SINGAPORE: Marvel’s director of content and character development Sana Amanat has come out in defence of Marvel Comics’ new editor-in-chief C B Cebulski, who is facing criticism after admitting he previously wrote comics under a Japanese pseudonym.
On his very first day on the job this week, Cebulski, who is an American, came under fire after confirming a long-held rumour that he had written comics under the name Akira Yoshida during the early 2000s, many of which had featured Asian themes and characters.
It was also revealed that he gave interviews as Yoshida, and according to online news site Bleeding Cool, which broke the story, had even roped in a Japanese translator to pretend to be the writer. Cebulski later said he had stopped writing under the pseudonym after a year.
The revelation did not sit well with some, given many of the stories that Yoshida had supposedly written featured characters such as Wolverine and were set in Asia – leading to accusations of misrepresentation to gain authenticity.
But Cebulski’s colleague Amanat defended him, saying that it was “something that he was trying to do to just be a writer.”
“This is a world he understood. He’s one of my favourite people (and) I think many people who know CB will know that he is one of the most globally minded, and very culturally sensitive as well,” Amanat, who is currently in Singapore for the Asia TV Forum and Market, told Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (Nov 29).
“That man has lived in Japan, speaks Japanese, and has lived all over the world. He very much associates with Japanese culture. And I think that him writing, for whatever time it was, was him trying to be a writer more than anything else.”
Amanat, who is Pakistani American, is known for being at the forefront of encouraging diversity in Marvel’s lineup of superheroes. She has edited titles such as Captain Marvel and Hawkeye, and co-created the new Ms Marvel, a Pakistani American teenager named Kamala Khan. Launched in 2014, it was the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel comic book title.
Amanat added: “I think we have to be very sensitive about cultural appropriation and whitewashing. But I do think, fundamentally, that if there’s an opportunity to create more awareness about a particular type of character, whether it’s an Asian character or a black character, that should be our primary goal – telling as authentic, as honest, as fun, as real a story as possible about that character. Because that’s what’s really going to build more awareness about a particular cultural group.
“Of course we want cultural authenticity and make sure we’re casting those people behind the scenes, but the primary goal is getting those kinds of characters out there."
She cited as an example comics writer and artist Brian Michael Bendis, co-creator of Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teenager who took on the mantle of Spider-Man.
"He is as white as they come (but) he happens to have a daughter who's African American. So it meant something to him. We have to stop dismissing people when they want to be able to promote that. Because then we’re actually going to create a deepening dividing line between cultures in a way that is antagonistic. We have to start communicating and not being so angry,” said Amanat.
Cebulski himself had told Bleeding Cool that the issue had been “dealt with”.
“It wasn’t transparent, but it taught me a lot about writing, communication and pressure. I was young and naive and had a lot to learn back then.”