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A White Marvel Employee Has Admitted He Used An Asian Pseudonym To Write Comics

C.B. Cebulski, writing under the name Akira Yoshida, was even praised at one point as one of "Japan’s greatest comic book creators."

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On Tuesday, Bleeding Cool published a story titled "New Marvel Comics EIC C.B. Cebulski Admits He Wrote As 'Akira Yoshida' 13 Years Ago".

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In the article, writer Rich Johnston details his work over the past 11 years to prove that Akira Yoshida was a pseudonym for Cebulski. Johnston writes that Cebulski used the pseudonym to write for the publisher, which didn't allow editors to write comics.

Yoshida contributed work to a number of high-profile Marvel, Dark Horse, and Dreamwave titles, including Conan and the Demons of Khitai, X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, and Thor: Son of Asgard. Many of Cebulski's stories written under the Yoshida pen name included Japanese settings or East Asian tropes.

Yoshida was praised as one of the first nonwhite voices to really understand writing for a Western audience.

According to Johnston, other Marvel employees and comic book industry figures regularly vouched for Yoshida's existence, but many also admitted they had never met the writer. Those who claimed they had met him later said they were apparently confusing Yoshida with a Japanese translator working for Marvel.

There are even articles profiling Yoshida and comparing his early success to the work of Mark Millar and Brian Bendis.

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Yoshida eventually stopped writing, around the same time Cebulski left Marvel as an editor and rejoined as a talent manager, allowing him to write for the publisher. In his role as a talent manager, Celbuski was responsible for scouting creatives from around the world.

In July, Johnston published an article that began to address the rumors around Yoshida. The article is about a podcast episode by former Marvel employee Gregg Schigiel, in which he, without using Marvel employees' real names, apparently confirms the Yoshida/Cebulski story.

This month, with Cebulski about to take up the role of Marvel's editor-in-chief, a number of people in the comic book industry began speaking out.

Hey comics journo friends: we should definitely be asking Marvel and new EiC CB Cebulski on why he chose to use the… https://t.co/8v3pRPahAq

David Brothers, Image Comics' branding manager, tweeted about Cebulski on Monday, the day before he was due to start his role as editor-in-chief of Marvel. When Brothers was contacted by BuzzFeed News for comment, he declined, saying he was an "unrelated third party" and passed along names of Asian voices in the industry who'd be best to speak to.

Akira Yoshida comics were so Japanese you had to wait for swords to whisper with the ghosts of someone's ancestors… https://t.co/0OYMAVB7l5

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The upshot of this, behind all the names-changed-for-legal-reasons, is the allegation that new Marvel EiC CB Cebuls… https://t.co/GdkpyJqS5j

Following a wave of tweeted allegations against Cebulski, Johnston again reached out to the editor for comment. This time, he received an official response admitting Cebulski was Yoshida, but saying that the story is "old news and has been dealt with."

Cebulski told Bleeding Cool:

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.

The revelation provoked anger among people of color and women in the comics industry.

Many nonwhite and female writers and creators said that they had to make their names and art more palatable to Western audiences to get work, so seeing Cebulski thrive hurt.

----and meanwhile us folx with actual ethnic names make decisions DAILY to downplay that part of ourselves in order to LIVE???

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It's insane to me that people warn women about hiding their fanfiction/fanart if they want to go professional in co… https://t.co/fsutDYOrl5

Everybody wants to be Asian to make comics. But nobody wants comics made by Asians: Asians are too hard to understa… https://t.co/RFvmuYnfLk

While people said that many writers use pseudonyms, others argued that this did not justify Cebulski actually pretending to be Asian.

When people of all cultures used pseudonyms and monikers of different cultures not of their own for years. So now i… https://t.co/cH1VKHVvYh

@RobaatoX The context is very different. He used a pseudonym to circumvent rules that evened the playing field for… https://t.co/TdauncTip9

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If your reaction to this CB Cebulski is Akira Yoshida mess is to bring up Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and other Jewish… https://t.co/VoDFk8BI0q

Some people who have worked for Marvel, while admitting Cebulski's pseudonym was problematic, argued that he used his role as a talent scout to help many Asian writers get jobs at the publisher.

Same. I'm an Asian @CBCebulski hired to work at Marvel and thru him I've worked with other Asians like Adrian Alpho… https://t.co/R7ubjNamnj

@PatrickZircher The sad and ironic thing is C.B. being blamed for taking work/keeping Asians from getting work at M… https://t.co/qQVIYdKciO

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Johnston said that the choice to publish his story was "all about timing."

"Also it's reflective that comic books seem to matter to culture as a whole in a way they didn't before. If people care, if people show passion, if people actually give a toss, that can only help the future of the medium," he said.

"The reaction is incredibly mixed, from those who can't see what the fuss is, those who see it 'yellowface' of the worst kind, those who find it hilarious, those who find it tragic, those who are just disappointed or resigned to this sort of thing happening. I do think there's a lack of empathy from many, but that's the internet."

In future, Johnston said, he hopes the story will remind Marvel of the importance of representation in comics.

"I hope that the fuss is a reminder to those who make the decisions that these things matter," he said. "And that Marvel manages to attract all sorts of people, with all sorts of genuine life experiences to tell all sorts of stories to all sorts of people."

BuzzFeed contacted Marvel for comment on the story. A representative said that there is no official statement, but they confirmed Cebulski did write under the pen name Akira Yoshida.

When contacted, Dark Horse comics provided the following statement.

"Dark Horse worked with Akira Yoshida in the early 2000s. We were unaware that Yoshida was anyone other than who he presented himself as. Many comics writers use pseudonyms to publish in the industry. However, we don’t condone the appropriation of other cultures or ethnicities."

Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rachael Krishna at rachael.krishna@buzzfeed.com.

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