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NYCC: C.B. Cebulski Digs Into the Past, Present & Future of Marvel

Recently appointed Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski took to the stage at New York Comic Con's Marvel Fanfare Panel on Saturday to discuss anything and everything involving the House of Ideas.

"How we doing, New York?" Cebulski asked the crowd.

"First and foremost, I am a comic book fan," he continued. "For 17 years, what has informed almost every decision I've made has been from the heart, as a Marvel fan. It's crazy being up here."

Cebulski recalled meeting Joe Quesada, who he said helped guide him on his current path as Editor-in-Chief. "This panel is modeled off of [Quesada's] Cup of Joe," he said.

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"I work with the best characters, the best creators, in this Marvel tapestry I've loved since I was kid. Everything that we do comes from a place of telling stories about these characters we know in love," Cebulski continued, noting that he fell in love with Marvel when he was six with X-Men #120. "Pretty hardcore for a six-year-old," he joked.

Cebulki then explained how picking up that issue of X-Men evolved into him establishing a pull list and going on to work in a comic book shop in college.

In the 1970s, Cebulski also fell in love with Star Wars, but his love of comics was always at the forefront.

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"I went on this path, I knew I was gonna get into comic books," he said. "I went to Japan, got into manga, brought that back with me. I thought I was gonna be a writer." However, Cebulski noted that he was rejected immediately.

Cebulski then asked the fans what got them into Marvel, with movies, animation and trading cards proving to be popular answers.

"We all find something, some character we related, some comic, some story about something we've been through," Cebulski said. "I love this stuff, but for me, it always starts at the comic books."

"Thanks to Marvel, and our parent company at Disney, we're having a lot of success," he continued. "The key to that success is we have heroes, and I don't just mean superheroes. I mean heroes, characters that are heroic. Second is heart. There's heart in the actions and motivations of our characters that people can relate to. The third thing is the humor. You can read a Marvel comic and you can laugh. You go into one of the Marvel movies, you look at Infinity War, and even though it's serious, you have 'I am Groot' and 'I am Steve.'"

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"At its core, Marvel Comics is the core that pumps to the rest of that body," Cebulski said, referring to Marvel's film, TV and toy divisions. "The things that we do, it's a completely open creative table. When we see something in the films that's amazing, we want to bring that to the comics. In X-Men 2, when Nightcrawler was in the White House? We brought that into the comics. We've taken a lot of inspiration from the films. Part of my job is to make sure we're communicating."

"The job," he continued, "is to make sure that consistency carries over. In the words of Stan Lee, 'With great power comes great responsibility.'"

Cebulski then opened up the floor for a Q&A, and a fan asked about Cebulski shaking John Byrne's hand at Fan Expo Boston, and if there was any chance of him coming back to Marvel.

"That was more of me being a fan and saying hello," Cebulski said. "We haven't really discussed anything formerly. I just wanted to let John know the opportunity for discussion is open."

Another fan asked about comic book promotion, such as giving out free books during the opening week of movies such as Captain Marvel.

"A lot of these efforts happen, but they're limited," he said. "One of the things I found [in Marvel Asia] was that I had to sort of reverse-engineer the brand. A lot of the exposure they had out there was from the movies. For them, it was just a movie universe. We find that when it is a movie that ties specifically to a comic book event, like Civil War or Infinity War, there's lots of crossover. When it's something like Black Panther, where there isn't a specific event, there isn't as much buzz."

The next question, which came from a fan who just got back into comics,, was what excites Cebulski about the future of Marvel.

"There's so much, that excites me," he said. "I don't want to just name them off, but winning readers back is huge. It's our job to identify why certain stories work and don't work. We always have to keep an open mind and think about not just the readers but the non-readers. You have to get a vibe of what's going on the real world to understand what's going to work in the comics, and if we tell stories about the real world, the readers will come. That's what I'm excited about, is how we can continue to tell these stories about the real world and keep readers coming back."

Another fan asked how Marvel weaves the variations between the films, shows and comics together, citing how the Ultron in the movies was made by Iron instead of Ant-Man.

"It's important the characters feel familiar," Cebulski said. "But sometimes, we have to make changes. Some of them come from business. We have licenses with different partners and sometimes changes are necessary for legal reasons."

A fan then asked how Marvel targets books to younger readers.

"The Marvel Adventures line started in the early 2000s," he said. "There's also an initiative we're starting with IDW called Marvel Action, with three titles. One is Avengers, one is Black Panther, and one is Spider-Man. Those are gonna be middle-grade books that are evergreen and don't necessarily reflect back on a lot of continuity. Another initiative we have is Marvel Rising."

Another fan asked how Cebulski's exposure to European comics has influenced his work as EIC.

"Marvel doesn't operate in a world that's black and white, there's always grey," he said. "But I took a lot of my inspiration from the art. I had an exposure to all different art forms, and Marvel has the most diverse artists ever. Knowing what looks good in European comics, in Japanese comics, I've never seen those boundaries. We just want to put out the best-looking comics out there."

The next question was what Cebulski looks for in up and coming creators.

"We're looking for good storytellers," Cebulski said. "Every artist is inspired by another artist. What's important is that as you grow, you're style grows. Comics are about the interiors, about the storytelling. It's the ability to move the characters from panel to panel, page to page, without having to read the word balloons to know what's going on. That's was goes into the DNA of artists. For writers, it's a little bit harder, it's about telling stories that have not been told before. So many writers want to tell stories that reflect stories they heard when they were kids, they don't want to break the toys. I want writers who feel free to break the toys, to keep things fresh, to keep things interesting."

A fan then asked about Marvel's approach to bringing in new characters.

"There are new characters created at Marvel almost every month," he said. "The key is, it cannot feel forced, and it cannot feel like you're sacrificing the legacy of the old heroes to make these new heroes feel important, they have to grow naturally. It was years before Cloak and Dagger got their own series, it was years before Rocket Raccoon, who debuted in Hulk, got a series. Now we have Miles, we have Ironheart, we have Moon Girl. It's all these amazing characters we keep introducing, but what we've done so successfully is that, while we have all these characters, we haven't forgotten about Steve Rogers or Bruce Banner."

When asked if Marvel might bring back popular animated shows such as Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Cebulski said, "If and when they're coming back, I don't know. We as fans have the power, and there's so many ways to bring them back, not just television. Next year, we're gonna have the streaming service, there's always an avenue, so while I don't know, never say never."

Another fan asked if there were any plans for Spider-Man Noir.

"Yeah, he'll be appearing in a lot of places over the months," Cebulski said. "I don't want to spoil things. In the Spider-Geddon series, he'll be appearing. Then, in other mediums, he will. Your love of the character is shared, and he will be appearing."

Finally, Cebulski teased that fans of Young Avengers will be "very happy in 2019." He also said fans should keep an eye on Conan the Barbarian, Thor (Odinson and Jane Foster), the X-Men and Captain Marvel.

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