3.25.2011

Who Is Rob Granito? I Can Tell You (UPDATED)

UPDATES - Latest at 9:55PM 3.27.11! See below this post for updates.
Quick links: Rob Granito Is A Fraud - the wall is entertaining, the info page is cataloging the story. Artists who got clipped can reference the entire CD Rob sent me to do his website (tons of photos in there). Also, check http://jaydiddilo.com for a few laughs. I felt it fitting to reuse the code I did for Granito's site, for very obvious reasons.


As of 9:55PM, I have shared everything I know about him, talked about how I feel about the situation and my involvement, made available every image I have so artists can find their own work that has been stolen, and made the jokes I wanted to make. It was a crap situation, and I consider myself past it now. Unless something massive happens, I'm now done with having Rob Granito in my life, and am moving on to other, actually productive things. Thank you all who have encouraged me and helped me feel better, and good luck one and all with your endeavors. 


*************

I was working on a story for an upcoming project when an IM window popped up.

"Have you seen this yet?" asked a good friend of mine, a professional in the comic book world. He is the cover artist for the GI Joe series, among many other things. And above all of that, he's a really, really good person.

"Seen what?" I asked.

"http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/03/24/who-on-earth-is-rob-granito/" he replied.

Now, if you're like me, you read the URLs you receive from people before you click them. And when I saw that one, my very first thought wasn't "Oh, this must be an expose on my friend Rob Granito." I knew it was bad.

It had been a long time coming.

I've known Rob for about three years. We met at DragonCon in 2008, where I complimented a painting of Catwoman he did and he subsequently sold it to me. And it really is a nice painting of Catwoman, in a Darwyn Cooke style (whom I am a HUGE fan of). If you've watched any live webcasts of mine, you've seen it. I'm not going to link to it here or post it, because it goes against where I'm ultimately headed with this blog post. But it's a nice Catwoman.

We got to talking about hockey and other things, and as far as I could tell, we really hit it off. He told me he worked on Batman: The Animated Series, and I went into hysterics. "I LOVED that show!" I exclaimed. He went into his relationship with Paul Dini, what it was like working on the show, and so on. I mentioned that I collect animation cels (among other things) and he mentioned he had a bunch from when he worked on it.

I demanded that if he ever decided to sell them, to contact me first. He agreed. I mentioned that I was an author, and agreed to send him some of my books. I did, and he said he liked them. We kept in touch.

The next year, we met up at another convention (I forget which), and we got to talking. He mentioned he was having trouble with his website, and I offered advice. I mentioned that one day I'd like to write for comics, and he offered advice as a pro in the industry. "Heck, I'll put you in touch with people at DC," he offered.

I mentioned that I was working on putting together a show for The Art of Akira Exhibit; that I had finally met someone who could actually share my vision and had the perfect venue: Joe Wos, at ToonSeum in Pittsburgh, PA. He immediately offered any help I wanted.

Near Christmas, Rob emailed me and offered me a Batman cel. I gladly took him up on it, and when I received it, I got a Bane cel signed by Paul Dini, with a matte featuring a hand-drawn Batman by Rob Granito. I thought "Hrm... Why didn't he sign this cel?" When I asked him, he said "Oh, that wasn't one I worked on."

When the Art of Akira show opened in May of 2010, Rob drove out from New York to see it. He brought a ton of paintings and cels from cartoons with him, and even did prints of some iconic scenes from Akira. He actually showed up with 8 paintings. I had no idea he was going to produce that much Akira-related work -- I thought at best, we'd get 2 or 3 pieces. But no, there were 8. And he offered all of them for auction or sale to benefit the exhibit, along with prints.

It was a very nice gesture. And to pay him back, I offered to do his website. He gladly took me up on it.

The entire time he was in Pittsburgh with us, he kept dropping names and credits on stuff he worked on, and offered to bat for me in studios and publishers with the exhibit, with comics I wanted to write, and so on. Mind you, I only mentioned once to him that I would like to write comics one day, but the offers promises kept coming.

The entire time, artists in the Pittsburgh scene were annoyed and one of my really good friends, Ed Piskor, even got up and left due to being so frustrated. He later told me he could tell most if not all of the work Granito brought with him was projected onto a canvas and traced.

I couldn't tell. I'm no artist. But they could. And they were annoyed.

Something really, really strange happened. Derek, Rob's "manager" (and bodyguard), complained about how his holster was chaffing. I asked what he meant. He produced for me a Glock 21 (.45 caliber) handgun, which was in a holster under his jacket. "I'm always strapped," he said. "There's crazy people at these conventions."

I figured, okay, well, he IS a bodyguard, so I guess it's okay that he carries a gun, but what does this artist guy need a bodyguard for? But then I realized, I hang around weird people too. It's what makes the world go round. And they were nice to me, and helping out with my exhibit for no money (I paid for their hotel room though).

When DragonCon 2010 rolled around, we had a HUGE showing with Art of Akira there, and Granito was at a table right next to us. By this time, I'd met and started becoming friends with some pros in the comic book and animation world. And when we had the pros-only showing at the convention, a LOT of artists and pros were very leery that Granito was in attendance. I'd come to find out that they didn't want to mention anything to me, because they didn't know how close we may have been and didn't want to rock the boat.

But it turns out, even then, Granito had a VERY VERY VERY horrible reputation in the industry. No one could actually pin down any of his claimed credits, and artists were beginning to recognize their own original works in his. Of course, I didn't know any of this. I just knew that this guy Granito produced a ton of stuff to help the exhibit, and had all these professional credits at Marvel and DC and Warner Brothers and whatnot, and was really, really nice to me.

Once Jeremy and I began working on his site in December of 2010, I started getting a little leery. He sent a CD full of photos of his "original" art. Now, by this time, I'd been to a few studios and seen how artists worked. I saw pros who work on Pixar films, DC and Marvel comics, and other productions treat their original material. They sell the shit out of it, because that's a HUGE part of their income.

Not one single original comic page was in his portfolio. Not a single cover. Just paintings, sketches, and con commissions. And that's fine. I didn't really question it then, because he had told me that most of his comic-related work was as a "ghost artist" -- much like a ghost writer would do for a celebrity or a very busy writer, he came in and worked on the title uncredited.

But when I got to his published works page, I had to question him. I sent him two emails, both of which asked him to flesh out his credits more. "They're really vague," I explained. For instance, he simply lists that he worked on "Calvin & Hobbes." The work he had done (or, claimed he had done -- I now question everything he's ever told me) was for a postage stamp for the USPS of Calvin & Hobbes. But the way it appears on his site, he's just flat out claiming credit for the strip.

He just replied that it was fine, he was listing the properties on which he worked.Again, what the hell did I know? I figured, he's the pro. He knows what he's doing.

And so it launched, and it wasn't a smooth experience. Every email Rob ever sent was rife with typos. It was impossible to get him to reply to something directly, and half of my requests got lost as they went to his Manager (Derek). Rob called repeatedly, telling me that San Diego Comic Con wouldn't accept him until his website looked better. And of course, I knew that was bullshit, but I figured the guy really just wanted his website done and was trying to motivate me without being a total dick. But we got it done, and that was that.

Then, yesterday, the article I linked above drops, and so does the other shoe.

I got emailed by a LOT of guys in the industry, asking had I seen it. My GI Joe artist friend was the first. He's always the first, cause he's a good guy.

My response to him: "No." My response to everyone else after that: "Yes, and I'm sick to my stomach about it."

Granito was a guy I considered a friend. He'd come through in a pinch for me, and I'd done favors for him. We've broken bread together.

People draw copyrighted properties at conventions for commissions, even if they don't work on that character. It's just how things work. People like Batman. They like guys like Mark Brooks. Ergo, if I have a few hundred dollars and really, really want to see what a Mark Brooks Batman would look like, I can pay him and it can be done.

But that's not the same as what Rob has done. He's outright stolen original works by tracing them onto canvas and reproducing them for money. Worse, he's stolen credits from people who worked VERY VERY HARD to get where they are (namely Brian Stelfreeze). People I know and like and respect very much.

And then, there's the fact that he outright lied to my face about who he was, what he'd done, and what he could do for me. And for what?

A few hundred dollars I'd paid in paintings, and a website.

And now, he's a pariah. A joke. I can say with 100% full authority that working artists in the industry HATE him now. Before, they really, really didn't like him, but couldn't really point to a reason to cast him out. He had no honest professional credits and hadn't worked with anyone at any of the conventions, and yet somehow got table and booth space out of the convention, which of course means an artist somewhere who actually did work in the industry had to go without.

But now there's actual proof. He's listed titles he had nothing to do with (Shadow of the Bat, issues 12-25 -- which are very clearly Stelfreeze, who has never worked with a "ghost" artist) as his own, and then went and tried to establish an identity of some editor at DC named Jay Didillo, who no one in the industry knows of.

The comic book industry is SMALL. I was alarmed at how small it was, until I got to know some of the people involved. And it's really, really tight knit. Everyone knows each other. Everyone talks. And no one has ever seen a single credited piece of Rob Granito's work, and no one has ever heard of Jay Didillo.

But they absolutely do recognize their friends' works in Granito's. And they can tell when photographs are painted over, or projected onto canvas and traced.

And here I am, a part of his deceit. It's a small part, yes. But I'm partly responsible for sales made for Rob Granito; for his reputation being protected and defended to actual working artists who were just trying to warn me; for his getting space at conventions I attend.

I feel foolish. I feel like I've been had. And it really makes me sick to my stomach to look at his face or hear his voice on YouTube interviews that are being linked around, where he lists off all these phony credits.

It feels like hearing the voice of an ex, after they've cheated on you and left you.

Here's a guy I've talked to as a friend, who I trusted, who I stood up for.  And good, hard working people I respect very very much tried to tell me who he was, and I stood there and said "No, you're wrong."

And the thing is, on the totem pole of victims, I'm actually only about 1/3 of the way up. The real victims here are the guys he ripped off by stealing their art and the credits for their hard work. That's not just theft by taking, that's actually reaching into their lives, their hearts, their souls as artists, and ripping away from them something far more precious than money or items. It's a crime of the lowest form. It's plagiarism. It's the lowest of the low.

I've decided not to take his site off my servers, because some artists had a REALLY good point -- this is a reference for artists to find out what he's stolen or claimed credit for, and by taking it down, I'm actually helping Granito out.

I will be wrapping up and sending back all of the paintings of his that I have, as well as the prints he did. And he can do what he wishes with them. I wish him no ill will, but I don't feel comfortable having them around anymore.

Guys like Granito thrive on the fact that people either a) don't have access to, b) can't afford or c) don't know how to approach real working artists for sketches and original art. To fans, being a fan of an artist is actually separate from having a really cool hand done painting or portrait of a character they really like, so they do what I did -- they see a really cool Catwoman and they buy it for a cheaper price. And because it looks nice, they're satisfied.

And so long as the artist making the Catwoman does it in their own style, I think most everyone is okay with that. It's when they rip off the original artist, by tracing, lightboxing, projecting, or copying in some way, that it becomes a sin. And Rob Granito has been sinning for at least 10 years that I know of, and possibly as many as 15.

When it gets into those numbers, it's not an oversight. It's not a fluke. It's purposeful and deceitful and wrong. And I for one am sad to have played even a small role in it, and sadder still to know that I can be so blind to someone like him and get taken advantage of myself.

It's like trying to sleep in your house the night after it's been robbed. You just can't accept that it happened to YOU.


UPDATE 1:10PM:

Woke up from crashing at 8 this morning, and got this email. I'm not the only one who got scammed.



Subject:Granito
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 07:41:01 -0400
From: (name redacted)
To: joe@joethepeacock.com


Hello Joe-

I just saw your blog about Rob Granito- Please don't beat yourself up too much about having been fooled by him and his "work". I have done some inking for him over the years, always kinda laughing at how I could pick out his reference- Adam Hughes Catwoman here, Tom Grummett's Robin there, but I never knew it went to this extent until Cully posted the link on his facebook yesterday. I have since written Cully same as you posted on his page apologizing for my unintentional contribution to this whole mess.

What sucks most is that you go into meeting new people trusting that they are who they say they are and have done what they claim to have done, and people like this not only prey on that but also, when you find out about their deceit, take that away from you after you've been burned a few times. Of course we all have to be careful of who we meet, but don't let this guy ruin that for you-

It's really obvious that this has gotten to you, and I totally understand. I was supposed to meet up with him at MegaCon and get paid for some inking work which I already did and pick up something else to work on, which of course will not be happening now and makes me feel like a POS for helping this guy out, but yeah, again don't let this ruin anything for you- He's the conman who's doing wrong, and you (And I, and everyone else who unknowingly helped him along or were ripped off by him, both artists and people who bought stuff from him) are the victims.

Take care my friend, and if you want to chat more I will be back in front of a computer Sunday night after the show...

And what woke me up was a phone call from someone in the Granito camp. I've not heard from Rob directly, but people close to him have expressed to me that, after reading this post and the comments on the followup on the Bleeding Cool piece  that they don't know where they stand anymore. It'll be interesting to see if ANYONE sticks by Rob after this.

UPDATE 2:41PM: I was just informed by some artists in attendance at MegaCon (who wish not to be named) that not only is Granito not being asked to leave and gets to stay, but his manager is allowed to stay with his weapon, as he has a concealed carry permit. In Georgia, even with a permit you're not allowed to carry a weapon into a public gathering over a certain amount of people (500 I believe? If only there were a resource I could type a question into and search for answers...)

And more, this guy is posting YouTube vids of Rob hawking his copied work at MegaCon. My favorite so far:




(Can't see the video? click here)


And if you listen close in this one, you can hear him talk shit about me:



(can't see the video? click here)

And Rob, for the record, I very much welcome that call from your attorney. And I find it sad that, despite the fact that I emailed and called you, I have to find out your reaction via a stealth recording on YouTube.


UPDATE 3.27.11 1:00AM:  I was contacted by the totally legitomite top DC writer, Jay Diddilo, about making his website. So I obliged.


UPDATE 3.27.11 2:37PM:

It seems Granito has decided to take his astroturfing defense campaign straight to the hub, the Rob Granito Is A Fraud page on Facebook. He's created a fake account called Gary Taylor. It's painfully obvious this is Grantito -- it shares the exact same spelling and grammatical errors as the fake comment he posted on this blog and on other blogs, and uses the "innocent until proven guilty" comment he's made here and references "raping a child" as a form of crime worse than what he's being accused of, like he did in the Youtube videos (click the image for the full-size, to read the nuttiness).


And here's a screencap of the "Gary Taylor" account. Look at the recent activity, and the fact there's NOTHING else going on on this account except this (and the fact that he likes Ric Flair???):



UPDATE 3.27.11 4:18PM: I finally located and uploaded the entire CD Rob sent me to do his website. In the gallery are tons and tons of photos, many of which didn't make it onto the site, but are in his "collection" or that he sold to folks. Hope this helps artists locate their stolen material. 


UPDATE 3.27.11 9:55PM: I've read all the blogs, followed the events of the weekend, shared my part in this calamity, and honestly been both delighted and saddened by the whole thing. I've been delighted with the fact that people are really supportive, both of the fact that I feel betrayed by someone I considered a friend and about the fact that I feel bad about my part in his fraud. 

I'm disappointed, because as the weekend has gone on and people have been made aware, I've seen pictures of Rob's kids and family pushed around and insults made about people who are innocent in all of this.

I've seen people with no dog in this fight jump in and try to make something out of it when it has nothing to do with them (I absolutely understand fans feeling gypped, even if they didn't buy a painting -- when something like this happens, we as a society feel repulsed by it, and the good among us want to right the wrong. That's not what I'm talking about here -- it's the piling on and the needless kicking of a corpse). 

I absolutely DO NOT want that to be a part of my legacy. I am working very hard to do things with my writing, my books, and Art of Akira, and they're positive things. Things I'm proud of. And while I absolutely do want everyone to know the extent of Rob's fraud, the things he's done, and the impact on me and my life, I'm not going to continue on with this. 

Not that it shouldn't still be talked about and discussed. It should. The industry needs everyone to know, this will not stand. It needs to be always remembered. Rob should not be allowed at any cons ever again. It has been proven he cannot draw, and that he will justify the blatant theft and selling of others' art. He's a textbook sociopath, and the stories that have been shared with me all weekend by pros and fans alike via email, phone and IM have ranged from sad to heartbreaking. 

But I don't want to make Rob Granito any part of my legacy in my work. I have books to write, websites to design and an art exhibit to run, and I want to be proud of all of those things. My energy is better spent smiling than crying. It's been a hectic, somewhat sad, somewhat encouraging weekend. I've met some incredible people through Granito's nonsense. I've found out that I've got friends I didn't know I have. And now it's time for me to move past it. 

I've shared everything I've got in an effort to expose Rob, give the artists who were harmed the chance to find their own work in his, and get the word out. I've even vented and shared some feelings on this whole thing, and that part felt good. But there's a line, and going past it means riding this situation farther than I'm comfortable riding it. It's a lame horse. Time to get off. 

Thank you everyone for your attention, response and support. When next I see you at a con, book signing or the bar, let's shake hands, smile, and share some happy stories.