Obituary for Alan Grant

When comic book writer Alan Grant, who has died aged 73, was at school in Scotland in the 1950s, he was regularly beaten by his teachers for being left-handed and frequently ostracized for rebellious behaviour. So it’s perhaps surprising that he went on to write celebrated series on the adventures of two of comic’s most authoritative characters: Judge Dredd and Batman.

Or maybe not. Debuting in the British sci-fi weekly 2000AD in 1977, Judge Dredd is a sharp satire on a future all-powerful police state, while Batman is the brooding vigilante who has to deliver justice because corrupt authorities are failing in his job. . . So perhaps Grant’s writing was in some way revenge for the injustices he suffered as a child.

Grant continued to face authority after school: in 1969 he spent three months in prison for possession of half an LSD tablet, a circumstance that later formed the basis of a story for his 2000AD strip, Mazeworld, created with artist Arthur Ranson. . , which debuted in 1996.

Alan Grant began writing comics stories at DC Thomson in Dundee. Photograph: Graham Harrison/Shutterstock

In fact, Grant imbued all of his comics writing with his political experiences and beliefs, though the latter were often just as outlandish as the strips he wrote. He said in a 2021 interview that he was kicked out of the Young Conservatives for being too left-wing and that the Socialist Party showed him the door for being too conservative, adding that “basically what both parties were saying was that I was just being too argumentative. for any of them.”

A Judge Dredd story he wrote, John Cassavetes Is Dead, even had the titular lawman question the totalitarianism of the regime he’s sworn to uphold when he’s forced to sentence an elderly man to 10 years in prison for possessing banned literature from the 20th century, including newspapers, novels, and comics. The story broke in 1989, in the wake of the UK government enacting its controversial Section 28 regulation that prohibited schools from promoting homosexuality.

Grant often wrote in collaboration with John Wagner, who was one of the founders of 2000AD along with his editor Pat Mills, and together they wrote some of the stories that were considered to represent Judge Dredd’s golden age, including the Apocalypse War saga of Long duration. , directly fueling the nuclear anxiety of the 80s.

They also worked on the Strontium Dog strip, about a group of feared and hated mutants who suffer from prejudice, as well as zanier series like the futuristic detective story Robo-Hunter and the space comedy Ace Trucking Co.

Alan Grant, left, with longtime collaborator John Wagner in 1984.

Alan Grant, left, with longtime collaborator John Wagner in 1984. Photograph: Graham Harrison/Shutterstock

Their writing partnership came to an end in typically argumentative fashion when, during Judge Dredd’s Oz series, Grant wanted to kill off a popular character, surfer Chopper, by having Dredd shoot him in the back. Wagner vehemently objected, and realizing that the partnership was no longer functioning, they agreed to dissolve it. However, it was by no means an acrimonious parting of ways, and they continued to work together less regularly on specific projects.

That wasn’t the only time Grant clashed with his creative partners. After getting fed up with then-2000AD publishers IPC, for their policies on royalties and creative property, he wrote a final Strontium Dog story in which the protagonist, Johnny Alpha, was killed off, simply to prevent the comic from using him again. However, his former art collaborator Carlos Ezquerra refused to draw him and the story, titled The Final Solution, was drawn by Simon Harrison and Colin MacNeil.

Grant was born in Bristol, but his family moved to Scotland when he was a baby and he grew up in Newtongrange, Midlothian. After leaving school, he briefly worked in a bank until he saw an ad for an editor-in-training job at DC Thomson publishing house based in Dundee, home of the Beanos.

One of his jobs there was to write a horoscope column for a local newspaper, which he would take to increasingly outrageous levels (“Sagittarius, the stars are against you today, it might be safer to stay indoors. Don’t be surprised if a close relative Affiliate Suffers Accident”). In DC Thomson met Mills and Wagner, and it was through them, after a stint in London working for IPC on romance magazines, that he was later offered an editorial position in 2000AD when he launched in 1977.

Initially, Grant was tasked with finding new talent for 2000AD and his other comics, and helped discover writer Alan Moore, author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, by pulling one of his first comic book scripts out of the slush pile.

Grant quit the job in 1980, but was then offered work by Wagner, who was overloaded with projects at the time, as a co-writer of screenplays. That forged their collaborative writing career, and even after they stopped writing together by 2000AD, they reunited in the late ’80s to work for US publisher DC on some of their main characters, including The Outcasts, Lobo, and Batman.

With his wife, Susan, a graphic designer, Grant lived in the Dumfries and Galloway village of Moniaive, where the couple organized a regular comic festival in a bid to help revitalize the community after its economy was devastated by the fever. foot and mouth in 2001. Regarded as an encouraging and supportive figure in the comics scene, he also worked with the residents of Moniaive to produce a comic in 2020 chronicling his experiences with Covid.

Although he had suffered from failing health for a number of years, he continued to write, his most recent work being a 2000AD story about Judge Anderson, Judge Dredd’s fellow psychic, in 2018, and in 2020 a story for a special edition celebrating the harvest. . Comic war battle.

He is survived by Susan and her daughter, Shalla.

• Alan Grant, comic book writer, born February 9, 1949; died July 20, 2022

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