Arts & Culture

2007 - 2022

DC to DC, From Dundee to Gotham, Alan Grant Remembered

Alan Grant, one of Scotland’s greatest comic book writers and the man behind Judge Dredd and Batman as well as a host of other titles, has died aged 73. In work that spanned work from DC Thomson to DC comics  – from Dundee to Gotham – inarguably was key to transforming ‘comics’ and graphic novels from a medium for children and young people to a massive and serious artform in its own right.

His work on Judge Dredd was famously drawn from his “disdain for the populist authoritarianism of Margaret Thatcher”. He gave comic books a radical political edge and arguably started the ‘radicalisation ‘ of the Batman figure now translated into a huge global phenomena.

The Scottish Book Trust called Grant “a leading star of Scottish comics – and a great ambassador for them.” He began his career as editor in the late 1960s, working first for DC Thomson in Dundee and, then, for London-based IPC Magazines. From 1978 to 1980, he served as editor of 2000 AD, and wrote Tharg’s Future Shocks, Judge Dredd, Stronium Dog, Robo-Hunter and Blackhawk.

Taken with the astonishing work of Grant Morrison (Doom Patrol, The Invisibles, St Swithin’s Day, the New Adventures of Hitler) and Mark Millar (Swamp Thing, Kingsman, Kick-Ass, Civil War, Logan) – the Scots trio can be credited with having an enormous influence on transforming the genre of comic books and creating the (both) brilliant and problematic super-hero universe, a space they both created and tried to subvert.

Here is an Artworks Scotland documentary about him:

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  1. Derek says:

    Grant & Wagner, wasn’t it?

    Dredd and Anderson.

    I’m sad to hear that.

  2. Me Bungo Pony says:

    Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Sam Slade Robo-hunter. Three characters from my past that still draw references from me in conversations to this day. Especially Strontium Dog’s Scottish side-kick, Middenface McNulty. Sad to hear of Alan’s passing. He entertained generations with his imagination.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    Well, Alan Grant makes a cameo appearance at least in the documentary. His only entry in 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die is for co-writing (with John Wagner) The Last American, which I haven’t read.

    There’s a book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud which provides an engaging and informative overview of the format.

    Superhero comics can be disempowering, giving the impression that only individuals with superpowers (ie nobody) can affect socio-political change, instead of collective action. They can give a hugely distorted view of crimefighting: we can hear secret vigilante Batman’s inner thoughts in a totally unrealistic way that could never be matched by public oversight of a public service, when what we really need to understand is effective monitoring and accountability. Who watches the Watchmen?

    Anyway, I think one of Alan Grant’s most intriguing contributions that I am familiar with lies outside of the (USAmericanised) superhero genres. Along with John Wagner, his work on the Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson stories raise important questions about public service in emergencies. While Joe Dredd is almost a closed book, apart from the tersest of soliloquoies, psi-Judge Anderson’s mind (and to some extent the minds she telepathically links to) is open and exposed on the pages. While Joe Dredd is no cynic (unlike his clone-brother Rico), he can maintain distance from the citizens of Megacity One in a way Cassandra Anderson cannot. So how can Anderson continue to serve a public she might have substantial reason to disrespect? Grant manages to provide impressive dramatic solutions to this, not least through the interchanges between Dredd and Anderson. It is after all, a vital question, related to how public servants can remain uncorrupted, avoid burn-out and compassion fatigue, under conditions of extreme stress and limited support/resources.

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