad too)
— r?xanne (@NemoWoodbine) November 27, 2017
Been mulling over the whole Marvel yellowface thing. There *are* many Asian creators out there, you know, Marvel. Not only in the US or US, but in Asia. You don't lie to be one. You can FIND one.
— 庄晓薇 (Joyce Chng) (@jolantru) November 29, 2017
akira yoshida is just another number in the list of writers and artists using yellowface to succeed in the literary and artistic worlds
— bobby sun ? (@touchmybobby) November 28, 2017
Why wasn’t being a white man enough of a leg up? This is who you’ve chosen to promote a liar, a man who lied for profit and am sure has made other reprehensible career choices @Marvel #AkiraYoshida #CBCebulski #YellowFace #WTH #WhiteNonsense #WhiteMen #ComicBooks #Marvel pic.twitter.com/CMO4PiuxsX
— CherryLA (@cherry_LA) November 28, 2017
White privilege is participating in literary yellowface, writing under an Asian pseudonym to lend ~authenticity~ to your fake Asian stories & advance your career, while getting to dodge the racism & discrimination that Asian folks face every day.https://t.co/2AstpP8f3a
— Alyssa Wong ?✨ (@crashwong) November 29, 2017
It’s really some fucking bullshit when a white dude can yellowface his career in comics & still ascend to the halls of power while Asian American creators hone the hell out of our craft but regularly get overlooked/told we’re too niche/not “authentic enough”.
— M.Fieriosa ???? (@GeekMelange) November 28, 2017
— Donna Dickens (@MildlyAmused) November 28, 2017
Some people did take the opportunity to promote comic book creators of Asian descent.
As much as I love the #ActualAsianComicWriters tag and its rightful recognition, its also important to remember @usagiguy, Stan Sakai, creator of the amazing Usagi Yojimbo, an ongoing series since '84. ? pic.twitter.com/PfEjMCeUep
— Franzseska Zapatera ?️? (@Franzseska) November 29, 2017
— Heidi MacDonald (@Comixace) November 29, 2017
— DaynaR Should use time spent on this to ban Nazis (@DaynaR) November 29, 2017
— OrionAnakari⚡ (@OrionAnakaris) November 29, 2017
Did C.B. Cebulski Commit Yellow Face?
That’s a good question, some people from what I’ve seen said flat out that C.B. Cebulski committed Yellow Face by selling his pseudonym as a genuine Japanese writer. They believe it’s cultural appropriation, whatever that really means. But I don’t see it that way. He did not commit Yellow Face.
First, at the time when he was writing as Akira Yoshia he was living in Japan and fully immersed in the Japanese culture. He had a great vantage point from which to draw from to talk about the Japanese experience. He also faced an internal roadblock at Marvel. Marvel had an internal policy where staffers were not able to write comics. In order to get around this, Cebulski created a pseudonym where he could write comics.
In the end, most writers are creating stories and borrowing from other cultures. Today, for example, fantasy is popular in many different entertainment mediums. Well, many of the fantasy stories we enjoy have Scandinavian origins. Because of that should only white Scandinavians be able to write these stories? What about non-Scandavians should they be prevented from writing about Thor?
I cannot imagine these same groups of people making these comments would hold the same view if C.B. Cebulski wasn’t white. What about the man or woman who had spent years, and countless hours within a different culture? Shouldn’t their own insight matter? They were immersed with the people and the culture for Godsakes.
How could it be racist if he doesn’t feel the need to discriminate or become prejudice against the people of that group? Nowhere is there even evidence that he feels his race is superior to any other? Claiming what C.B. Cebulski did was racist falls flat on it’s face when looking at the facts at hand.
Finally, the use of pseudonyms isn’t as uncommon as some would have you believe. I’ll jump the plank and admit I use one for my personal fiction work. And it’s sure not a Hispanic one. Am I racist for showing concern for both my privacy and exploring another culture? If the SJW’ers had their way I’ll be burnt at the stake for not staying in my lane according to their views.
There are other examples that I believe hold water on the subject too. Mark Twain is a pseudonym. So is J.D. Robb. Steven Erikson who writes the Book of the Dead of the Malazan Empire series is a also pseudonym or even M.L.N. Hanover who writes The Black Sun’s Daughter series. For those who enjoy reading those are pretty well-known names. And if those names are big enough for you what about the modern king of horror Stephen King. Yup, even Stephen King uses a pseudonym. You can find him as Richard Bachman, a pen name he uses in order to increase his own publication without the baggage of his brand. Baggage C.B. Cebulski also had to contend with as he made the choice to use a pseudonym.
This at the very least has started a conversation on the use of pseudonyms in comics. Now the question is for us as readers. Are pseudonyms alone the problem, or do we need to look at the wider context and look at the motivation behind their use? Pseudonyms are used because there is a demand for privacy protection and as our society only becomes more digitally entangled. I predicted that this demand will only grow.
Social Media in its current state has become a cesspool of toxic people and groups, and if using a pseudonym becomes more popular, I will state here that it’s because of this reaction against C.B. Cebulski and the dismissal of his experiences and views. And it’s all because of the color of his skin.
What do you think? Was C.B. Cebulski wrong for using a Japanese pseudonym? Or was it like creating a whole new character as any writer would do? Let us know in the comments below.