On Thursday, March 24, Bleeding Cool published an article asking Who On Earth Is Rob Granito? The All Things Geeky comic book blog posted a piece asking that very question the same day. Who is Rob Granito, indeed, and why all the seemingly sudden kerfuffle?
According to his website, Rob Granito is an “internationally known artist and illustrator, [who] has worked for over 15 years… for companies such as Warner Brothers, DC and Marvel Comics, Disney, MTV, and VH1, where he has worked on comics, graphic novels, trading cards, animation, as well as book, CD, magazine, and novel covers. Rob’s recent work has been on Iron Man 2 for Marvel, Spider-man Archives and X-Men for Upper Deck…. Rob’s past work includes cel work on the Animated Batman Superman Adventures, X-Men and Spider-man to name a few.”
Granito boasts that he’s internationally known, but for someone with a 15-year career that includes work completed for powerhouses such as Marvel, DC, and Warner Bros., on such high profile projects, his name doesn’t seem to resonate with many people. Those who do recognize it only seem to have questions about Granito, Granito’s curriculum vitae, and the work he claims as his own, even as he is at a table at MegaCon, selling this work.
In fact, Rich Johnston’s exposé for Bleeding Cool included an exchange between Johnston and Granito wherein Johnston attempted to fact check Granito’s vague credits, including work with a big writer, according to Granito, at DC Comics named Jay Diddilo (DC knows of no such person). Johnston also quickly recognized covers and art Granito claimed as his when Johnston pressed him for specifics as the work of other artists, most notable among them Brian Stelfreeze’s Shadow of the Bat covers, issues 12 to 25.
Author and Akira art-enthusiast and collector Joe Peacock, who first met Granito at DragonCon in 2008, offered his perspective on Granito yesterday in his own blog. Peacock agreed to answer a few questions for Non-Productive.
Is it accurate to describe you as a well-versed comic book fan whose role has expanded because of the Art of Akira Exhibit that is currently on international tour? Or are you in the industry in any capacity (editor, artist, writer)?
The first. I’m a published author (under Penguin/Gotham) and journalist for AOLNews, but I’m not a comics pro at all, just a huge comic and anime fan with a touring Akira art collection.
Rob Granito’s career, according to the bio on his website, is 15 years long. To your knowledge, how long ago did he first start turning up at conventions and selling art he claims to have drawn himself?
The first time I met him was in 2008, but working pros have stories reaching back to at least 2006. Reference the BigFanboy.com podcast where Cat Staggs tells the story of catching a fake of his in 2006.
When did you meet him and where? How long have you been friendly?
I met him in 2008 at DragonCon. We were friendly until this weekend, but I haven’t talked to him in any real capacity since January, when his website launched. The launch was very strained and there were a number of questions about the things he was asking me to put on the site, and when I questioned them, he was very dismissive and insistent things go up how he wrote them (which were RIFE with typos and misspellings). So I put some distance between us, but was friendly when he called. Until then, though, we spoke regularly, about every other month or so, and hung out at a few conventions we were both at. He angled his way into a few Akira exhibit appearances I was doing based on the prints and paintings he did for me, which is part of his deal–he gives you something, and then takes everything he can get based on that goodwill
Had you ever heard about him prior to meeting him the first time?
Nope, not ever. And when I got to know him, he represented himself as a heavy duty “behind the scenes” guy–a ghost artist; an uncredited cel artist on WB animations, and so on. Not being a pro and only having met some of the industry guys, I had no way to check his stories out, but why would I? Who lies about that?
Did his credentials and claims sound legitimate when he shared them with you? Why?
Yeah, because in the writing world and software worlds (both worlds I have a career in), uncredited “ghost” work happens all the time. I’ve done some, both on books/articles for bigger name “celebrities” and software development for clients who hire in firms that just can’t handle the work. I think almost every industry has some form of this type of professional, who works behind the scenes and gets stuff done on deadlines. And then, there’s the fact that he’s in a convention, in the same room as working pros–as a fan on the outside looking in, the thought is why wouldn’t he be a pro? He’s in the room.
At what point did people start approaching you about him negatively? What did they say?
Honestly, it was all non-verbal queues and whispers, until Ed Piskor walked out of the ToonSeum show while Rob was talking. That was my first clue that something wasn’t cool. But it wasn’t until some pros in Atlanta heard me talking to him on the phone about his website that they pulled me aside to say “Hey, that guy is a bit of a phony and has a bad reputation.” And even then, it was said with kid gloves on, because I think above all else, no one want’s to hurt feelings or just blanket rip into someone that someone else considers a friend. And I don’t think anyone truly knew the extent of the fraud he was perpetrating, with the copying and cloning.
Are they in the industry? Established? How long?
Yes, they are in the industry, very established, and between 5 and 10 years.
What did they base their comments about Granito on?
Looking at his art, hearing stories from others at cons, and having heard exactly nothing about the guy from any industry pros besides “have you heard of this guy?” The industry is INSANELY small–everyone talks, everyone knows everyone else. I didn’t realize how small until I got to know some of the guys in it. Advice to anyone attempting to be another Granito in the future–you WILL be found out.
You became suspicious of Rob Granito’s credits and credentials and described them as vague according to your blog post detailing your experience with him. Had you ever become suspicious of him or his claims prior to working on his website? Did you think back to the negative things people were saying about him?
I thought maybe he embellished some of his stories, but who doesn’t? He’s a very brash, but jovial, guy. Everything’s amped up a level when he talks. He’s very enthusiastic about everything. It comes across as genuine, because it’s consistent–it’s in every story, every time you meet him. As far as suspecting him, I don’t know that I suspected he was lying per se right away, but I was very put off by the ambiguity of the credits he was mentioning. I had never seen a piece of his for the President of the United States, or the Marine Corps, but he had shown me these “in progress” pieces based on Calvin & Hobbes he claimed was for the USPS’s cancellation stamps, oversized paintings via cellphone photo. I was actually really proud of him when he told me he got that gig, because I’m a HUGE C&H fan and know that Watterson has never once licensed anything outside of the strip, except for the one calendar (1987, I think?). So I thought the fact that the USPS would bring him in to do that was a huge feather in his cap. But on his site, he specifically wanted it credited “Calvin & Hobbes” without any mention of a cancellation stamp.
Did you start noticing other artists’ work in work he claimed as his own at any point during the course of your interaction with him?
Yes, most definitely–but this is where things differ between fans and artists. Artists see ripoffs like that and say “ripoff.” But the fans, they actually get excited when it looks just like a Perez or Adams or Buzz piece, because “Dude, you totally nailed it! It looks JUST like his piece! Perfect!” and it’s not meant to steal from or hurt in any way the original artist, it’s actually supposed to be a compliment. “I like this artist so much, look what I bought from this guy who can do his style!” I know it’s hard to understand, but I think everyone has had this sort of moment. You want something you love hanging on your wall, and that’s really as far as your brain goes when thinking about it.
The shame of it is, as an animation cel collector, I would NEVER EVER entertain buying a forged or “inspired” animation cel, because that to me would be theft. But when Granito did the Tetsuo and Yamagata paintings based on the manga, my fan brain went “WOW! those are beautiful paintings!” Maybe it’s the dichotomy between mediums (comic book page vs. “painting”) but there really were no alarm bells right away. It was only when I started realizing how the art market in the comic book world works that I started getting leery. Knowing now how much the artists depend on selling their prints and original art to keep the income going, I see now how people like Granito infringe on that. It’s not because Granito is doing the characters these guys work on, it’s because he quite literally robs that artist of the opportunity to make some money on their own work, by stealing the exact work and selling it to unsuspecting fans.
One of the anonymous posters responding to the All Things Geeky blog alleging Rob Granito is a fraud claims that Rich Johnston [of Bleeding Cool] bears a grudge against Granito and suggests this is nothing but a smear campaign. What are your thoughts on this claim?
Fucking bullshit, the guy is a chancer and a fraud. I’ve known him for 3 years now, and he refuses to return any phone calls or emails. Here I am, the one guy who might actually be able to salvage his reputation if he really is on the up-and-up–I’ve gotten to know some really cool and really important guys in the animation and comic world, and if he were really legit, and we were really friends, I’d think he’d answer my call and say “Dude, you have to help me here.” But he knows he’s caught. He’s only showing up at MegaCon this weekend as a big fuck you to everyone, because he honestly has no idea how the internet really works. I’m not trying to insult him here, he is so technophobic–he honestly thinks this is a bunch of whiny children in their mothers’ basements all trying to make him look bad. He doesn’t realize, the pros themselves are the ones yelling on forums. The industry is pissed at this guy, and for good reason. He’s thumbing his nose at them, by stealing credit for others’ hard work, and continuing to show up after being exposed. After Ethan [Van Sciver, a respected artist] called him out yesterday, you’d think he’d crawl under a rock and never come out, but from what I hear and have seen on Facebook and on blogs, he’s actually in attendance again today. It’s insane.
How has this entire experience affected the way you view the comic book industry and people within that industry, especially as it regards new and independent artists trying to break into it?
Yes, very much, and in a VERY positive way. For working artists to actually want me to talk about this situation, then rally around me and say “Dude, don’t beat yourself up, you didn’t know”–they could have just tossed me out with the dishwater, you know? I’ve been working for years to build my Art of Akira Exhibit, and once some of these pros found out I was doing it, they spread the word and were REALLY helpful with helping me build contacts and get it to more places. Every pro I’ve met so far has been super cool to me, and the vibe I get from all of them is that, if an indie artist or new artist wants in and is legitimately interested in working, not just using them, they’ll give them advice all day long and help them as much as they can. But at the end of the day, these guys gotta work, and that goes for both their time AND their ability to sell their work. If you’re out there spreading their name around badly, or pretending to have associations you don’t, or trading on their name, that hurts them. Don’t do that, and they’ll be your best friend.
What advice do you offer others who are in your position and the position you were in when you first met Rob Granito?
It’s hard to answer this, because until now, I always considered myself this amazing “bullshit detector.” I’ve met so many fakes, chancers, charlatans and phonies in the writing and software/web world, and they all ring fake and false. But Rob’s one of two actual sociopaths I’ve met in my life, and I was taken in by both of them (the other one was a business partner a few years ago who ended up taking me for a LOT of money on a production). And that’s the thing–a real sociopath? There’s no real protection against their charms. The only way to sniff them out is to ask other people, and it’s something that I personally don’t think about doing every time I meet someone new. It doesn’t occur to me that I have to go out and check the resumes of everyone I ever meet–for most people, taking them at their word is enough and we can move on to having drinks and being friends. So the only advice I really have is save your money for actual original art from actual original artists–you’ll get a better piece and help a person who really deserves it at the same time.
Rob Granito identifies Jay Diddilo as one of the “big writer[s]” at DC Comics. Had he ever mentioned this person to you during the course of your interaction with him?
Not even once. He actually never namedropped with me, except when he was telling “This guy is a fucking asshole” stories about Neal Adams or George Perez or other long-standing industry pros. He always mentioned people by title. “I just talked to a producer at WB” or “an editor at DC.” As you can tell by his obvious butchering of Joe Quesada (John Quesdada???) and Dan DiDio (Jay Diddilo)… he’s not very good at names. But he did give me the inspiration for http://jaydiddilo.com.
Indeed Granito’s writing, as directly quoted in Johnston’s article and referenced by Peacock, is a grammarian’s worst nightmare. The errors he makes, however, are like a fingerprint. His syntax and misspellings identify him. A few of the people leaving comments on the All Things Geeky blog recognized Granito’s writing style in an anonymous poster’s comment–referenced, also, in Johnston’s since-updated article–which defended Granito. They recognized it, too, in one comment left by a “John Quesdada,” who claimed to have Joe Quesada’s job and was vouching for Granito. The comment also had grammatical errors and misspellings strikingly similar to Granito’s writing. The John Quesdada account on blogger was created this month.
Peacock has printed T-shirts bearing one of those typos–legitomite–and is donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He is giving them free to any artists whose work Granito has led others to believe is his own.
Non-Productive will be following this story as it develops.