CB Cebulski has been on the job as Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief for over a year, but some of the bigger pieces of his editorial vision for the Marvel line are just now coming to light. One such example is the Jonathan Hickman-led revival of the X-Men in the current House of X and Powers of X series, which represents the first major, long-term X-initiative for Marvel since the Legacy rebranding of 2017.
During an extended interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Cebulski explained to CBR how his approach to the job of Editor-in-Chief has itself evolved since he returned to Marvel's New York offices full time.
"To come in and put my arms around the line and the team and everyone that's there in this day and age hasn't been easy to be honest with you," Cebulski said. "The first day I got on the job, there was a letter from Joe [Quesada] like when one president passes a letter to the next. Joe left me a very nice note about what he learned as Editor-in-Chief and what advice I should take. It was really like, 'Make your mark on your own. Don't look at the generations who have gone before. Keep what they did in mind, but you have to start taking Marvel Comics in line with your own vision.'"
Cebulski also has found a one-sentence way to express his editorial vision: being the E-i-C who brings the fan's experience to the forefront. "The way I always saw it was, Joe was always referred to as the Artist's Editor-in-Chief. Axel [Alonso] was a very great story editor, and he was the Writer's Editor-in-Chief. For me, people have been saying off-handedly, 'You're the Fan's Editor-in-Chief' because I grew up a fan. I never stopped reading comics. I never had that lapse. From when I was six years old until right now, I never stopped being that Wednesday Warrior, no matter where I was in the world or living at the time.
"The two things I've really focused on is to tell stories from the heart – tell stories I'd want to read as a reader and as a fan – and then also in order to move forward in the future, we cannot forget the past. We have to look at what other writers and other creators did and find a path that respects the previous comics, that builds upon the stories that were there to move us into the future for the line."
The transition has been a long one, with Cebulski only finally passing off the responsibilities of his previous job at the company during an international trip the week before the annual Comic-Con. "Working with the team, being in the office day-to-day in the grind and making comics is what I was born to do and what I love doing, and I couldn't be happier doing it," he said. "Before I became Editor-in-Chief, I was the head of Marvel Asia, and after I became Editor-in-Chief, there were connections I had and deals in place that I had to see through and pass on to the next wave of people who are taking over. This was the last trip over to make sure everything was settled, finish up a Chinese talent search that we were on and finalize a couple of manga deals we've been working on."
Now that his focus is entirely on the American publishing line, the first priority as been reestablishing the X-Men's prominence in Marvel Comics. "X-Men for me is the book that I started with. It's where my heart is. I'm an X-Men guy through and through – no offense to the Avengers or Fantastic Four fans. I love everybody. But X-Men is the book that spoke to me the most when I was a younger reader and the characters I have the most affinity for. And Jonathan is the same way. When I came back and he came in with this crazy idea, it wasn't just this 'Hey, here are these 12 issues I want to do to kind of reimagine the X-Men.' It was 'Here is a plan I have that could go a minimum of three years, for as long as we need it to go based on how things do.' That's the kind of thinking that Jonathan's always had and that he's had success with, and I knew it was the kind of thinking we needed to apply to the X-Men.
"And the thing about the Powers of X and House of X [stuff] is that there's been a lot of terms thrown out about it. 'It's a reboot! It's a relaunch! It's a rebranding!' It's really none of that," Cebulski explained. "We don't really do that. Everything that happened in X-Men up to Matt Rosenberg's Uncanny X-Men #22 was a part of this plan. We've been building this for two years with the writers. Everybody knew where this was going and that their tenures were going to end and that they were contributing to this story that Jonathan was telling – putting the pieces in place that were going to be needed. So what happened in Matt's #22 is going to directly influence what Jonathan has planned. That's what people don't understand."
"And Jonathan has said in interviews, he's building on everything that came before. From what Stan [Lee] to what [Dave] Cockrum did to what [Chris] Claremont and [John] Byrne did to what Jim Lee and Joe Mad did. Everything is still there. Everything still happened. This is taking it to that next level. What's the next evolution of the X-Men? We've been through all these different things – feared and hated and whatnot. Jonathan is saying 'What's that next step?' which is the futurism. It's going to really blow people's minds with not just what he's doing with the X-Men as characters but with mutantdom and the X-Gene and all that science behind the X-Men as a whole."
Marvel revealed over the show weekend that in the wake of the 12-part Hickman-written storyline, a number of classic X-titles will soon relaunch. And while he didn't get into specifics, Cebulski did lay out the terms of how those books are greenlit. "We can't forget those legacy titles, because those are the bread-and-butter of what makes a part of Marvel's line that fans recognize and put their dollars forward for," he said. "In the future, there could possibly be some of those titles and also possibly some new titles. Jonathan has a very far-reaching plan, and there is a lot new stuff we're introducing we hope fans embrace. But we're never going to forget those titles fans know and love and the legacy numbering that goes along with them. They want those issues in their long boxes as continuous, and I want those issues too. We're not going to forget about that."
Stay tuned for more with CB Cebulski in the days ahead!