C.B. Cebulski, the Man Behind Marvel, Shares His Origin Story at SDCC with Skottie Young

Words and Photos courtesy of Bleeding Cool’s Marcos Salinas:

Panel room 6A had a very static audience in the turnover from one panel run by C.B. Cebulski to another. The enthusiasm for the most recent Editor-in-Chief for Marvel comics had restrained many to their seats for the chance to hear more from him. Though the previous panel had been one of many new things (see the Shuri preview and the new Fantastic Four villain reveal) was a panel where people could find out more of the past of the head of Marvel. Moderated by brilliant artist and very good friend of C.B. Cebulski, Skottie Young, this one was full of laughs and love for comics.

Before they took questions, they took the time to illustrate their story and how they got to the positions they’ve found themselves in. It was a long but fascinating tale that played out like the dreams of any kid that grew up before the era of the internet. After going over their thoughts, we’ve captured the fateful days as they remember them.

They didn’t need any kind of gimmicks or displays, their charisma was enough.

Humble Origin Stories: C.B Cebulski

C.B. hated getting his hair cut — hated it to the point of tears every time. At Al’s Barbershop in Fairfield, Connecticut, C.B. would always bawl at the barber’s blades. One day a notion was struck: “keep him occupied.” And around the corner, at a still-existent five and dime, a comic was bought for the first time. Soon enough, the young EIC-to-be found himself loving the barber’s because it meant that he would get a new book every time.

As he grew he started to gain more from his favorite hobby. Chris Claremont books, such as X-Men #121 with Alpha Flight, were instrumental to developing his love of words and linguistic skills. Though with everything he was digesting, there was still a disconnect between the action on the page and the people who created them. That all changed once his dad called him in from his action-packed galactic adventures with his Star Wars toys to show him a certain person on the news.

“Why should I care about this old guy on the screen?” complained the young padawan.

“That’s George Lucas, he made Star Wars.” Said his father.

“… People make these things?” That moment shaped the rest of his life. From then on, he knew that he HAD to be in entertainment. Little did he know he would find his home in his loved epicenter of entertainment, Disney — right next to his other two passions, Marvel and Star Wars.

Avengers vs. X-Men Marvel Babies variant cover by Skottie Young
Avengers vs. X-Men Marvel Babies variant cover by Skottie Young

Skottie Young Begins; the Man Behind the Marvelous Babies

Skottie was from a small town. A single VHS store labelled ‘Small Town Video’ and a single gas station were the two lone landmarks laying on his town’s map. These were things that Skottie became very familiar with on his regular paper route, which he used to earn what he needed to partake in his playful paper, Mad Magazine.

Skottie would devour every form of sequential art that he could find. Sergio AragonesJack Davis, and Don Martin were the artists that developed his love of drawing. Spending his Christmases and beyond copying transformers out of the Christmas Catalogues that his family got, Skottie built up a repertoire of art talents using any means necessary. Though he spent hours working on his craft, he did it out of love; he didn’t realize that there was any way to make it a career.

Finally, Skottie found himself face to face with a Daredevil issue. It was a confounding affair — Typhoid Mary was engaging the crimson crusader, and our dear reader had no grasp on the history that had led to this point. His first memories of getting fully immersed in the world of comics came with Image comics massive releases — all #1s! There was no way to be adrift on a sea of continuity now! Though even with that advantage to the house of Image, he still gravitated towards that big M, looking to be involved in the greater Marvel world. When he finally got to the point of wanting to select colleges to go into an artistic field, he saw the Joe Kubrick School.

“Well, if there’s a college that teaches you comics, that’s sure to be my job.”

Skottie did not receive a degree from the Joe Kubrick School of Art. Regardless, he sought his fortune, and soon the two men would find their paths intertwined.

Variant cover Spider-Man books were given out to the whole crowd ahead of the print date.

Ultimate Crossover Event

C.B. Cebulski tried his damnedest to get into the industry, taking classes and working hard. And even after going to a few classes and pushing out art of his favorite hero, Cyclops, he was rewarded with: “Yeah, you’re not good enough to be an artist.”

He then got his apprentice license, and after working through high school and spending some time abroad in Japan, he worked at Central Park Media. It was while working with their comics/Manga/Manwha division that he would engineer new ideas like Variant covers in order to really diversify and expand their brand. After he left thereon a vast array of projects for various comics companies using his familiarity with Japanese manga, all the while further ingraining himself into Marvel. Though there were stumbling blocks, he made it into the company.

Skottie had left the “cornfield” where he lived, escaping the “children of the corn” who lived there and moved out. Working at a costumed restaurant and capering while serving was what his life was like. Is life took a fateful turn when he brought out his portfolio to a Wizard World Chicago. When he had stepped away for a bit, someone had left their card — it was C.B. during his freelance years, looking for new talent and projects.

Iceman vol. 2 #1 cover by Karl Kerschl
Iceman vol. 2 #1 cover by Karl Kerschl

After some deliberation, C.B. finally was able to call Skottie and give him the green light for his new projects. To his mind, he knew that people in Marvel, DC, and Image were rich, so that meant he was totally going to be rich too! He then told every nonplussed customer within earshot that he was going to be working in comics and be “totally rich.”

Finally, the time had come. C.B. was working on Iceman with Dan Abnett when suddenly the artist, Karl Kerschl, said he couldn’t do #3. When everyone was throwing up their hands wondering what to do, C.B. took the initiative and asked, “Can you turn this around in less than a month?”

“Sure.” Mind you, Skottie had a portfolio of pinups — no sequential art pages.

There were a lot of late nights sitting on milk crates, Skottie drawing, his friend from Boston staying there inking, and his girlfriend (now wife) taking both of their loads of shifts in order to make ends meet. Finally when the project was done, he turned it in and got a check for $4000. To him it could have been 4 million. After wide-eyed thoughts of travel and a few imported Japanese Gorillaz albums, the money went dry. No one gets into the business to be rich after all.

Days of past to the future

Through this and more they became good friends, and it started to become apparent that editing and managing the writing aspect was not the job for C.B. Still, he edited for Marvel for years, even with a brief sabbatical. Finally it all came to a head when Joe Quesada called him in and said:

“Look man, you’re a terrible editor, but you bring in more talent. You have a better eye for talent than anyone I’ve ever seen. I want you to be the guy that walks into the room, and all the artists want to talk to you because they know you can get them a job.”

The Talent management department he created afterwards exploded. Not only to hire new artists, but to help manage them and help them when they hit trouble spots. The Marvel brand was more of a family than it had ever been.

Skottie was starting to flourish with his sudden rise in cover designs and other projects. Eventually, though, he knew he had to do his own thing. He announced his own creator-owned project, I Hate Fairyland, at Image. It was painful spreading his wings at first, but it was like going off to college. Even though he was leaving, his bed and stuff were still going to be there waiting for him if he wanted to stop back in.

With the Disney acquisition, C.B. suddenly found himself running all over the world. The Marvel movies were on the rise, and other countries were beginning to grow more comfortable with the big M being sent abroad, pushed by the house of Mouse. Skottie started showing others that Marvel was everywhere. It wasn’t just movies — there were books, there were toys. No matter what you wanted, Marvel could meet your needs. “Once you leave the movies, 365/24/7 there is always Marvel for you.”

Loving the world of the Avengers and more was his life, and after years of working internationally, The day had finally come. C.B got a phone call that put him at the top of Marvel, able to work with the people he likes and, most importantly, craft a home for the creators.

Skottie’s style has become a standard of variant covers. His work has graced hundreds at this point.

Questions, Questions, Questions

It was time for the Q&A period.

To C.B.: What is your favorite Stan Lee story?

The first time he met Stan, he was just a fan that grew up with Stan and didn’t suspect he would meet him in a Carney’s in Los Angeles. “Can I have a chili burger and beer, please?” was what he heard behind him in that familiar cadence. C.B. went white and he asked, “Oh my god, is that Stan Lee?” His wife responded, “Yeah, Stan Lee is right behind you.” He waited there until Stan finished his lunch, remarking on his “stalkerish” vibes.

“Excuse me… Mr. Lee,” said the fanboy.

“Call me Stan!” Said the legend.

They exchanged words, took a photo together, and all throughout the legendary man with the moustache was very gracious with this overwhelmed stranger.

To both: What is your advice to the next generation?

Skottie: “Make comics. Sit down, write ‘em, draw ‘em, make anything you can. The good thing right now is that it’s super cool. Back then we had to find things — we had to find those people who like what we do. Do webcomics, put it online.” Most importantly, “Make the comics, fall in love with the process. It is an absolutely Herculean task, so you have to make sure that you love it.”

C.B.: “Buy a good mattress. Comics are 24/7, and comics will wear you out. Make sure you have a good chair. Study storytelling before style; it is a fine line between imitation and inspiration.”

To C.B.: For writers, what’s the next step after you publish a book?

“First off, good luck — keep producing those comics. For writers it takes a little longer because you have to put down a script you have to put down a book. A lot of the hiring that happens for writers comes from word of mouth; artists are the ones who vouch for the writers.”

To Skottie: How did the cartoon-type style become his thing?

I Hate Fairyland #1 cover by Skottie Young
I Hate Fairyland #1 cover by Skottie Young

Skottie says it’s an interesting story for how he came up with the style. It really was as simple as a variant cover when he did the X-Babies miniseries. George suggested that Skottie do X-Babies, as he did badge art for a comic convention. He said, Avengers vs X-Men, and do the Marvel babies. As for variant covers, even with 300 under his belt, he still sees it as his side hustle.

To C.B.: Has Disney had any say over Marvel?

C.B. says no — nothing of the sort. Disney has been nothing but an original partner. They had fears that everyone else did — but Joe Quesada and others argued that they would maintain creative control. Disney has been very supportive. Disney has taken comics and characters and put them into that global machine. At the core, the creative center is comics.

To both: Favorite Marvel character?

Skottie: “Chamber.”

C.B.: “Dani Moonstar.”

One of the most important metaphors that came up several times through the chat was this:

Breaking into comics is like breaking out of prison. It’s very easy to get in or out, but it’s staying out of prison that’s the hard part.

Despite his lofty position, he’s just a loveable comics nerd too!

About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.