Marvel-ous Asia
POGI FROM A PARALLEL UNIVERSE - RJ Ledesma (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2016 - 12:00am

He may no longer be web-slinging across New York City, but CB Cebulski — VP of International Business Development and Brand Marketing for Marvel Comics — has packed up his web shooters and begun spinning his threads across a new base of operations: Shanghai, China.

What is CB’s superheroic mission on this side of the globe? To support the mutant growth of the Marvel Comics brand across Asia. “Compared to the other countries in the Asian region, the Philippine (fans) know that Marvel heroes started out with the comics. But in the other territories, they know the Marvel films first. Our job is to reverse-engineer the Marvel brand!” notes Cebulski.

“You like Captain America and Iron Man? You don’t just have to go to Uniqlo to buy a T-shirt to express your love of Marvel; you can read the comics, watch cartoons, play the video games or use other platforms to express your love of Marvel!”

Yes, Cebulski wants all of your payday money. He was recently in town for Marvel Creative Day Out held UP, a series of talks revolving around comics, fine arts, storytelling and — what else — Marvel Superheroes.

CB found time between doing battle with Thanos and stopping Ragnarok to share with us Marvel’s upcoming plans for its movies, television shows, theme park rides and Star Wars tie-ups.

RJ LEDESMA: The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has just entered phase three. On the horizon, you’ve got Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther over the next two years. Do you have any spoilers you can share with us that will make Marvel fans soil their Avengers underwear?

CB CEBULSKI: We’re being pretty secretive about all this for a reason, and all will be revealed when Dr. Strange (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) comes out. It’s just like how the individual superhero movies built into The Avengers and (the succeeding films) built into Civil War.

Are you concerned that Dr. Strange isn’t as popular a superhero except among diehard comic book fans?

People thought we were crazy when we made Iron Man because (they thought) he was a C-list character. But it worked, with the right casting, right director, right story and right heart! There’s magic at work in Marvel and Kevin Feige (president of Marvel Studios) has it. From casting Benedict Cumberbach in the role of Stephen Strange to the new Matrix/Inception-level visual effects, it’s going to be mind-blowing. The movie is an origin story with the Marvel humanity and heart that leads him into a larger part of the MCU story going forward. Each movie is going to lead to the other.

Is there any upcoming movie in particular that has made your fanboy hear palpitate with glee?

Firstly, I’m excited about Black Panther. I thought Chadwick Boseman inherited that role in Captain America: Civil War. He was just outstanding, from his accent to the way he was catlike in his movements. I think in his solo movie it will be phenomenal! Second, I’m extremely excited for Captain Marvel! This will be our first female superhero movie and it is a big step for us. On top of that, the fact that we were able to sign up Academy Award winner Brie Larson for the role says a lot. Kevin sees talent before there is talent: Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Sebastian Shaw as the Winter Soldier and even Chris Hemsworth as Thor. But our history of Academy Award winners is amazing as well, like Anthony Hopkins and Cate Blanchett. But they’ve always played supporting characters. Now, we have an Academy Award winner in the lead role of a Marvel movie. That’s phenomenal!

How do you decide which characters deserve cinematic treatment? Do you choose based on which comic book character Stan Lee would like to do a cameo in?

We really don’t decide. Don’t forget that the Marvel Universe is a collection of over 8,000 different characters. We’re focused on what’s going to be best for the brand, and that’s usually what is best for the fans. We let the fans speak about what they want. Marvel Universe is “the world outside your window.” When we look out that window, we look at what’s popular in social media because we are always a reflection of the real world. Then we decide which are the best characters to tell a story at that time.  There’s never a character that gets neglected. We might not seem to be using them at the moment, but they will come around.  For example, in the late 2000s, I visited the Marvel Studios office and the big thing at that time was Namor (The Sub-Mariner). There was Namor art everywhere and they were casting for the movie. It was going to be Star Wars underwater! And everyone was excited but it just kind of fell apart. It’s just one of those things. There are peaks and valleys for every character, but they are all part of this big tapestry of a universe. Namor might not be on top right now but he will rise in the future.

I saw what you did there. On the small screen, Ghost Rider is now joining the Agents of Shield show. Will we see any more established Marvel characters popping up on that show?

I don’t want to give too much away. (Laughs) But we’ve announced that a Cloak and Dagger series will come out on Freeform (a cable channel owned by ABC) and we will be launching Runaways — a series dear to my heart because I was the editor on those books — on Hulu (a subscription video-on-demand service partly owned by Disney).

It’s great to see the emergence of a lot of “second-tier” characters on your TV and cable shows. I’ve also been following Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix. Will we also see “guest appearances” from characters in the MCU on those Netflix shows?

The Netflix shows are still part of the Marvel Universe. But unlike Agents of Shield where Sif (from Thor) and Nick Fury from the movies appeared on the show, these shows will just have strong ties to the MCU (as indicated in dialogue, like the mention of the Chitauri invasion in Avengers). Right now there are no plans for the characters to mingle.

I actually like how you are building your own corner of the MCU with the street-level heroes having their own shows like Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Defenders.

Each Netflix series will build on the previous one and connect to a larger picture. We have Luke, Iron Fist and we just announced the second season of The Punisher. We’re also building towards the Defenders (a team that brings together all the street-level heroes). You’ll be hearing more news soon.

Will we be seeing more Marvel Comic book tie-ins of Episodes VII, VIII and Rogue One for Star Wars?

Right now we are playing in the Episode IV: The New Hope universe. There’s a lot more we want to do with the Star Wars Universe. We have some announcements that will make fans very happy but we can’t speak about it right now. Our partner Lucasfilms has got a lot of amazing plans for the Star Wars publishing endeavors in print and digital, and (our comic books) are a part of that.

Finally, I understand we will get to channel our inner Marvel superhero at the Disney theme parks?

Yes, we recently announced the Iron Man experience opening in Hong Kong Disneyland and Guardians of the Galaxy at Disneyland Los Angeles!

I am Groot!

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