Monday, July 25, 2022

Alan Grant: Giving the kids what they needed

Legendary comic writer Alan Grant merged with the infinite last week and there have been a lot of people saying what a great scriptwriter he was, and that he was a brilliant mentor to generations of incredible British talent, and that's all undoubtedly true, but I'll always remember the big man for one thing above all else - he knew what the kids wanted.

I never got any regular pocket money as a kid, so had to beg for the 77c in 1980s New Zealand money that I needed each week for my fix of 2000ad thrillpower. And with my dad's working-class seasonal work, that 77c was sometimes a lot to ask for. At one particular point when I was 11, it was just getting too hard to ask, and I decided I'd have to give up 2000ad for a while.

But not for a couple more weeks yet, because Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra's Rage storyline in Strontium Dog was just getting to the point, and I couldn't stop now. After a year of unrequited revenge, I had to see Johnny track down the scum who murdered his best mate Wulf and put them in the damn ground.

I begged for every cent that the next two progs cost and it was totally worth it. It was still rough giving up 2000ad for a while, especially when it was still arguably in its golden age, but going out with Alpha's revenge reaching completion was a great way to go.

I started getting 2000ad again a year and a bit later, when Chopper was going for gold in Supersurf 10, and I did get all the progs I missed by some savvy swapping of some X-Men comics my mate Kyle desperately needed, so it doesn't feel like I missed anything.

But I've never forgot that drive and need to get to that end of that story, with the drawing out of the action building real long-term tension, all feeding the addiction. As a kid, I never had a chance, not when Alan Grant was always pushing the good stuff onto you.

In 2000ad alone, there was the massive amount of stories he wrote with John Wagner that captured the hilarious contradictions of a fascist fuck like Judge Dredd; or they were driving Sam Slade nutty with his Robo-Hunting adventures, or inventing barmy space trucker language for Ace Trucking Co

Their partnership inevitably ended, but there is some weird pride that when the split came, it was literally creative differences, not over finances or anything boring like that. Grant wanted Dredd to shoot Chopper in the back, Wagner wasn't having it, and that was that

Grant did plenty on his fine work on his own - the Demon and Lobo comics he did for DC required a very specific kind of humour that Grant nailed every time, and his long run on Batman was so well received that they essentially created a whole new title - Shadow of the Bat - for Grant to get stuck into things.

And as the kids who read his comics grew up, the comics Grant write grew with them. His Anderson stories got stuck into the hypocrisies of Justice Department to a ludicrous degree, (throwing a nuclear bomb at a crowd of non-violent children of Mega-City One is such a big sin on the city's Justice Department that nobody ever talks about it again) and his comics often had the tantalising taste of all sorts of eastern philosophies.

He wasn't always given the respect, his solo Dredd stories always paled in comparison to Wagner's - and after helping guide Batman through one of its most profitable eras ever, he was cast adrift by DC, not even invited back for all the big anniversary issues.

He deserved more, because he gave so much, and the avenging of the murder of Wulf Sternhammer was just one of them. Just a fucking good one that had me running to the bookstore for the next issue. Not many writers can do that.

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