Cinema audiences across the world have been thrilled by the big-screen superheroics of Iron Man and the Avengers... but how many people know the explosive set-pieces they saw on screen were dreamed up by one of the leading lights of the comics world – who lives right here in Ilkley?

Adi Granov is one of the most sought after comics artists in the world, exclusively working for Marvel, the American publishers behind decades’ worth of Spider-Man, Captain America and the Hulk comics.

His reputation led him to being approached by Hollywood director Jon Favreau, the man who brought Robert Downey Jr to the big screen in Iron Man, to create concept art for the movies, which in turn brought Adi, 36, to work on similar projects for the box-office smash Avengers Assemble.

Adi lives in Ilkley with his wife Tamsin, who was born and brought up in the town,while he was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and his journey to the studio in his home, which looks over the town and where he creates his stunning artwork that adorns some of Marvel’s most amazing comics, is almost worthy of a cinematic blockbuster in its own right.

In 1994, aged 16, Adi, along with his mother and sister, left Bosnia, which was riven by one of the most terrible conflicts Europe experienced in the second half of the century. He says: “Sarajevo was the epicentre of it all. But I was young, and when you’re that age you kind of take it all in your stride. You have to get on with life. My sister was four years younger than me at the time; I suppose her experience was different to mine, and mine would be different to my mother’s.”

The family fled the war to America, where Adi spent the next ten years, living in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, where he attended university, studying art and concept design. He spent the last three years of his Stateside experience working in Chicago for the games giant Nintendo, and from his design work there scooped his first job illustrating a comic for a publisher based in Toronto, Canada.

Though his work was well-received, the publisher hit financial difficulties – as did Adi. He says: “The company filed for bankruptcy and I hadn’t been paid for several months. It was way past worrying – I hadn’t been able to pay my rent, I had no money coming in. This was my only source of income.”

Then, in the sort of plot twist that only really happens in the films or comics, Adi woke up one morning to an e-mail, completely unsolicited, from the gigantic Marvel Comics corporation. We like your work, said the e-mail. Want to come and work for us?

It couldn’t have possibly come at a better time. Adi says: “My first job was a cover for an Iron Man comic. This was quite a few years ago, well before the Iron Man films had been made. Iron Man wasn’t even a popular character among comics fans – he was very third tier.”

Adi’s debut was a hit though, and Marvel teamed him up with comics writer (and now respected novelist) Warren Ellis for a six-issue limited series revitalising the Iron Man character. This was the storyline Extremis which was published over 2005/2006, and which remains a constant seller and considered one of the finest Iron Man comics ever produced – so much so that the storyline was adapted for this year’s third cinematic outing for Iron Man.

But there was more drama for Adi to come – this time of a romantic nature. He had started posting his work on an internet art forum, and the site was moderated by comics fan Tamsin Isles from right here in Ilkley. Their friendship blossomed online, they met up in real life... and now Tamsin is his wife.

They couple decided to settle in the UK, and Adi fell in love with Ilkley. He says: “Ilkley was the first place I saw in England. I had always lived in cities, Sarajevo, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles for a few months, Chicago... but to see the moors and the countryside and the beautiful town...”

As a lifelong comics fan, working for Marvel is Adi’s dream job... but things took an even greater turn when he was approached directly by Jon Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man films. Adi says: “He contacted me to say he really loved my work on the Extremis book. We connected really well and he asked if I’d be interested in working on concept design for the Iron Man movies.”

Adi’s work in this area directly informs what cinema goers see on the screen. He works on character designs, which are translated into real life by the costume designers and the special effects modellers, and also the tone, mood, colour and design of the major scenes. It is Adi’s imagination and paintings on which the key blockbuster set-pieces in the Iron Man films and the Avengers Assemble movie were directly based, then stitched together by the scriptwriting team.

He hasn’t been tempted to move from Ilkley to Hollywood, though. Adi says: “I try to avoid going to Hollywood if I can. Seeing it all happen... it’s a bit like looking behind the curtain. It takes some of the magic of the finished movie away.”

His work is also in great demand for the packaging for toys and action figures associated with the movies and comic characters. He’ll shortly be off to Singapore to meet with a major toy company planning a series of high-end Iron Man figures, and he’ll once again be attending the massive San Diego Comic Con this year. But perhaps the event he’s most looking forward to is Thought Bubble, the Leeds-based comics convention that takes place in November, and which his wife Tamsin has a hand in organising.

The future’s busy, both on and off the drawing board. He’s doing concept design for the second Amazing Spider-Man movie, and a host of covers for Marvel. He would like to illustrate a full comic again, but his painted style is so time-consuming and in-depth that it’s difficult to commit his resources – though he does say he has irons in the fire in that regard.

When he’s not at the drawing board, you might find Adi working on his beloved 1967 Lotus sports-car, or driving it over the moors, soaking in the Ilkley landscape and seeking inspiration for his latest Marvel Comics cover. He is, by his own admission, living the dream of a lifelong comics fan. He says: “Everything I ever wanted to do, I’m doing. I do pause and think how pretty strange my life is, sometimes, that I ended up here. If that 16-year-old who left Sarajevo could see me now, his head would probably explode!”

You can see Adi’s work at and on comic covers and cinema screens across the world.