Page last updated at 11:51 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 12:51 UK

Superheroes 'made in Yorkshire'

By Cathy Booth
BBC News, Leeds

Iron Man
The suit for blockbuster film Iron Man was designed by Adi Granov in Leeds

While big-budget superhero films like Batman and Iron Man often originate in the US, the artists behind the fictional characters can be found a lot closer to home.

In fact, the creators of such comic book and film characters are stepping out of the shadows in their spare rooms across Yorkshire and in to the spotlight of international success.

'Iron Man'

Marvel Comics artist Adi Granov, 32, was born in Bosnia but now lives in Leeds with his wife.

After working for Marvel for several years, his big break came when he drew a comic about a classic character who had fallen out of favour with modern readers - Iron Man.

The resulting book, which was written by British writer Warren Ellis and drawn by Granov, was noticed by Hollywood director John Favreau who asked Adi to get involved with an Iron Man film.

The idea for the film had been around in Hollywood for some time, but Granov said the timing was not right.

Adi Granov
Adi Granov's Iron Man comic inspired the Robert Downey Jr film

"Iron Man has been the next in line in Marvel's catalogue of characters for a film for many years," he said.

"It has been pushed back and forth in Hollywood but nobody really knew what to do with it because Iron Man was a very 'old-school' character.

"The book that I did gave them a solid direction."

Granov helped to design all the main characters and fight scenes in the film, which starred Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow.

And as suit supervisor, he rethought how the main character's suit worked.

"Before we took it on Iron Man's technology was very abstract," he explained.

"I thought of the suit as like an aircraft which has just been miniaturised and made human-shaped so a person could fit into it."

There I was sat in a spare bedroom in Wakefield and I was the guy who was delineating the stories of Batman
Staz Johnson, artist

'Yorkshire graft'

Artist Staz Johnson, 44, from Wakefield, has been drawing for comic books since the 1980s.

He has drawn for both Marvel and DC comics and has taken on most of the legendary characters including Catwoman and Wolverine.

He puts his success down to one thing - hard work.

"It was very much Yorkshire graft.

"I had a strong work ethic instilled in me from my parents," he said.

"I didn't go to university, because they couldn't teach me what I wanted to do, which was to draw comics.

"I knew that that was something I would have to teach myself."

Johnson's first love of the comic world was Batman, but it took many years before he was paid to draw his hero. When success came it was a surprise.

"Batman got me into comics, never did I ever imagine that I would be the one who got to draw him. It was my dream.

Batman vs Alien drawn by Staz Johnson
Staz Johnson said drawing Batman was a "surreal experience"

"When I got that call from DC Comics saying that they wanted me to draw Batman, I couldn't believe it. It was a surreal experience.

"There I was sat in a spare bedroom in a house in Wakefield and I was the guy who was delineating the stories of Batman," he said.

'Comic fans'

At Doodle-Booze, a night organised by a Leeds comic book shop, comic fans get together and draw in a pub.

Organiser and comic shop owner Jared Myland explained: "At the shop we get a lot of people who are quite insular and shy.

"Through coming to Doodle-Booze and talking about comics they've become good friends.

"It's more important than the comics, its getting people to interact."

Graphic design student Nick Birch found comics helped him fight his own battle.

"When I found out I was dyslexic my brother used comics to get me more engaged with reading," he said.

"The combination of pictures and words together really helped me and now I read and write pretty normally."

Comic book superheroes may inhabit fantastic imaginary landscapes in far-off lands, but they are right at home in Yorkshire too.

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