Though his tenure as showrunner for Netflix’s Daredevil came to an end after the show’s first season, Pacific Rim: Uprising and Jupiter’s Legacy writer-director Steven S. DeKnight has kept his working relationship with the larger Marvel universe going. He jumped over to the comics side of things where he’s penned stories in books like King-Size Conan and Wolverine: Black, White, and Blood. But because he recently learned of Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski’s old pseudonym use, he’s taking a stand.
Given that DeKnight was recently being announced as the writer of a new Wastelanders: Wolverine series alongside artist Ibrahim Moustafa, things between him and Marvel Comics have seemed copacetic. That all changed this past Sunday, however, as DeKnight took to his Twitter account to express dismay after learning how current Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski, who is white, once assumed the identity of “Akira Yoshida”—a fictional Japanese man—in order to pen Marvel comics while also working as an assistant editor at the publisher (a practice that, at least at the time, was prohibited). DeKnight wrote in part, “I had no idea. I love writing for Marvel comics, but this changes the equation. Drastically. There are so many great editors there. To allow a man who climbed to the top through cultural identity theft to remain in that position is unconscionable.”
In addition to voicing his distaste for Cebulski’s actions in the past, DeKnight also stated his intention to no longer work with Marvel on moral grounds, and it’s unclear what impact his decision will have on the upcoming series he’s been attached to. io9 reached out to Marvel and DeKnight’s representatives but did not hear back by time of publication.
Between Cebulski’s adoption of a racial identity outside of his own and his subsequent promotion to a prominent spot within Marvel, the entire situation has been an embarrassing stain on the company’s history. And it speaks to the sort of casual racism that major comics publishers like to say they have no space for. While news of Cebulski’s writing as Akira Yoshida first broke back in 2017, the topic often resurfaces on social media. DeKnight claimed to have only heard about it recently and explained that his issue has more to do with what all went into the creation of the persona, which was a lot more than a simple pseudonym.
Before owning up to the fact that Yosidha was not a real person, Cebulski went so far as to give interviews in-character in which “Yoshida” described learning English with the help of American comic books while growing up in Japan, his home country. BleedingCool even reported at the time that other Marvel executives played along and insisted the individual was real. DeKnight wrote, “it wasn’t just a pseudonym. He created an elaborate alternate identity, going so far as to give interviews as this other person (I’m assuming by phone).”
DeKnight could sympathize with Cebulski’s fondness for Japanese culture, but he pointed out how that same fondness is why Cebulski’s history of masquerading as a Japanese person is something he takes issue with. “I understand that he truly has a deep love for the people and the culture of Japan. I taught ESL at a Japanese school here in Los Angeles for nearly seven years before I broke into the biz. I feel the same way about the people and the culture,” he wrote. “Which is one of the many, many reasons I would never disrespect them by pretending to be something I’m not.”
The line between the appreciation and the fetishization of foreign people and their cultures is something that the comic book community as a whole is often in need of a thorough reminding of, and there are many steps that comic book publishers can take to address these issues. Hiring more creators of color to work on books is one, and significantly increasing the diversity of staffed, editorial leadership within the companies is another. It’s hard not to see those kinds of steps as half-measures, though, particularly when Cebulski was hired as the top editorial voice—with the power to bring new creators into the fold—at Marvel despite these events.
“I take zero pleasure in this. I am not looking to ruin anyone’s life. And lord knows I feel sick over not continuing my work with my wonderful editor at Marvel. But if I learned anything from reading Marvel comics as a kid…” wrote DeKnight. “it’s that sometimes you have to take a stand for what’s right. No matter how much it hurts.”
Wastelanders: Wolverine #1 is scheduled to hit stores on December 1.
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