Marvel’s new EiC or editor-in-chief is C B Cebulski which on the surface is good news, but how he got there is the problem. Asians are saying, Cebulski, panted himself “Yellowface” in order to have the ethnic authenticity to write comics as a well versed Japanese writer.
The term “Yellowface” is derived from “Blackface” where white people donned on make-up to portray blacks.
“Blackface is a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a black person… Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.” Wikipedia
What Cebulski did for his craft would seem to be innocent enough, but to the many actual Asian writers who are blocked from comic writing, it’s akin to a personal attack. They want Cebulski to step down as EiC for the appropriation of the Asian race.
Cebulski recently confirmed that he’d written under the Japanese-sounding pseudonym “Akira Yoshida” in the early 2000s. He had even created an elaborate false backstory for Yoshida, drawing criticism from people of Asian descent who labeled his actions as “Yellowface.”
Joshua Luna and Trung Le Nguyen, who’ve both been involved in comic projects tied to the Asian-American experience, talked with HuffPost about Cebulski’s admission.
“It’s equal parts shocking, disappointing and discouraging,” Luna told HuffPost. “It’s not necessarily strange to use a pseudonym, but to use an Asian pen name when someone’s not of Asian descent is wild to me, especially when so many actual Asians are constantly denied access to these kinds of opportunities.”
Marvel comics has a long history of using white people to play Asian themed characters. In “Iron Fist” critics were up in arms at the white savior narrative. In “Doctor Strange’s” Tibetan “The Ancient One” is believed to be an “old Asian sage” stereotype. That character was played by white actress Tilda Swinton.
The problem with Cebulski isn’t just using a pseudo name it is actually creating a staggering amount of detail that was put into presenting Yoshida as a Japanese writer capable of lending an “authentic” voice to stories featuring Asian characters, themes, and locations. Meanwhile, Marvel, among other publishers, proudly and unknowingly boasted a false sense of authenticity and diversity in their titles that only existed as long as the Yoshida masquerade remained intact.
Cebulski released a statement saying he had been “young and naive” at the time and the issue was “all old news that has been dealt with.” But both Luna and Nguyen feel that damage has been done.
Luna wonders if perhaps Cebulski’s Yoshida has harmed writers of Asian descent.
“It makes you wonder just how many Asian comic book writers were turned away because an “Akira Yoshida” was already filling the “Asian quota.”
“This ‘Akira Yoshida’ story sends yet another message of Asian culture being desired, but not actual Asian people,” he said.
Only time will tell if Marvel Comics/Marvel Studio will actually do what is ethical and make real positive changes in the ethnic diversity of its characters and writers, or whether it’s just all empty words of inclusivity.
As for many Asian comic writers, they won’t be satisfied until Cebulski steps down as editor-in-chief of Marvel’s Comics.