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SDCC ’18: A First Date Between Fans and New Marvel Chief C.B. Cebulski at SDCC

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By Zack Quaintance

At his first SDCC as Marvel’s editor-in-chief, C.B. Cebulski held a “podcast format” get-to-know-you conversation, during which he talked to his friend of nearly two decades Skottie Young about his background as a professional and a fan, advice for aspiring creators, and a vague incident in a hotel room that Young was refused to discuss.

More on that last one later (I attended a panel about building suspense this morning, can you tell?). Marvel’s Cebulski conversation panel was a bit of a come down from the mic drop moment that preceded it, wherein the publisher announced a new Vision comic from Chelsea Cain (ask me about my android agenda), Marc Mohan, and Aud Koch. That panel saw Cebulski and some of Marvel’s top creatives also talking specific details about stories and characters, going so far as to introduce new books. It was really exciting and very cool.

This one, however, was more like a first date. Childhoods and old jobs were discussed, polite compliments were exchanged, and touchy subjects were mitigated (organizers said at the start that they were pre-screening audience questions…ahem).

Cebulski’s history as a fan was a somewhat common one—his parents used to buy him comics as a reward whenever he got his haircut and his love of the medium grew from there—while his background as a pro involved working as an editor on Marvel’s Ultimate line back when it was the most exciting thing in superhero comics, with Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley doing Ultimate Spider-Man, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch doing The Ultimates, etc.

Cebulski recalled always giving his artists the benefit of the doubt back when he was editing. As a result, Cebulski’s books shipped late more than any other editor in Marvel’s history, he said, to the point that Marvel’s editor-in-chief at the time, Joe Quesada, called him into his office to tell him that he was a terrible editor, but that the company had a different position in mind for him: they wanted Cebulski to help create a talent management department. It was that gig that helped earn him his current reputation as a friend to artists and for having a preternaturally-talented eye for discovering young stars.

Speaking directly to potential young stars, Cebulski urged aspiring artists in the audience to submit work to Marvel both at cons and online, but then to also do the sometimes harder work of following up, following up, and following up more. For writers, he said it was all about putting a comic out and then investing in constant self-promotion to generate word of mouth, ideally the type that leads another writer already working for Marvel to talk to an editor about you and your work. For both writers and artists, he said to keep at it and don’t give up, obviously.

In a particularly interesting metaphor, Cebulski compared breaking into comics to breaking out of prison, noting that once you get past one barrier, there’s another new barrier that you have to figure out how to break through, and another, and another. It’s important, essentially, not to rest on your laurels after having a little success in the industry.

So, what then about that hotel room we mentioned at the start? Well, it was all pretty vague, but when this mysterious incident came up, Cebulski said they should tell that story “about the Eisners…in the hotel room.” Young replied that the crowd wasn’t loose enough yet, and then he trailed off with a faraway look in his eyes: “Ohhh, so many nights at San Diego Comic Con.”

So many nights, indeed.

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