Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Putting the "con" in "convention" ...

So ... due to circumstances outside of my control, I sadly didn't make it down to MegaCon this past weekend, but I'll be damned if I didn't feel the ripples from Orlando all over the comic scene.  What on Earth could possibly have made that big of an impact?  Was it some epic cross-publisher event?  Was it some hot new property signed to a major development deal?  Was it a polar shift in the business of comics as we know it?  No ... it was none of these things. So what is it that could possibly sound the clarion call for comic book fans and professionals alike to stand up, rally together, and shout with a singular voice?

Well ... it all started with a guy named "Rob".

Before I delve any deeper into the subject of this post, I feel the need to put forth a little bit of a disclaimer here. There are probably a lot of you reading this who know me, but there are also probably at least as many that don't.  I've been covering pop culture for more than a decade now.  I started off working in and then managing more than one comic store here in FL, before I ended up stumbling into the writing I do to this day. In those years, I've met a lot of people in the comic book industry.  There are a lot that I'm proud to call some of my closest friends.  There are some that might have heard my name once or twice, or might kind of remember meeting me if they saw me again, and there's a vastly larger number of pros would couldn't pick me out of a line-up if their lives depended on it.  Still, if there's one thing I'm proud of, it's that I've busted my ass in my chosen field and I've always done everything I can to respect the industry, to earn the respect of my audience, and to maintain my integrity.

It's too bad no one ever taught that lesson to "a guy named 'Rob'".

In case you've missed the the story up 'til now, here's the CliffsNotes version.  Right before the start of MegaCon this weekend, comic book blogsite Bleeding Cool published an article that asked a seemingly simple question: "Who On Earth Is Rob Granito?"  I'll be perfectly honest with you.  I've been to a lot of shows over the years, and I've probably seen the guy or possibly even bumped into him before, but just like I said about myself earlier, I couldn't have picked this guy out of a line-up if my life depended on it.  That surprised the hell out of me too since, according to his website [Ed. Note - No, dammit, I will NOT post the link, because this guy doesn't deserve any extra traffic to his site], he's worked on everything from BOTH Iron Man movies to Batman: Shadow of the Bat to Disney's Gargoyles TV show to both the Batman AND Superman Animated series.  I mean, this guy's even worked on "mainstream" comic strips like Calvin & Hobbes and Garfield, while being commissioned by actor James Earl Jones and even the White House.  Looking over his portfolio is impressive too, as Granito has put together some fairly impressive bits of art with a wide range of styles, reminiscent of Bruce Timm, George Perez, and many other comic legends.

There's just one problem ... it's not real.

The Bleeding Cool article was the beginning of the end for Granito, whose house of cards came tumbling down in grand fashion this weekend.  Apparently, that impressive resume listed on his site?  Many of the credit are bold faced lies.  No one has been able to verify many of his credits, and many professionals have, in fact, put their foot down to deny his claims.  Remember that Shadow of the Bat work I mentioned?  Granito claims to have been the cover artist for issues 12-25 ... a job that was actually done by Brian Stelfreeze.  Confronted with this information, Granito began to claim to anyone who asked that a lot of his work was done as an uncredited "ghost artist" ... a claim vehemently denied by many Granito has claimed to work with.

I could go on and on, recapping the fall from grace [Ed. Note - Can a person actually "fall" from a place they were never actually at?] that "legitomite" (look it up) artist Rob Granito suffered this weekend, but there are plenty of better places to handle that.  In fact, there's even a Facebook page dedicated to it which has already built up an impressive 2600+ number of fans just over the weekend.  No, the background I've given is just to give you guys who might not have heard the story yet a little taste of what's been going on.  What I'm itching to vent about is that this guy has the brass balls to blatantly steal from his "peers" and then make a living by cashing in on it.  I mean, there are stories going around that Granito has even paid for a sketch from an artist, copied it, added a few extra lines here and there, and sold prints for at least twice the price.

Now, I know that there are plenty of professionals out there who have found different ways to make their jobs a little bit easier.  One friend of mine has a folder of generic poses he uses in combination with a lightbox to create hundreds of requested sketches.  The catch here is that the work he's doing is still HIS OWN WORK!!  It's simply easier and faster for him to draw the character(s) around the base sculpture, similar to dressing a doll in different costumes.  Another friend of mine does everything short of his initial pencil work directly in Photoshop.  His finishes, inks, and colors are all digital.  The guy has even work on creating some custom filters for the program to help him along.  But again ... it all begins and ends as HIS OWN WORK.  Hell, even I am guilty of occasionally borrowing a line or two for an article ... from myself.  I've always said that I write the way I talk, so it figures that it you read enough of my stuff, you'll probably run into a phrase or two that I subconsciously repeat.  But once again (and you can sing along at home, kiddies), it's MY OWN WORK!!

Whether you love my writing, hate my writing, or have never even heard of my writing, the fact remains that I've put a lot of hard work into what I do and I'm pretty damned proud of it.  I remember once, years back, when a screw up at an editorial level led to some other writer getting a byline on a piece I had actually written for the magazine.  I wasn't worried about getting paid for the piece when I saw the error, but rather was infuriated at the editor and demanding it get fixed.  You see, whether you're a writer, a penciller, a painter, or any other kind of artist, you want to be acknowledge for you work. It's not just artists either.  No matter what your job is, you work as hard as you can not simply for the pay, but you also want a little bit of recognition and/or respect for the work you put into it.  Well, when someone like Granito comes around  and not only steals your work, but then turns around and tried to claim it as his own ... it's hard NOT to get hot under the collar.  But then, to add insult to injury, this schmuck somehow manages to ride this con long enough and hard enough that he actually manages to convince people that he's some sort of internationally acclaimed celebrity and deserving of preferential treatment at the shows and events he has so graciously chosen to attend.

In the comic industry, there are a lot of highly skilled, talented people who bust their asses every day just to get noticed.  There's a lot of good work that slips under the radar, meanwhile a shlub like this manages to weasel his way into the limelight and bilk unsuspecting fans out of their hard earned cash?  And what about the bad taste a scam like this is sure to leave in the mouths of those fans who discover that they were cheated?  Do you really think that those fans, particularly if they're newer to the scene, won't be coming back with a "once bitten, twice shy" mentality ... assuming they come back at all?  By his actions, this guy hasn't only tarnished his own reputation, but he's caused damage to the reputation of the industry as a whole.  Worst of all, even facing the insurmountable evidence of his own wrongdoing and the damage he's cause, I seriously doubt that Granito has truly learned any lesson from all of this.

So, what IS the lesson to be learned?

"Respect" and "Integrity".  Those are two simple words that , more than anything else, any professional should strive to achieve.  They're two of the most difficult things to earn, and two of the easiest to lose.  And once they're gone ... well, they're damned near impossible to get back.

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