As everyone has probably already heard (just scroll down the page), Rob Granito is a plagiarizing conman. He claimed to have done work for DC and Marvel, been the secret hand behind Brian Stelfreeze and, hilariously, to have worked on Calvin and Hobbes, and sold direct copies of other people’s work with a few scribbles on top for hundreds of dollars. Not the usual pose tracing for a different use or character, but direct copies, with perhaps an arm moved slightly. And he did it for years.
Artists known to have been plagiarized includes Jan Duursema, Tim Sale, Bruce Timm, Mark Bagley and Ivan Reis among others. As a response to this, the website Legit-o-mite.com has been started as a clearinghouse for evidence of direct plagiarism and fraud like this, on the part of Granito or any other artist.
There are many, many conmen in the world and one more shouldn’t be a surprise, but on some level, he is. The reason artists and fans feel such a deep level of anger and betrayal over his actions is the very same reason he was able to operate for so long – in many ways, the comics industry and fandom is genuinely a community, one that has built up a certain level of trust and goodwill. Yes, there’s a certain amount of static between publishers and creators, between creators and fans, between fans and… well, everyone, but at the heart of it, when you walk down artist’s alley, there’s a feeling that we’re all in it together. That if someone has a booth and tells you he’s an artist, he’s a fellow and a brother, a member of the club, even if he has fudged his resume a little or traced a pose or two. A genuine, verified plagiarist and blatant fraud, one who ripped off thousands of dollars from fans and by extension the original artists over the course of his career, is a punch in the gut.
And Granito’s career has proven that fans and creators aren’t the only ones to take things on trust – surprisingly, comic book conventions have a similarly rosy view of humanity. An official announced and advertised guest at Wizard World Austin, Miami, Toronto and New Orleans, not to mention MegaCon 2011, as well as such smaller cons as Animation Supercon 2009, Intervention 2010, Florida Comic Con 2007, one can only assume that no one bothered to google any of the projects he claimed to have worked on. His Wizard World convention bio – now taken down, but here for your viewing pleasure thanks to Google Cache – claims “his most recent projects is Calvin & Hobbes” and that he “is currently working on a Batman story arch” [sic]. How did someone so blatant and downright incompetent slip through the cracks?
Although his plagiarism had been caught by individual fans and artists as early as 2006, the word didn’t spread. The comics world is notably lacking in organized defenses against people like Granito. If they don’t catch the eye of an angry publisher – and he wouldn’t, he never published anything, he simply sold “original” art – a lawsuit is never going to happen, few comics creators or cons could afford it. The only way to get him or people like him was what eventually happened, to call them out, to name and shame. If you think you’ve caught a fraud, don’t just tell your closest friends, don’t be too polite to name names, don’t think that nobody cares. Find proof, tell the comic cons, tell the artists, spread the word as far and fast as you can. Don’t let the next person get hurt the same way. It may be frontier justice, but it’s the only justice we have.