In what is surely one of the most bizarre stories to come out of the comics industry in recent years, incoming Marvel Comics editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski — a Caucasian person — has copped to writing under the Japanese-sounding pseudonym “Akira Yoshida” in the mid-aughts. The revelation comes after a few days of speculation and scrutiny from the comics commentariat and was first confirmed to news site Bleeding Cool, then subsequently to Vulture. Cebulski had previously lied to Bleeding Cool journalist Rich Johnston, saying Yoshida was a real person; he created a fake backstory for an interview with comics site CBR; and executives at Marvel once met with someone they believed was Yoshida, but was in fact a Japanese translator who happened to be visiting the offices. Yes, really.
According to the Bleeding Cool story, Cebulski first adopted the name around 2004, when he was already an associate editor at Marvel. His first handful of gigs with the name were done outside of Marvel, but he ended up in a tough spot when a Marvel editor who was intrigued by those comics asked Yoshida to write for him.* The trouble was, Marvel has a policy that prohibits editors from getting paid to write Marvel books. Nevertheless, Cebulski chose to moonlight as Yoshida for his own company, penning an array of comics about such top-tier characters as Wolverine and Thor. Notably, a number of them were set in Japanese milieus and prominently featured martial arts, and Marvel bragged about how unusual it was to find a non-Western writer who could so deftly write American comics.
The lie grew more complex when CBR reached out to this rising star and Cebulski, posing as Yoshida, got back to them with a made-up life story about growing up in Japan and the U.S. and working for Japanese publisher Fujimi Shobo. Then, in 2006, Yoshida abruptly stopped writing. Johnston, suspecting something was up and hearing rumors that Yoshida was really Cebulski, asked Cebulski whether that was the case. Cebulski said no, and said Yoshida had visited the Marvel offices and gone to conventions, but failed to provide promised photographic proof. In 2015, writer Brian Cronin published a post about the Yoshida rumors and said he was a real person, based on the testimony of Marvel editor Mike Marts, who claimed to have met him. According to Johnston, it turns out that the person Marts and others met was a Japanese translator who was at Marvel HQ on an apparently unrelated visit.
The rumors popped up again this July, when a former Marvel editor released an audio short story set in a thinly veiled analogue of Marvel. It depicted a hoax that sounded an awful lot like the Akira Yoshida situation and Johnston speculated that it could be an implication that Cebulski — by then stationed in Shanghai as Marvel’s vice-president for international brand management — had been the man behind the name. Nothing came of the story at the time, but it made the rounds again a few weeks ago when it was announced that Cebulski was succeeding Axel Alonso as editor-in-chief. Image Comics brand manager David Brothers made waves Sunday night when he tweeted, “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.” The hunt was back on.
Then, earlier today, Cebulski reached out to Johnston and came clean, giving him the following statement:
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.
As one might expect, Comics Twitter isn’t taking this news too well.
Today is Cebulski’s first day on the job as EIC.
*This article has been updated to reflect that Marvel has confirmed the existence of the pseudonym, but did not confirm any other aspects of Bleeding Cool’s reporting.