March 29, 2011

Thieves Steal, Artists "Borrow" - The Rob Granito Brouhaha

In all honesty, I was planning on letting this controversy go - after all, fellow Comic Related scribe David O'Leary (no relation to St. Louis pal with the same name) had pretty much nailed it in this piece.

However, the more I thought about it, the more disheartened I became...mostly because I had done something similar in my life. Only there was a line I never crossed.

My biggest professional dream in my adolescence was to be a writer. Possibly mysteries, maybe comics, but a writer nonetheless. So in college, with copious amounts of free time, I began writing pastiches based on my two favorite writers - Robert B Parker and Raymond Chandler. Sure, it was about an original character (whom I may revive at some point), but stylistically, I could have been sued for plagiarism....and they would have won. I had even submitted them to various mystery magazines...and gained a healthy-sized collection of rejection slips.

As it should have been - after all, what writing those stories allowed me to do was not only figure out how fiction worked - how to create a plot, and characters, and make things work - but also to figure out my own writing style. It's no surprise, then, that the screenplay I wrote for a college film course got an A - plotwise, I can see (in retrospect) that it's similar to Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury, but even now, I hear less a conscious aping of styles and more of my own style emerging. When I began blogging, I found several blogs that sounded the way I wanted to sound, but managed to still find my own way of blogging.

(And Mr. Sherman, Mr. Bacardi, and Mr. Sterling - let me know and I will willingly pay you royalties)

However, what Mr. Granito did was, quite frankly, reprehensible - I know many artists and writers (both working and potential) who are looking to get the credit - and financial rewards - they deserve. It's one thing to trump up a resume; it's another to flat out misrepresent oneself. Credit where credit is due is always welcome, but credit where none is deserved? Deplorable.

For those of you considering a Mark Waid style smackdown, I would like to ask a favor of you - one that will only cost you a few minutes of your time. Pal Rich (who is a much better blogger than I can ever hope to be) has reprinted a letter from Joanne Siegel to Warner Brothers - a letter which is making the rounds, in which she publicly asks them for leniency.

The favor I ask - read it. Then, take a positive action - write a letter to Warner Brothers in protest. Support your local comic artists/writers/indie publishers. Do some volunteer work.

And when you hear of a comic fanboy complaining about how "greedy" the Siegels are, remind them that the Siegels are only making a legally legitimate case for the rights to the fruits of past labor. Encourage them to read Gerald Jones' Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book, which actually outlines how Siegel and Schuster were screwed over. Demonstrate that despite morally objectionable behavior, we can take the high ground and make sure that the fallout from such actions is minimized.

But remind them, ultimately, that it's the Rob Granitos of the world that make it harder for truly talented individuals to flourish. Stealing credit does not work both ways, and that when one person takes advantage of another's talent, everyone suffers.

Thieves may steal, but artists "borrow" as the old cliche says, but Rob Granito did neither.

He lied. End of story.

No comments: