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Marvel Comics editor's use of Japanese pen name has familiar ring for some

C.B. Cebulski wrote comics as “Akira Yoshida,” Marvel has confirmed, penning a number of Marvel titles, some of which are set in Japan.
Image: C.B. Cebulski
C.B. Cebulski speaks during the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention (STGCC) at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands on September 1, 2013 in Singapore.Suhaimi Abdullah / Getty Images file

Revelations Tuesday that Marvel Comics new editor-in-chief, C.B. Cebulski, wrote under an Asian-sounding pen name had a familiar ring for Keith Chow, a culture writer and critic.

A little more than two years ago, Michael Derrick Hudson, a white male poet from Fort Wayne, Indiana, drew criticism for submitting a poem he wrote under the female-sounding Asian pseudonym Yi-Fen Chou.

His work, which had been rejected multiple times under his real name, was included in the 2015 edition of “The Best American Poetry,” a move that stirred controversy.

Cebulski, for his part, wrote comics as “Akira Yoshida,” Marvel has confirmed, penning a number of Marvel titles including “Wolverine: Soultaker” and “X-Men: Kitty Pryde- Shadow & Flame,” both of which are set in Japan.

“It’s just another example of non-Asians feeling they are more authoritative than actual Asian people,” Chow, the editor-in-chief of The Nerds of Color, a cultural criticism site, said in an email. “People of color are not costumes you can just wear when it suits you.”

Bleeding Cool, an Internet news website that broke the story Tuesday, reported that Akira Yoshida was the name of a Japanese comic book writer who worked for comic book publishers including Dreamwave, Dark Horse, and Marvel Comics 13 years ago.

Rich Johnston, head writer who authored the Bleeding Cool article, said he had heard from industry sources that Cebulski was the one writing under the Akira Yoshida pseudonym and emailed him back in 2006 to ask if it was true.

Cebulski denied it and said Akira Yoshida was an actual person, Johnston told NBC News.

“There were basically lots of little sources that I couldn’t actually put together as a proper story, backed up by what was actually happening,” Johnston explained.

Then a podcast Johnston heard in early summer 2017 and a tweet on Sunday night got him pursuing the story again, he said. Johnston reached out once more this week to Cebulski, he said, and received a reply saying it was true.

“I stopped writing under the pseudonym Akira Yoshida after about a year,” Cebulski said, according to Bleeding Cool. “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.”

Cebulski, who was promoted to editor-in-chief effective Nov. 17, has worked at Marvel for more than 15 years, leading the company’s global expansion during the last six, including in Asia, according to a news release announcing his editor-in-chief appointment.

He relocated from Shanghai to New York to begin his new role.

Johnston said it’s not uncommon for comic book writers to use pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. He speculated that Cebulski invented the Akira Yoshida name so he could write comics while working at Marvel.

“The rules at Marvel at the time were that you weren’t allowed to be an editor and also write for the publisher or for the other publishers,” Johnston said. “So he basically concocted this identity in order that he’d be able to write and keep his job.”

He added that communication between editors and Akira Yoshida would likely have all been through email.

Marvel declined to comment on Johnston’s claims.

Meanwhile, after the story hit the Internet Tuesday, some took to Twitter to say that Cebulski’s use of a pseudonym was much ado about nothing.

Others disagreed, with some spotlighting comic creators of Asian descent using the hashtag "#ActualAsianComicWriters."

Marvel said it did not have an official statement.

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