Earlier this month, Marvel announced that longtime editor C.B. Cebulski was being promoted as the comic publisher’s new editor-in-chief. To take on the leadership role, Cebulski has relocated to New York from Shanghai, where he spent years working for Marvel’s Asia division. But Cebulski’s return to the United States has been accompanied by a surprising revelation about his past work. As confirmed by EW, Cebulski, who is white, wrote a number of comics (mostly in 2005 and 2006) under the Japanese pen name Akira Yoshida, many of them featuring Asian characters or themes. The news was first reported by Bleeding Cool.
The history of pen names in comics is long. After all, what was “Stan Lee” but Stanley Lieber’s attempt to make sure his comic book work didn’t distract from the Great American Novel he might someday publish under his own name? Even so, Cebulski took the facade rather far. He gave interviews pretending to be Yoshida, giving his alter ego a fake backstory. According to Bleeding Cool‘s reporting, Cebulski even had a Japense translator show up at the Marvel offices and get lunch with editors pretending to be Yoshida, adding to the illusion that he was a real person.
As a result, Cebulski’s identity as Yoshida was apparently unknown to Marvel brass. However, former Marvel assistant editor Gregg Schigiel recently recorded an account of the story, with Marvel employee names switched to the names of characters in The West Wing (C.B. Cebulski thus became C.J. Cregg).
Marvel editors were forbidden from writing comics for the company, so Cebulski may have written under the fake identity in order to see if his writing could get published on its own merits. But considering that many of the Yoshida comics were set in Asia — Wolverine: Soultaker, for instance, sent the mutant hero to Japan on a collision course with samurai and Japanese demons — the name may also have been a way to artificially gain authenticity. It would not be the first time something like this had been done; in 2015, white poet Michael Derrick Hudson received criticism for successfully submitting a poem to the Best American Poetry collection under the Chinese pseudonym Yi-Fen Chou.
In a statement to Bleeding Cool, Cebulski confirmed that he was indeed Yoshida.
“I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year,” Cebulski said in his 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.”
Marvel did not give EW an official comment on this story, but they weren’t the only company that published comics by “Akira Yoshida.” Dark Horse also published one, Conan and the Demons of Khitai, about Conan the Barbarian fighting monsters from an “Eastern kingdom.” In a statement, Dark Horse confirmed they had no idea Yoshida was secretly C.B. Cebulski.
“Dark Horse worked with Akira Yoshida in the early 2000s. We were unaware that Yoshida was anyone other than who he presented himself as,” Dark Horse said in a statement to EW. “Many comics writers use pseudonyms to publish in the industry. However, we don’t condone the appropriation of other cultures or ethnicities.”
This post has been updated to include a statement from Dark Horse.