Obituaries: Alan Grant, comics writer who worked on Batman and Judge Dredd

Alan Grant, comic strip writer. Born: 9 February, 1949 in Bristol. Died: 20 July, 2022 aged 73.
Alan Grant started work with DC Thomson in Dundee in 1968 for £9 a weekAlan Grant started work with DC Thomson in Dundee in 1968 for £9 a week
Alan Grant started work with DC Thomson in Dundee in 1968 for £9 a week

A miner’s son, Alan Grant was pretty much written off by his teachers and left school at 16 with no particular idea about what he might do with his life. But he had been good at English and could spin a decent tale. He started work with DC Thomson in Dundee in 1968 for £9 a week, working as a writer and editor on the likes of the Bunty girls comic.

But it was later on titles aimed at an older market that he found a more obvious home for his vivid imagination, dark sense of humour and a sense of injustice and anti-authoritarian attitude that could be traced back to schooldays in Newtongrange and Dalkeith where he recalled being beaten for the crime of being left-handed.

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He spent much of the 1980s working on Judge Dredd comics and he was one of the main Batman writers in the 1990s.

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Some of the storylines Grant developed for various characters reappeared in film adaptations, but although writing afforded him a comfortable living he saw little of the wealth that regular work in Hollywood might have provided.

“Imagine writing Dredd for ten years, then meeting a guy at a party who says ‘Now that's a coincidence. I'm being paid £100,000 for the Dredd movie script and I think the concept is shite.’

“Do you tell him how much you admire him, or do you headbutt him all the way to the bank? And how do you feel about the company which makes it possible for you to be humiliated like this?

“Or say you're doing the San Diego convention, and a guy comes up wanting to shake your hand and say thanks for all the great ideas. ‘What ideas?’ ‘The ones in the Lobo comic. I'm the Lobo screenwriter, and I'm just lifting whole swathes from the comic and putting it in the movie… $100,000.’ No fraggin' wonder he's thanking me.”

Along with John Wagner, his regular writing partner for many years, and artist Norm Breyfogle, Grant introduced the Batman villains The Ventriloquist and Ratcatcher.

In the 1990s Grant and Wagner worked on a series of stories that brought Batman and Dredd together and which involved the commercial collaboration of the two respective publishers DC Comics in the US and Fleetway Publications in London.

Grant and Breyfogle also worked together to create the character Anarky, a teenaged anarchist vigilante, an antagonist of Batman and more of an anti-hero than an outright villain. Anarky got his own spin-off series.

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Grant regarded the first series of Anarky comics as one of his favourite storylines and to some extent the character reflected his own outlook on the world. He regarded himself as an anarchist.

In an interview last year, he said: “As someone who was thrown out of the Young Conservatives for being too Labour-minded and was thrown out of the Socialist Party for being too Conservative-minded, basically what both parties were saying was that I was just too argumentative for either of them.”

Grant, Wagner and artist Robin Smith also created The Bogie Man, a comicbook series about a Scot with mental health problems, most notable of which is that he thinks he is Humphrey Bogart. It was turned into a BBC TV movie with Robbie Coltrane for Christmas 1992.

Grant had a prodigious output and used several pseudonyms, often drawing on current news stories, issues and politics for inspiration and themes.

He wrote the stories for Tarzan strips for several years, including one inspired by the movie Fitzcarraldo, about a ship being dragged overland through the jungle.

Over the years he wrote for almost all the major comic publishers from DC Thomson to Marvel, but he did not have the rights to most of the characters he created, which stayed with the publishers.

He encouraged many aspiring writers who became major figures in the field. While working on the 2000AD comic, home to Judge Dredd, Grant gave Alan Moore his start in the business when he accepted one of his stories. Moore went on to write the classic graphic novels Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

Although he was born in Bristol, Grant came from Midlothian mining stock and his family returned there when he was an infant.

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He lived in Dundee and London before returning to Scotland and settling in Dumfriesshire. He lived for many years in the village of Moniaive, where he and his wife Susan created an annual comics festival in 2001, after the local area and economy were badly hit by foot and mouth disease.

“Tourists stopped coming, people were thrown out of work and we decided that something had to be done to save the village because it seemed to be dying.

"So my wife, myself and several other concerned members of the village got together and started the Moniaive Action Project.

“We decided it would be best to each try and produce something within our field of expertise.

"And because I've got so many friends in the comics world that I can lean on and get them to come here for nothing, we decided we'd hold a comics festival.”

More recently he was instrumental in producing a comic in which the village fights back against the menace of Covid -19, looking very like the sort of aliens that might turn up in a Dan Dare story. He is survived by his wife Susan.


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