Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski on Comics & Ramen
C.B. Cebulski may be the luckiest nerd on the planet. A recruiter for Marvel Comics, the 41-year-old travels the world scouting his well-trained eye for new comic talent. As a veteran writer and editor, Cebulski seeks out style and storytelling ability; his recruits have been responsible for titles like Young Avengers, Runaways and Marvel Fairytales. But Cebulski isn’t just on the lookout for great comics when he travels—he’s also the author of the popular Eataku Tumblr (a play on “eat” and “otaku,” the Japanese word for “obsessed”), which documents his gastronomic journeys across the globe. We caught the gregarious Cebulski during a rare day off in New York.
Do you see any connection between the food and comic worlds? They’re both creative, competitive industries, and they attract die-hard, opinionated fans. What else ties them together?
A lot of chefs are comic fans. I’ve talked to a few chefs about this, and the similarities are pretty remarkable: both chefs and comics are artistic types, maybe a bit of an outsider; they work in a very solitary job, very in your own head, and the creation aspect is the same. Whether they’re working with a pencil or a knife, the thought flows through their head and into their hands. Every chef can tell you a story about his or her food and sound just like an artist, only instead of X-Men, they’re talking about tamales.
You’ve been at Marvel on and off for 13 years. What does it mean to be a talent scout?
I travel around to schools, art shows and conferences, do portfolio reviews and speak about what it takes to become an artist for Marvel. For the artists who are good enough, I help open the door. The ones on the verge, I help work with them to bring them to the next level.
What does it take to make it as a Marvel artist?
You have to be good, fast and nice. If you have two of the three, then you have what it takes. If you have all three, you’ll have a long career. The truth is, when I’m looking for an artist, I’m looking for storytelling ability and style, which really go hand in hand. We’re visual storytellers, so we have to make sure an artist can move the characters from panel to panel. I try to read a comic without the word balloons and see if I can follow along. If I like what I see there, then I start judging on your personality and your ability to fit into Marvel family. A lot of companies do scouting online. But for me, it’s really important to meet face to face.
Your Tumblr, Eataku, tracks your eating habits across the globe. When did you start blogging?
I started Eataku about three years ago. The secret history is that it was done for my mother. She’s big into food, and she’s a great cook—our family loves getting together to eat. The more I started traveling for Marvel, the more she’d want to see pictures of the food, so I had to put them somewhere.
What kind of food did your family eat growing up?
My mom is Swedish and my dad is Polish, so I grew up with a healthy European diet. I would spend every summer in Europe—in Sweden, Finland, Belgium, France, Greece—and food was always a big part of those trips. I remember my first gyro, my first oyster, my first foie gras. In the ‘70s, my mom decided to go macrobiotic. She went to a Japanese nutritionist, and he recommended a macrobiotic diet for her health. We’d drive an hour and a half to the Fuji Market in Stamford, and my mom would put my siblings and me in the manga section while she grocery shopped. They were all black and white, in Japanese, so I thought they were coloring books. You can trace my love of comics all the way back to those trips.
So you’ve pretty much always loved comics.
I read a lot of X-Men, and authors like Chris Claremont and John Byrne were very influential to me. When I read comics I didn’t realize people could actually do that for a living. That and Star Wars blew me away. I remember watching an interview with George Lucas with my dad, and my dad told me, “That’s the guy who made Star Wars.” I thought, “Oh my god, you can do that?” I decided then and there I wanted to be the guy who told stories.
When you’re traveling for work, how do you decide where to eat?
At first, I didn’t research anything. I’d let the artist take me wherever they wanted to go. A lot of them are big eaters—so much for starving artists. But eventually I started going to all of the same places, and I wanted something new, so I started researching. Now, I rely on word-of-mouth, Google, old Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern episodes, and food magazines and newspapers. I keep notes on everything. And now, because of the blog, people invite me out to eat in other cities. A bunch of Korean college kids took me out for live octopus a few months ago. I ate it. It stuck to my lip; it was good.
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