Thanks to people who commented, and particularly to those who provided first hand evidence in regards to Rob Granito's claims. I offer an updated, revised version. I have highlighted most of the changes, and the parts of the original article I was most often misquoted on (such as "there really was a witch" which has been quoted as me claiming there was no metaphorical witch somehow?). Check out the http://legit-o-mite.com/suspects.htm page for a large list of evidence, including an amazing number of copied art examples.
The end of March, 2011 saw the comic-book fraternity asking "Who is Rob Granito?". Comic-related forums and websites became obsessed with this man. Queries quickly turned into a witch-hunt, and as is usual with witch-hunts it got a little out of hand with innocent people hurt, rash words said, false claims made, and tempers flaring. Unusually, however, there really was a witch, in the form of an artist passing himself off as much more accomplished in the comic-book field than he actually was.
Another unusual aspect of all this was the ability to watch events unfold from half a world away in almost real time. A ring-side seat via forums and Youtube as a man was outed as a fraud, confronted face-to-face, ridiculed, and pilloried for all of comic fandom to see.
Rob Granito is an artist. He has sold a number of drawings and paintings, and he has worked on a few comic book and illustrative projects. He started appearing on the comic-book convention scene before 2006, and quickly made a name for himself, becoming a named and promoted guest artist at a number of conventions from 2008 on.
As a guest of honor Rob Granito was given space to exhibit and sell his original work at these conventions. This is a privilege that many aspire to, but few receive. Most artists have to pay money to the convention to get space to show and perhaps sell their work, and they are geographically separated from the invited guest artists who get the prime real estate in the convention hall known as Artist's Alley.
But there are some problems with how Granito gained his self-acknowledged international status as an artist. Much of his artwork appears to have been 'heavily influenced' by others, to put it mildly. Many haven't put things so mildly, and have directly called him a fraud and plagiarist.
Take at look at Rob Granito's own website (www.robgranito.com) and you start to see the problem. The first title listed under his published credits is the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. The much beloved strip finished its run in 1995, and was entirely drawn by Bill Watterson. Listing this strip in a resume if your name isn't Bill Watterson is a very stupid thing to do. It's obviously false. But here's the thing, Rob Granito has drawn Calvin and Hobbes on commission for his local Post Office at Kiamesha Lakes, New York.
Rob Granito's Calvin and Hobbes cancellation stamp.
There's even a photo circulated online of Mr Granito posing with his paintings of Calvin and Hobbes, which are nice reverse copies of Watterson paintings. Very close copies, but still different from the originals. However, painting your own Calvin and Hobbes picture which is then used as a cancellation stamp by a local Post Office is a large step away from claiming to have worked on the strip, which is implied by the website, and explicitly stated by Granito in a number of convention guest bios; "His most current projects have been the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes." (http://www.wizardworld.com/robgranito.html).
Some of the publications listed on Granito's website and various convention bios are legitimate, or Legit-o-mite, to use a misspelling coined by Granito when using an online alias to attempt to defend himself. The term has since taken on a life of its own, and you can buy Legit-o-mite t-shirts online. Granito did draw some covers and t-shirt designs for Murphy's Lore, a series of stories by Patrick Thomas from Padwolf Publishing.
Granito was the colorist for I of the Wolf, written by Neil Kaplan. The website iofthewolf.com shows the process of how the comic is created, including the adding of colours by Mr Granito, which he does with some talent.
Granito is listed as an artist on Dustin Warburton's (Author/Screenwriter/Filmmaker) website. Warburton wrote the story for the film Spiders 3D, and has some acclaimed children's books published. Granito is listed as the artist for one of Warburton's children's books "How to Scare Kids", but while this is given as a published work (2011) on some websites, including Warburton's wikipedia page, there was no listing for the book on Amazon or elsewhere (possibly the book is in the process of being published rather than having been published?).
Granito's listed magazine credits also appear legit-o-mite, and he does seem to have been commissioned by the White House to do a painting of some kind, which may at first glance seem to be an outrageous claim (certainly many online commentators thought so) but is very plausible given the sheer number of portraits the political world generates, and the wide range of artists they use.
However, it's the impressive list of big label comic-book titles, such as Marvel's Iron Man, and DC's Batman title, Shadow of the Bat, that appear to be at odds with Granito's drawing ability and age. Granito has claimed, on multiple occasions, to have drawn the covers of Batman:Shadow of the Bat numbers 12 to 25 in the 1990s, which would have been when Granito was under the age of twenty. Cover drawings are sought after assignments, and for a young man who, by his own admission spent only a year at art college before dropping out, to have been given such a plum job would be unlikely. The listed artist of those covers was Brian Stelfreeze. When confronted with this fact in an interview published online Granito claimed to have been ghosting for Stelfreeze. This is hard to disprove, as Stelfreeze himself has not directly commented on the claim, but many who know Stelfreeze have weighed-in saying Granito's claim is ridiculous.
In the same interview Granito claims to have ghosted for other artists, including Dan Jurgens and George Perez. Those claims have been denied strongly by Jurgens and Perez, with Perez posting a denial on his Facebook page.
Other titles listed under Granito's published works include Garfield, Ironman 2, Spiderman Archives, X-Men, Ironman the Movie, Marvel Masterpieces III. Tomorrow Man, Dr. Tomorrow, Superman: The Woman we Love, Aquaman, and Teen Titan's Go. One online bio even claims Granito is working on The Simpsons (http://www.dragoncon.org/dc_guest_detail.php?id=1662).
It is clear that Granito has indeed drawn all of these characters at some point, and sold artwork at conventions of these characters. The question is in what capacity was he drawing them? Was he a paid professional artist working on the franchises, or was he just an amateur who drew some art on his own time? The evidence is piling up that it is the latter. Try finding a credit for his name on any of these titles and you'll draw a blank. That doesn't prove he didn't have some role, but it does suggest it was not a major one.
Granito also claims to have worked on various animated TV shows including the Animated Batman, Superman, and Gargoyles, which given the large number of uncredited people that work on such shows sounds plausible, but this has been directed denied by senior people from Warner Brother online.
One claim easily confirmed as false was that he was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for the cover of Shadow of the Wolf (which he did draw). The Stoker Award nominees are listed online, and neither Granito nor the title have ever been nominated. Indeed, there is no artwork category in the awards. It should be mentioned, however that Granito is linked with a smaller Bram Stoker Society (http://www.lugosi.com). It is possible that this other Bram Stoker Society did indeed nominate him for an award, but as the website lacks content (it's been 'coming soon' since 2006) it impossible to know, but this would still seem to be a blatant misrepresentation.
When it comes to Granito's artwork, however, it is much easier to see that something is fishy. Many of his drawings and paintings are direct copies, even tracings, of other works. Although even then there is a qualification to be made ...
A Rob Granito spiderman sketch card.
Part of the problem here is the somewhat bizarre nature of comic-book convention art. Frequently artists at conventions will draw characters they have never been employed to work on, and then sell these to patrons. This may sound strange, but it's an accepted industry practice, and is often the only way artists of smaller, independent comics can recoup the fee they pay to convention organizers for table space. Fans are far more likely to buy a sketch of Iron Man or Superman than some indie webcomic character they have never seen before, so artists give the fans what they want. It's marketplace capitalism in action. One of the reasons this practice exists is that an artist who is not associated with a title will sell their sketch of Wonder Woman or Spiderman for far less than a similar piece by an artist who has actually worked on those titles. It also gives artists, even well known ones, a chance to do something unusual and fun for fans, such as a Marvel artist drawing a DC character. Artists are also expect to 'put themselves' into their art, not just slavishly copy or trace someone else's work. Much of Granito's art is so exact in its reproduction of the original as to be far beyond homage or inspiration, and become straight plagiarism.
What Rob Granito appears to have done is list titles in his published credits when all he has done is a sketch card or one-off drawing of that character in a fan, as opposed to a professional, capacity. The question is has any of his work on the major characters he lists been bought and printed by a publisher, or is it all just unsolicited sketches and paintings he's done himself that remain unpublished? This is what the comics fraternity strongly suspects, and what has fueled their anger. It was anger that sometimes seemed to get out of control, but justified by the evidence against Granito that has kept rolling in, with more and more first-hand statements from people in the industry disputing and denouncing his claims.
Things came to a head in late March, 2011, when a number of online sites began at first questioning Granito's art, then attacking it directly as fraudulent. His website credits were ridiculed and dismissed as bogus, including many that may not be, and some that definitely are not, fraudulent. When it was noted that Granito was appearing as a guest artist at Megacon in Florida several people went there to confront him. Some of these interactions were captured covertly on video and posted to Youtube soon after they were filmed. In one video you can hear Granito say that his wife (at home) is fielding angry calls from strangers.
Comic-book forums and websites fueled the anger. Granito's artwork was posted next to the original image it was obviously swiped from. It should be noted that homages and swipes are common enough in the comic book world, so common there are websites dedicated to them. Generally the artist is expected to note that their work was inspired by another artist, or drawn 'after' another's style. Generally, but not always. Sometimes it is just assumed the fans will know. Sometimes an artist 'forgets'. To be fair to Granito at least one piece in the art folder he had at Megacon was labelled as inspired by George Perez. His other obvious copies were not in anyway identified as such. It would be wrong to suggest that Granito is alone in this practice, however, but in Granito's case it seems that the vast majority of his for-sale art is a blatant copy of other artist's work.
Some of the attacks got a little too personal, with Granito's mobile phone number (which was available on his website) being circulated online, and a picture of him holding his two infant children taken from his Facebook page and made fun off in less than appropriate ways. A number of fans made pleas to remember that while Granito might be a fraud, he was still a human being, a husband, and a father. But the attacks kept coming. Granito's DeviantArt webpage became littered with aggressive comments such as; "I wanna spit in your face", "I will punch you in the face, hoping to break your jaw" and, "I hope your kids know that their Father is a piece of shit".
Within days Rob Granito went from being a popular artist on the U.S. convention circuit to a pariah, and the attacks look set to continue. The witch hunt mentality of the online horde can be a little terrifying to behold. Granito's credibility was destroyed and his professional artistic career ruined in the space of a weekend.
Yet Granito's work was being criticized and challenged as far back as 2006, when several artists claimed that he was copying their artwork. Jan Duursema, an artist known for her stunning Star Wars artwork, cautioned her fans online that a Rob Granito was pirating her work.
(http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/janduursema/?frames=n;read=7360&expand=1) Granito was called a phony by many on the convention scene in the intervening years, both privately and publicly, but appears to have continued to prosper none-the-less. He was a guest of honor at a number of conventions, such as Jacon 2008 and 2009, Animation Supercon 2009, and the upcoming DragonCon, September 2011 in Atlanta (One wonders if he'll make it to Georgia?). Convention organizers across the U.S. appear to have taken his listed credits at face value. Do they know more or less than the online witch-hunters?
Certainly Granito is lacking in online friends. One forum poster seemed to defend him at first, only to resort to name-calling and saying that Granito owed him money. One acquaintance felt the need to post a 'tell-all' story explaining his regretted role in Granito's rise to what he considers unmerited fame and now fully merited infamy. The only web voices to defend Granito have all suffered from the same atrocious spelling and grammar that Granito's personal writing is littered with.
Is Rob Granito a fraud? He certainly has misrepresented his artistic credits by listing titles like Calvin and Hobbes in his resume. But doesn't everyone pad their resume? Certainly not to the level Granito did. Is it just a case of poor understanding of how he should write his credits? No. Doing a sketch of a character is not the same as working as an artist on the comic book title. Doing a painting for a local Post Office does not give you the right to say you worked on a comic strip. Listing titles you did not work on in a professional capacity, copying art line-for-line, and lying about who you have worked with and for are major violations of the general trust that exists in the comic-book community. Granito violated that trust.
At first there were a lack of first-person statements from people in the industry that would have confirmed Granito as the complete fraud he has since been exposed as (a number have since been forthcoming). The witch hunt found a witch, but a few people grabbed their pitchforks and torches before confirming their suspicions. They're suspicions were based on some obviously fishy claims and blatantly copied art, but considering these suspicions had existed since 2006 or earlier, and had been posted online many times before, it was fascinating to see the speed and ferocity with which the events unfolded, and how claims of his deceit became multiplied and expanded to areas that people had no evidence of.
Did Rob Granito deserve to be pilloried? Yes. Confronting him with his obvious copying practices and false resume listings seems like a fair thing to do, and naming him as an artist whose works you should think twice about purchasing doesn't seem to be unwarranted. However, his family didn't deserve to be dragged into the whole mess. Granito may not have deserved all the fame he'd manufactured through falsehoods, but did he deserve all the infamy he's attained in the last few days either? Is he alone in his questionable practices? There will be a few artists on the convention circuit who will now want to trim some of the more inflated parts of their resumes and add a qualifier to their homage art, but it seems unlikely there could be too many more people out there with the sheer scope of Granito's plagiarism and misrepresentation.
The outing of Granito was a witch-hunt, which is a phrase laden with meaning, but to be fair to the online communities involved in the whole mess for the most part the actions taken toward him were restrained, and they did find a witch. Some may regret unwise words and false accusations made in anger, but the majority of commentators were driven by a desire to find out the truth about Rob Granito, and the evidence against him continues to mount.
Who is Rob Granito, the internet asked itself? Rob Granito is a fraud, the internet immediately and angrily answered. Perhaps not as big a monster as a few would have us believe, but certainly one of the most audacious con artists ever to have been exposed in the comic-book community.
Comments and updates/evidence would be welcomed.
A cartoon attacking Rob Granito by Yoni Limor