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November 28, 2017

New Marvel Editor-In-Chief CB Cebulski Admits To Writing Under Different-Culture Pseudonym

So there was a story yesterday that Bleeding Cool admirably published, where they received affirmation that newly-minted Marvel Editor-In-Chief CB Cebulski once penned work for the publisher as Akira Yoshida, publishing for a little over a year and doing PR that supported this person's existence.

My first reaction was to laugh. That's a stupid name, and the thought that someone could defraud their company and end up being the number one choice to run that company a dozen or so years later seems very comics-culture to me. Still, looking at this material a second time last night, I believe I was more wrong than right to have that gut reaction.

imageComics culture is not just a roll-your-eyes cattle prod these days, it's as under fire as any individual publishing move. Rightfully so: comics culture dictates a lot in terms of how our industries operate. This latest looks like a series of actions possible only in the context of a broken professional culture. This is not just the case of a freelancer adopting a pseudonym to get more work. This was someone giving themselves work that could have gone to someone else, and creating a context for that work more attractive than the work would be by itself. By assuming a Japanese identity and writing stories soaked in orientalist stereotypes, Cebulski and Marvel slipped any blame that might be theirs for the content of such work, and avoided criticism for the general breakdown of creators being hired by the company.

The story's emergence calls into question Cebulski's decision-making at the time in doing it (Cebulski claims naiveté; he was in his mid-thirties) and his decision-making right now in letting the news slip out in such an offhanded way. The execrable quality of the work on the page calls into question the skill-set Cebulski brings to managing the creative parts of his job. For as long as there is no response, this also calls into question the PR crisis-management abilities of Cebulski and the entire Marvel team.

Most important, this has to be a humiliating, angering moment for so many people that have worked in this area of comics. Comics gigs are tough to land, period, and historically elusive at the executive level for people that aren't straight white males. For someone to get such a job without a commanding list of point-to successes and accomplishment opens Marvel up to a re-examination of every person who is not an affable white man that managed to avoid being given a lottery-win level job despite what I'm guessing is a more standard history of not defrauding their employer with a barrage of barely professional work.

The one good thing for Marvel out of the last 24 hours of making all of us in the comics industry look like an army of childish dipshits is that they do seem to have one person in-house who goes on the record in a timely way with grace and class and smarts. That's something to keep in mind the next time things curdle.

Look, I'm not blameless here. I didn't spend 30 seconds of thought on the hire, and even as I type this I don't even know how old the guy is. I laughed at the news when I heard it. We all need to do better and be smarter, develop greater empathy. I hope for the best possible outcome.

Anyone who doesn't see this as a big deal needs to remember that there are people for whom something like this is at the core of their professional life and all the frustrations that have come with it. Dealing with sexual harassment issues as has begun to happen should lead to not just a thorough accounting for those kinds of horrifying actions and the culture of innumerable smaller actions that supports those occurrences, but every way in which so many people are kept from working to the best of their ability, every single thing that puts limits on the optimal good that might develop.

Marvel, I call on you to open this up. Give every reasonable media outlet including every comics one -- say every outlet that's ever received an Eisner nomination -- an interview with your new editor-in-chief. At the very least, open up how the decision was made, including how Marvel dealt with this element of Cebulski's career. Tell us if Cebulski was disciplined, suspended or fired back in the day. If so, why he was re-hired? If not, why not? Provide someone at the company that can answer process questions Mr. Cebulski won't know. Take the hit, lead us in learning something, and give us the rare chance to come out of one of these weird, "only in comics" moments less likely to have another one 200 feet down the road.
posted 3:35 pm PST | Permalink

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