The Daily Telegraph
Comic-strip writer best known for his work on Judge Dredd as well as numerous Batman stories
ALAN GRANT, who has died aged 73, was a prolific writer for comics and comic books, known for his work on Judge Dredd in the science fiction comic 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.
Taught to read aged three by his grandmother using The Beano and The Dandy (“The first word I could ever read was ‘aaargh!’”), Grant worked briefly in a bank before arriving at DC Thomson, the Dundee publishers, subsequently forming a writing partnership and friendship with his fellow Thomson alumnus John Wagner. Later on they were poached by DC Comics in America to script Batman.
It was, however, the creation of 2000 AD and Judge Dredd which brought out the best in the writing duo. The character, a snarling, heavily armoured fascistic supercop, developed by Wagner, first appeared in 1977. With his catchphrase “I am the law”, he combined the powers of judge, jury and executioner as he battled crime in the violent dystopian Megacity One. Grant began writing for the character in the early 1980s.
From the outset Grant and Wagner set out to satirise contemporary British and American cultural trends. They would read tabloid newspapers to find stories about youth gangs, unemployment, overcrowding and “neighbour rage” that they exaggerated and placed in the future. “People in Scotland hated Maggie Thatcher and a lot of what we did with Judge Dredd was very much a reaction to that,” Grant recalled.
Over the years Judge Dredd gained a reputation for its seemingly prophetic powers, and in later life Grant identified several developments anticipated in the series in the 1980s, including the obesity epidemic and smoking bans. One Judge Dredd storyline featured morbidly obese activists campaigning for extra food; another featured the Smokatorium, the only place in Megacity One where people were allowed to smoke.
“But instead of having a Smokatorium, they’ve made us go outside to do it,” Grant complained to The Sunday Times in 2008 : “This blanket ban is, well, it’s Judge Dredd. We are living in a dystopia, and pessimistically I can only see it getting worse. I think the world that we... are bequeathing to our grandchildren is a horrible, horrible place.”
Alan Grant was born in Bristol on February 9 1949. When he was one his family moved to Newtongrange, Midlothian, in Scotland.
After leaving Dalkeith High School and a brief period in a bank, in 1967 he became an editor at DC Thomson. For a few years from 1970 he lived in London working for IPC on romance magazines. But by the end of the decade he was back in Dundee, living on social security. It was then that he met John Wagner, who was working on the new IPC comic 2000 AD, and with whom he formed a long-running writing partnership.
For most of the 1980s Grant wrote storylines for Judge Dredd, as well as for other 2000 AD strips such as Strontium Dog and Robo-hunter until, towards the end of the decade, DC Comics invited him and Wagner to write for Batman.
After working with Wagner on a dozen or so Batman stories, during which they introduced the Ventriloquist and the Ratcatcher, Wagner left Batman, though he and Grant continued to collaborate on other projects. Grant remained one of the main Batman writers until the late 1990s, co-creating the characters Anarky and Victor Zsasz.
In 1998 in a graphic novel, Scottish Connection, Grant had the Caped Crusader visit Scotland to attend the funeral of a distant relative, only to become enmeshed in an ancient feud centred round treasure buried beneath Rosslyn Chapel. Not everyone appreciated the Scottish connection, though. Grant recalled being accosted at a Batman convention by an 80-year-old American who wanted to know “what the hell” a Scotsman was doing writing an all-american hero like Batman: “Scotland’s too damn close to France. You people can’t be trusted.”
Grant wrote or co-wrote several graphic novels as well as storylines for numerous comics, British and American, his strips including Lobo, Shadow of the Bat, The War of 1812 and Judge Anderson.
For a time in 1998 he entertained
2000 AD readers with a robo-politician called B.L.A.I.R.1, who had a spin doctor built into his brain and was killed off after being mortally wounded by a flying football. “I pay tax at 40 per cent and Tony Blair spends my money on champagne receptions for guys like Elton John and Richard Branson,” he complained.
Also for 2000 AD, in 2005 Grant created characters based on the then Scottish first minister, Jack Mcconnell, and Sir David Steel, the former Liberal leader and presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament. As Jack Mcweasel and David Steeler, the evil lackeys of the Duke of Cumberland, they featured in a six-part story, battling against Highland mutants – “the underclass of future Britain” – in a 22nd-century version of the Battle of Culloden.
Grant wrote the script for the animated film The Dominator, and worked on scripts for the BBC’S animated children’s adventure series, Ace Lightning.
He also scripted The Bogie Man – about an escaped lunatic who believes he is Humphrey Bogart roaming Glasgow – which was turned into a film starring Robbie Coltrane by BBC Scotland.
But a bruising experience during the development of the 1995 Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone soured his appetite for the big screen.
When he and Wagner discovered that they were being offered a 10th of the money paid to American scriptwriters they refused to be involved. Grant was not surprised when the film flopped at the box office, describing it as a “travesty”: “Instead of playing Judge Dredd as the fascist bastard that he is they tried to turn him into a hero.”
In later life Grant moved with his wife Susan to the small village of Moniaive, Dumfriesshire, where they established the Moniaive Comic Book Festival.
During lockdown they joined forces with fellow villagers to produce a comic, Moniaive Fights Back, to help the local economy recover from the pandemic. The comic showed a malevolent cartoon virus plotting to destroy the community, and the villagers’ efforts to hold it together.
Grant’s wife Sue survives him.