Separated At Birth: Francesco Mattina and… Everyone?

It’s not like this is the first time that Italian comic book and cover artist Francesco Mattina has been called out for… unexplained similarities in his work to other people. Bleeding Cool was doing it back in 2017, comparing the work of Ian MacDonald to Mattina’s Venomized covers.

Similar concern was raised regarding alleged similarities between his work and that of Lee JeeHyung.

And the 3D modelling designs of Daniel Bel.

Shortly afterwards, Francesco Mattina stopped working for Marvel. But Mattina has been a big favourite at DC Comics of late. And one Walter McNeil who goes by the name Professor Oreo on Instagram, has been digging up some more examples from the past and… the more recent past.

It began with his own work for the Punisher seemingly being used to create a retailer variant cover for The Batman Who Laughs for Frankie’s Comics. Walter posted on Instagram,

And he made some allegations of his own.

New Year’s Resolution: Let’s make 2019 about Respect.

I follow @francescomattinaart and was truly disappointed to see this. Until now I really enjoyed his work, but unfortunately I can’t respect it in the same way anymore because I can’t be sure where it comes from. In this instance he clearly bent around the Punisher sixth scale box artwork I made for Sideshow Collectibles like a paper doll, and used it as an underpainting for this variant “Batman Who Laughs” cover. Now in my eyes, all the rest of his work must be seen as suspect. Apparently this isn’t the first time he’s done this, and it’s a reoccurring theme in his work. It’s a shame and I find the whole thing to be a needless embarrassment from top to bottom.

Neither DC Comics nor Frankie’s Comics is at fault here. They just believed Francesco when he sold them this art and claimed to be its sole author. However I would hope in the future that this type of behavior will not be tolerated nor rewarded, and that they’ll demand a greater level of professionalism in the artists they choose to represent their brands.

Though we work in somewhat similar circles, I’ve never met Francesco Mattina, and now I’m not sure I’d care to. It’s not like this is meant to be a form of flattery. If that were the case Francesco would have advertised where he got his source material. Unfortunately, this seems more like an attempt to pass off large portions of my work as his own in order to grab a quick paycheck and further promote himself. While he must certainly enjoy my work, He obviously doesn’t respect me enough as a fellow artist to not treat me like an assistant simply prepping underpaintings meant for him to finish. It honestly doesn’t get much more insulting than this from one artist to another. (Continued in first comment…) #DC#Marvel #sideshowcollectibles #Punisher # FrankCastle #GrimKnight#batmanwholaughs #SwiperNoSwiping#artistssupportingartists

He also added,

And the worst part about it is that it’s incredibly disrespectful of everyone’s time involved. By seeking to save time for himself and profit from my original effort in creating that Punisher art, I had to waste more time preparing these animated gifs of Photoshop proof to document exactly how he manipulated the art and tried to cover his tracks. In addition, he’s disrespectful of the wasted time of all of the representatives from DC Comics, Sideshow Collectibles and Frankie’s Comics that will have to have conversations about how to handle the cross-brand embarrassment of official Marvel licensing art being repurposed for a DC Cover.
They can decide amongst themselves how much they care about the Grim Knight actually being unmasked as Frank Castle, but I refuse to let @francescomattinaart think he can disrespect me by taking credit for, and profiting from, my labor without having to answer for it in the public sphere.
So let’s all make a 2019 new year’s resolution to respect original art and those who make it.
To Fans – Please demand better of the artists you support. I’m sorry that you’re getting recycled Punisher art here instead of the original Batman cover art you paid for.
To Businesses / Art Directors – Please demand better of the artists you choose to represent your brands. DC and Frankie’s Comics, I’m sorry you’re getting stolen recycled art of another company’s character here instead of the original art you commissioned and paid for.
Lastly, to Artists – Please demand better from your fellow artists so that no one thinks they can stand on another person’s shoulders to grab a paycheck and still be embraced by the rest of community with open arms. If you’re okay with this type of behavior, then I expect you to label all of your own work as public domain clipart. Respect yourselves and your fellow artists enough to demand better of those with whom you stand shoulder to shoulder.
Happy 2019!!!

Feel free to repost and share if you support original art and wish to further condemn this type of lazy behavior. I’d also encourage all professional artists to take a gander and Francesco’s gallery with a more scrutinizing eye, and you might just find some of your work has been borrowed as well…
I’ll follow up this post with another post highlighting some questionable similarities I noticed between Francesco’s recent work and that of other professional artists, including @gregstaplesart …

And showing how the images lined up for any doubters.

Other alleged examples included the following;

With Ian McDonald commenting;

Yup, he definitely swiped my Dark Phoenix for his Venom Phoenix variant, found out about it a while ago. Very inexcusable, crazy he’s still getting work. He didn’t even bother changing some of my original brush strokes (see under her right breast)

More to add and for Walter to comment on…

Last one, since I think it really demonstrates how far this rabbit hole goes… It looks like @francescomattinaart borrowed this cape from @thealexrossart

Why steal for such a minor portion of the illustration? Look closely and you’ll see Alex’s brushstrokes still present in the center mass… I again suggest every pro artist take a look at @francescomattinaart gallery and see if your assets have been borrowed as well. @dccomics please look into this.
I’d also appreciate a response from @francescomattinaart or anyone in his camp.

Okay, I spoke too soon. Right after my last post, @alexqng83 informed me of a commission he purchased from @gabrieledellotto back in 2017. Looks like a definite paintover to me… What do you think?

No response from Francesco… but no blocking either, Walker writes,

surprisingly no, he hasn’t blocked me yet… However Frankies Comics has deleted my comment about it on their page. I understand they are just caught in the middle, but still…

Adi Granov posted privately on Facebook (reprinted here with permission), naming no names, but we understand the allegations refers to Mattina.

I don’t care to ruin anyone’s career, but it’s pretty interesting to watch some people’s, seemingly compulsive drive to burn their own. An artist, who a few years ago got found out for photoshopping other artists’ work into his own covers for major publishers got into quite a bit of trouble. He swiped some of my work, but I was more bemused than offended at the time, while a couple of other artists took it very badly. This artist spent years rebuilding his career and apologising for his wrong doing. He even had another prominent artist vouch personally to me about his reform. I took it for what it was. He has skill, he just needs to build on it…

However, is seems that hard work is too hard and shortcuts are too tempting, and a number of artists are recognising elements of their own work in his recent cover illustrations. Entire elements, especially more technical ones such as weapons and helmets are taken directly from other people’s pieces. Art done for one publisher by one artist is repurposed by him for another, entire figures copied and smudged digitally, etc.

I am saddened by this as I dislike seeing any artist lose their livelihood, but he is seemingly completely unconcerned about either himself of any other artist he is stealing from. Shame.

From my understanding, out of respect for the creative community, Marvel Comics cut ties with Mattina in April last year. DC Comics seem happy to employ his much in-demand talent, especially on their variant covers. Here’s the latest for Female Furies #1…

Anyone recognise it?

Separated At Birth used to be called Swipe File, in which we presented two or more images that resemble each other to some degree. They may be homages, parodies, ironic appropriations, coincidences, or works of the lightbox. We trusted you, the reader, to make that judgment yourself. If you were are unable to do so, we asked that you please return your eyes to their maker before any further damage is done.

The Swipe File didn’t judge; it was interested more in the process of creation, how work influences other work, how new work comes from old, and sometimes how the same ideas emerge simultaneously as if their time has just come. The Swipe File was named after the advertising industry habit where writers and artist collect images and lines they admire to inspire them in their work. It was swiped from the Comic Journal, who originally ran this column, as well as the now-defunct Swipe Of The Week website.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.