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Meet the Man Who is Bringing Asia into the Marvel Universe

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C.B. Cebulski is now Marvel’s man in the East, overseeing everything related to the brand. He talks about Hong Kong’s role in the expansion into Asia.

Andrew Sun writes: If Asia is to play any role in the Marvel universe, C.B. Cebulski will have a big say in the matter. In July, the comic book giant asked this loyal soldier to uproot from his New York home, for a new executive post half the world away. Cebulski, packing up everything including the family cat, said yes.

“Marvel was looking for Japan-centric stories at the time,” Cebulski recalls. “I didn’t have any connections but I just kept pitching and looking for opportunities. In the end, Marvel gave me my first writing work based on the fact that I had experienced Japan. So it wasn’t my skill as a writer that got me my first job, it was my intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and manga.”

Working out of parent company Disney’s Shanghai office, he will oversee anything and everything in Asia with the Marvel name attached. This includes licensing deals, film promotions, and special projects such as the upcoming Iron Man Experience attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland.

“My job is basically to help expand the Marvel brand in Asia, develop understanding of the characters, form new alliances and look for partners who will develop the characters and properties with us.”

“My job is basically to help expand the Marvel brand in Asia, develop understanding of the characters, form new alliances and look for partners who will develop the characters and properties with us,” explains Cebulski, whose official title is vice-president, brand management and development, Asia.

“Marvel is everywhere in America, but here it’s a roller coaster around movie releases. The movies hit and there’s a period where there are T-shirts and toys everywhere. After a while, it returns to a lull. We want to build a bridge that connects all the tent poles with all the brands, and that’s what I will focus on.”

“I’m basically reverse engineering the brand. In the West, people know we started in comics and grew to develop games, consumer products and films. But here, people know the films first, so I’ve got to figure out how we get people who don’t know who Stan Lee is to understand there is this other 75-year history.”

“Asia is of utmost importance. The brand is growing here faster than anywhere else in he world. There’s something happening in every territory, whether it’s games in Korea or films in China. I’m here to figure out what’s what and how to connect it all. Why are certain things popular in some areas and not other? Can what we do in Hong Kong translate to the rest of China?”

For non-nerds, Lee is the comic book legend who created Spider-man, the Hulk, the X-Men and other iconic characters, as well as being the chairman of the Marvel empire. The company is no longer cult or fringe in any way. It’s an entertainment powerhouse, ruling box-offices, merchandising stalls and the pop culture zeitgeist. In 2009, the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel for US$4.3 billion.

[Read the full story here, at South China Morning Post]

As for Cebulski, you’re not likely to mistake him for just another expat executive in a suit with an MBA. His wardrobe consists primarily of bowling shirts and T-shirts with logos and characters. Even more un-corporate-like, he maintains a food blog that chronicles his gluttonous discoveries and adventures (Eataku.com). But underneath that geek disguise, this friendly hulk has honed the superpowers to move millions of dollars in merchandise. 08a86700-6054-11e6-82a1-e6803dbb30ea_486x “Marvel is everywhere in America, but here it’s a roller coaster around movie releases,” he says. “The movies hit and there’s a period where there are T-shirts and toys everywhere. After a while, it returns to a lull. We want to build a bridge that connects all the tent poles with all the brands, and that’s what I will focus on.” Cebulski’s nerd credentials are impeccable. He grew up a typical superhero fanboy and collector. “The first comic I found on my own was The X-Men,” he says. “I was still quite young so the story didn’t grab me as much, but the images did.”

“American comics are more word heavy, and everything plays out at a slower pace. If a hero confronts a thug in Asia, the hero grabs the villain, looks him in the eye and then throws him out the window in five or six panels. In American comics, you see the hero enter the room, they would meet, there would three panels of dialogue, then he gets thrown across the room in slow motion, smashes out the window. The hero would say something as the villain falls and smashes into the ground. This would play out over four or five pages.”

Initially he wanted to be a comic artist, but realised he didn’t have the talent. Cebulski then decided to be a storywriter, but his submissions were constantly rejected. Instead of giving up, he took a sabbatical and explored a budding interest in manga, spending several years in Japan. After returning to the US, he finally got his break.

“Marvel was looking for Japan-centric stories at the time,” Cebulski recalls. “I didn’t have any connections but I just kept pitching and looking for opportunities. In the end, Marvel gave me my first writing work based on the fact that I had experienced Japan. So it wasn’t my skill as a writer that got me my first job, it was my intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and manga.”

Once he got his foot in the door, Cebulski proved to be as indispensable to Marvel as agent Phil Coulson is to S.H.I.E.L.D. The writer and editor’s responsibilities began to expand. After a brief hiatus working on his own projects, he returned to the fold in a rank with even higher security clearance, as Marvel’s head international talent scout.

Travel has always been part of the job. Theoretically, being in Shanghai will now allow him to cut down on the air miles. But that hasn’t been the case so far. Just last month, Cebulski was in Japan, Singapore, New York, San Diego (for Comic Con) and Hong Kong for the Ani-Com & Games event and Book Fair…(read more)

Source: South China Morning Post

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