Few realize the true impact Rob Granito has had on comic book history. Below are only a fraction of the wonderful creations he has gifted us over the years.
10. Storm of the X-Men
Commonly credited to Len Wein and Dave Cockrum (who “introduced” her in the classic Giant Size X-Men #1), Storm actually debuted a few months earlier in an issue of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire by Tony Isabella and Rob Granito. In the story, Luke travels to Africa hoping to “reconnect with his roots” and encounters a village where the natives are oppressed by a self-proclaimed goddess named Ororo (the future Storm). Ororo is a ruthless leader and forces everyone in the village to wear thick fur coats and designer clothes despite the hot weather.
Luke convinces the “goddess” to go easier on her subjects by sharing a tragic tale of his childhood in the ghetto. Ororo is moved to tears and makes snow fall down on the village.
Fun fact: Granito also invented Luke’s “Sweet Christmas!” catchphrase in this issue.
9. The Hulk’s classic look
When Stan Lee first approached Jack Kirby with the idea for The Hulk (“He’s called The Hulk”), Kirby’s original design was slightly different from what we know: the character wore a cape, full trousers, and a magic helmet that allowed him to look into the future. Kirby had drawn five pages of this version when Lee realized it wasn’t working as well as he hoped. Something was off. In those pages, The Hulk could be seen using his time helmet to ask for the advice of Axe-o-tron Lincoln, a future U.S. President and robot descendant of “Honest Abe.”
Lee asked Rob Granito to redesign the character, and his version was the one they used in the book. Pleased with the result, Lee offered Granito a permanent job drawing all of Kirby’s books, but Granito declined, having fought alongside Kirby in World War II, where they made a blood pact never to betray each other or reveal the location of the treasure. What treasure? We’re not sure.
It’s hard to believe that, for years, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster offered their Superman creation to countless publishers without any luck. It’s only when Rob Granito suggested some changes to the character that their efforts came to fruition: originally, Superman was described as a “perpetually angry giant head floating above a city, terrorizing its citizens.”
Most of the stories, as Siegel and Shuster planned them, revolved around Superman’s giant hands grabbing people from the street and eating them, or spying on women inside tall buildings as they showered. Granito commented that it would be much more interesting if they didn’t do that at all, and proceeded to describe (in full detail) the version of Superman that we know and love. Shuster, however, still included a sequence where Superman eats a person in Action Comics #1, which DC asked Granito to redraw before sending the comic to print.
Similarly, it’s well known that when Bob Kane first came to DC with the idea for “The Bat-Man”, the character wore a garish red costume, carried laser guns and was 20 feet tall. Rob Granito’s main contribution was scaling down The Bat-Man to a more manageable size, and removing the extra set of arms. Granito also suggested that the character’s secret identity should be a playboy millionaire, and not a “notorious turd bandit” (in the literal sense) like Kane insisted.
Immediately after writing down Granito’s suggestions, Kane reportedly knocked him down with a large sock of manure and fled, refusing to credit him for his invaluable contributions. Nobody is sure how or where Kane retrieved such large amounts of excrement, although Jack Liebowitz remarked that some of it looked strangely familiar.
6. The Fantastic Four
Rob Granito worked for a long time as assistant to his friend Jack Kirby, finishing and embellishing his pencilwork. As the story goes, Jack Kirby’s layout pencils were famously vague: one time, Kirby drew a rough sketch of four stick figure people, and Granito took that and produced 103 issues of the Fantastic Four.
Through their 10-year run on the comic, Kirby would occasionally supply Granito with new concept art for stories, usually on cocktail napkins and toilet paper. It’s widely believed that Kirby produced these drawings while intoxicated, like the time he drew the Fantastic Four punching God in the face, which Granito translated into the Galactus Saga. Which takes us to…
5. The Silver Surfer
Stan Lee has gone on the record saying that one day he opened an issue of the Fantastic Four (a comic he was supposed to be writing), and found “a nut on some sort of flying surfboard”. That nut was the Silver Surfer, whom Jack Kirby added to the middle of a story without even consulting Lee. What you might not know is that originally, there was supposed to be a whole delegation of cosmic sportsmen (“The Golden Golfer,” “The Platinum Paddler,” “The Vermillion Volleyballer”), courtesy of Kirby’s assistant, Rob Granito.
“Rob was always adding crazy shit to my comics,” Kirby later said. “I begged him not to do that, because I had to spend a lot of time erasing his demented shoe-men and copulating rhinoceros from the pages, but he told me he couldn’t help himself. He sounded honest, too.” The only reason Silver Surfer exists is that Kirby forgot to erase one of those insane drawings from an issue, and the rest, as they say, is history.
4. The Sandman
When Neil Gaiman was approached by DC to revamp one of their characters in a new series, Sandman wasn’t his first choice: it was Titano, the Super-Ape. “I was fascinated by the fact that he could shoot Kryptonite from his eyes,” Gaiman writes in the FAQ section of his blog. “It seemed (and still seems) to me that there’s a lot of untapped dramatic potential in that.”
However, as Gaiman was putting the finishing touches on his “Titano and the Kingdom of Green Tears” proposal, Rob Granito burst into the room and urged him to try another character. “Who are you? How did you get into my home?” was Gaiman’s first reaction, but upon hearing Granito out, he realized a lot of his ideas applied a lot better to The Sandman (a character Gaiman didn’t even know about until that point). “It struck me that, really, there was no reason for the Endless to be giant apes. It’s better this way, I think,” Gaiman writes.
As you might know, Alan Moore originally intended to tell Watchmen using the Charlton Comics characters: the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question and so on. However, when DC informed Moore that he could not use these characters, Moore went into a panic. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said in a recent interview. “I had what I honestly thought was a rather good story, but suddenly I had no characters. I needed to come up with a new set of superheroes fast… but, you know, the pressure was too much. I couldn’t do it.” So Moore asked his old friend Rob Granito to give him a hand, and Rob came up with this:
Granito later found out that these characters somewhat resembled the Charlton Comics superheroes, but he says he never meant them to: he never even read those comics. Moore says: “My theory is that the impact of The Watchmen on the universe was so shocking and profound, it sent ripples across time, reaching out into the past and influencing the Charlton creators to draw similar guys. Part of me knew this all along, in some primordial, instinctual level.”
2. The Dark Knight Returns
When editor Dick Giordano and artist Frank Miller first came up the idea of doing a “last” Batman story, they realized immediately that only one man could write it: Rob Granito. Granito had essentially created the character, as we mentioned before, so it made sense that he should write his final story, too. Granito loved the idea and wrote the full script for Dark Knight Returns in 15 minutes, while simultaneously playing a game of table tennis with himself. So why, then, isn’t Granito credited in the comic?
Well, Batman “creator” and table tennis abolitionist Bob Kane had a clause in his 1939 contract that specifically stated that “Robert Granito cannot be credited for any Batman work whatsoever, from here until the end of time, even if he totally did do it“. A mere technicality prevented Granito from being credited in one of his greatest and most influential works; needless to say, Giordano and Miller were devastated. When they reached Granito to give him the bad news, he had already drawn the entire comic and part of its 2001 sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Miller liked the art style Granito used in this comic and adopted it as his own.
1. The Sistine Chapel
One of Granito’s earliest comic works was one of the earliest comics in the world, too: the magnificent painting in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Pope initially asked Michelangelo to paint the chapel — however, Michelangelo detested painting and preferred to concentrate on his sculpting work, so he outsourced the job to Rob Granito to get the Pope off his back. Granito agreed on the condition that the painting be in comic form.
In addition to working long hours above a very tall ladder every day for several years, Granito also had to wear an uncomfortable wig and false beard in order to resemble Michelangelo, since the Pope wasn’t aware of their arrangement. The comic was a complete success, although they never did find a good letterer for it, since the job hadn’t been invented yet.
Maxwell Yezpitelok can be found on Twitter, in case you’d like to sue him.