The Strange Case Of Akira Yoshida, Marvel Comics And The West Wing
Once upon a time, Akira Yoshida was a comic book writer for Marvel who appeared to come from nowhere. For Marvel, in around 2004 and 2005, he wrote a number of mini-series Thor: Son Of Asgard, X-Men: Age Of Apocalypse, Elektra: The Hand, Wolverine: Soultaker, X-Men: Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame, X-Men: Fantastic Four, and for Dark Horse he wrote Conan and the Demons of Khitai – with covers by his artist on X-Men: Fantastic Four, Pat Lee.
And then, as soon as he appeared, he vanished. There was never a publicity photo of him. He never attended any panels. Any interviews with him were done remotely. He was meant to have been a writer working with a Japanese comics publisher, who through them met Pat Lee and Dreamwave, wrote a Hellboy story and then was able to pitch to Marvel, when he was warmly received. But after those comic books above concluded, he was never heard of in the comics industry again.
At the time there were rumours, repeated, that he simply didn't exist. That he was a pseudonym created by someone working in Marvel editorial as a way to write comic books, when Marvel's new policy forbid editors from writing comic books for the publisher, something once common and often criticised. Indeed, if such a thing happened and the editor was caught, they would be fired.
At the time I didn't run the story, because senior figures at Marvel assured me that he did exist and they had met him. But I have spoken to people who, in interviews, Akira Yoshida claimed to have pitched to, who bought his stories and published them at Marvel. And they told me they never spoke to Akira, and never bought his pitches. I always felt that something was weird, something was up, but I couldn't be sure exactly what.
13 years later, Gregg Schiegel, who used to be assistant editor working with Tom Brevoort, has written and recorded a short story.
The meat of it kicks off about 07.45 in. Wittily entitled The Names Have Been Changed, it tells the story of a comic book publisher called Capital Comics staffed with character names cribbed from The West Wing. It is clearly Marvel Comics, Akira Yoshida has been renamed and recreated as Roberto Mendoza from the Philippines. Bill Jemas is Glen Allen Walken, Joe Quesada is Jed Bartlett. And CB Cebulski is CJ Cregg- probably the CB/CJ similarity is where Gregg's West Wing analogue naming began.
Oh and I'm in it too, reimagined as Bruno Gianelli. And I can confirm that yes, I did investigate this back in the day but couldn't get far enough.
And the story alleged that CJ Cregg was Roberto Mendoza. Or, rather, CB Cebulski was Akira Yoshida, an invention to get writing work at Marvel while still an editor, and a number of people were in on it.
It also talks about a move called "Six Gun" with editors planning to leave Marvel with creators and set up a company to package comics for other publishers, including DC Comics – sorry, District Comics. But it never came to pass. It may be worth knowing that at the time Marvel had a talent promotion called Young Guns, that Akira Yoshida was a part of.
However, and I cannot stress it firmly enough, I revisited old people to see if time had changed people's take on events. And to a man, I had it confirmed by those in high position that, yes, Akira was real, that, yes, they had met him and no, he wasn't invented. People whose word I trust. And the fact that he stopped writing for comics at Marvel… happens. To many. This is not unusual.
Except… the dramatic version of events is coming from a former Marvel employee, who was close to the action. Albeit rewritten.
So again, I can't dismiss the assurances I have been given. But damn it if I still don't think something is still up. You go listen… before he takes it down. You can make donations for more, right here. And read more from Gregg, here.
You know, Aaron Sorkin said he was in talks with Capital Comics and District Comics, didn't he?
ERRATA: The piece originally hads the Conan story by Pat Lee, it was drawn by Paul Lee, Pat just created the covers.
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