The Professional Swipe Artists Of Comics

Posted by April 28, 2011 Comment

Ever since Bleeding Cool ran the first Rob Granito article, there’s been something in the air.

Rob Granito famously posed as a comic book and animation professional with plenty of credits to his name, none of which stood up when you looked into them. He wasn’t an animator on Batman cartoons under Bruce Timm. He wasn’t working on a Batman comic with fictional DC writer Jay Diddilo. He didn’t design the Calvin and Hobbes postage stamp. He’d never worked with Dwayne McDuffie. And yet he was using those credits to bolster the sales and prices of the work he was selling, always swiped, sometimes literally scanned, from other artists without acknowledging this.

And while he claims he made were ludicrous, the practices were not uncommon. Plenty of conventions, plenty of websites, see people selling recreations of comic book artwork, though usually they don’t pretend that it is anything other than it is.

Take GW Fisher. A common attendee at many conventions, he sells drawings traced from photos, as well as Gil Kane Green Lantern and Joe Madureira Batman. It’s reported that when people confront him at shows, he removed the material they are offended by, but returns it later.

He may not be totally open about the origin of the work, but he’s not claiming to be something he isn’t.

And now there seems to be a groundswell of movement against the website Heroic Art which sells recreation paintings of famous Marvel and DC comic book images (see image), again without credit or recognition to the original artist. The small print does however say ” This website and everything on sale from it is a tribute and our painters representation of original work from the world of comic book and open media. All characters and representations referred to and artwork produced remain trademark and copyright of their respective owners” but also “These terms and conditions apply to the use of this website and by accessing this website and/or placing an order you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions set out here. If you do not agree to be bound by these terms and conditions you may not use or access this website.” I’ve tried calling the company, they seem to be based in the UK, but to no avail. They have now taken down their Facebook page (cache here) and their website (cache here) is currently “under maintenance”, except it isn’t – only the front page is unavailable, the rest of the site is still there.

Again, there’s no real pretence to be anything other than they are. It would be nice if some of that small print made it to big print, but is there a real problem here?

Because if there is, then there’s another issue. If companies were to act against the GW Fisher’s and Heroic Arts of this world, would they not have to equally act against convention artists who take new, original commissions featuring company owned characters? They may not be swipes but they are committing breaches of copyright law, but the companies involved turn a blind eye. Commissions are often the way an artist can make a decent salary and some would have to give up working in comics if this revenue stream was taken away.

There have been stories of one A-list artist empowered by DC Comics to confiscate sketches of characters at conventions unauthorised by the company, that I’ve never come close to confirming, but I hear the story repeatedly from convention to convention. This may reflect the fear that this event is coming one day, made inevitable by a lawyer in a big media company deciding they have to protect their rights and it;s the only way to do it.

So my word to the number of people who have contacted me about Heroic Art wanting me to expose them is this. You’ve tasted blood with Rob Granito I know and now, fueled with desires for justice, you want more. But while Heroic Art could and should be more open about the origin of the work they sell, so that customers can make proper informed decisions, pushing this issue may have more wide ranging implications in years to come…

(Last Updated April 28, 2011 2:12 pm )