Sunday, 28 June 2015

Granite City Comic Con pt3. Interview with Comic writing legend, Alan Grant.

There are some who were probably wondering if my articles on Granite City Comic Con 2015 were ever going to end. I can imagine numerous vigils in even the most secluded corners of the world where people are praying for me to stop, not necessarily praying for a stop to my musing over GCCC, they're just hoping that I'll just..........well, stop. 

The problem is that I simply cannot stop. It's not that I think that I'm any good at this blogging lark, perish the thought. No, the thing is that 5D. The Fifth Dimension just keeps on providing me with the privilege of getting to meet people whose work I've admired for many year, some of whome have had a profound affect on my life. Once again, GCCC provided me with the opportunity to indulge another of my obsessions.

I've made it no secret that perhaps the most potent early influence on my love of Scifi was the comic, 2000AD. As a young boy in the late 1970's I was slowly coming ever more under the influence of scifi and fantasy, I just needed one final push to send me well and truly into the world of nerdom and geeksvile. By 1977 the genre of Science fiction was moving away from the niche market that it had always inhabited to becoming part of mainstream culture - and as we all know, we're talking big time mainstream of monstrous proportions! The success of a certain Star Wars movie, together with some Close Encounters et al meant that a huge science fiction Tsunami seemed to be taking all in its wake. You couldn't turn on a television without seeing a light sabre, droid or an alien of any type. The timing was perfect. 2000AD was a comic that tapped into this cultural explosion and not only that, it was edgy, it took chances, it was intense and at times it was shocking.

The first copy, and the ones that followed each week were intensely seductive in their mixture of futuristic offerings which at times pulled few punches when it came to mixing in a little horror and gore. It was to me, and many other pre-adolescent boys, the punk rock of comics - it tested the boundaries of taste and daring and simply went places where the mainstream comics dared not tread. I distinctly remember my dad one day picking up one of the early editions and exclaiming that the blood and guts in one of the story lines was far too much for a boy of my age - I sulked for a week until he finally relented. For the next few years the characters and stories were my constant weekly companions - my already existing interest in science fiction now became an obsession.

The comic has now passed its 35th year of production and going on nearly 2000 editions, a testament to its enduring and endearing quality. A quality that has been brought to us from what reads like a who's who of literary and graphic British talent, many of whom have crossed over into Graphic novel, literary novels, television, cinema and the wider American comic market.  Peter Milligan (Tank Girl), Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum), Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Grant, Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Brian Talbot, Brian Bolland and Alan Moore have all become synonymous in many other areas. Indeed, many others that initially cut their teeth on 2000AD went on to succeed in America, with huge influences in the Marvel and DC universes. 

Judge Dredd is without doubt the single most iconic creation to come out of the comic, having crossed over into the wider social consciousness in everything from pop art to feature films . One of the movie adaptations is terrible, the other, much much better…….sit down Mr Stallone and just say nothing. Dredd didn't actually appear until the 2nd edition of 2000AD, though he has appeared in every single edition since then. His character was allegedly inspired by the movie cop'  Dirty Harry' played by Clint Eastwood, a tough, unrelenting San Fransisco policeman who was more than prepared to kill the bad guy first than waste time going through the annoying bureaucracy of the justice system. 

Judge Dredd is entrusted with the ability not only to enforce the law, but also to instantly select the appropriate level of extreme justice on the spot – often this means execution. Initially set in 2099, he fights his crime in Mega-City One, a huge dystopian monstrosity of a city which stretches down the entirety of the U.S. eastern seaboard. The huge sprawling stories such as The Cursed earth and The Robot wars took the reader into story arcs of complex and thought provoking beauty that had hitherto to that point been rarely explored by other comic creations.

One of the writers synonymous with Dredd is Alan Grant and someone who also inextricably linked with a fellow Mega-City One Judge, the quite wonderful story arc of Judge Anderson. I must admit here and now that the character of Dredd didn't remain my absolute favourite of the comic. I'm not sure why, possibly his character over the years lost some of the dry humour and all too often fell into the realms of caricature. Over the years I have actually developed more of an affection for the character and story arc of Judge Anderson, if truth be told.

So when the names of GCCC's guests were originally announced, the name of Alan Grant was the one that I dearly wanted to speak to, perhaps more than any other person there. 

For the uneitiated, according to comicbookdb.com......

"Alan Grant first entered the comics industry in 1967 when he became an editor for DC Thompson before moving to London from Dundee in 1970. After going back to college Grant found himself back in Dundee and living on social security. It was here that he met John Wagner and a writing partnership was forged. Together they penned hundreds of Judge Dredd’s weekly adventures in the graphic comic ‘2000AD’. Grant has been writing for ‘2000AD’ for more than 25 years now, and many of the predictions made in his SF stories have come to pass in the real world. He is internationally acclaimed for stories featuring heroes like Batman, Robocop and Terminator (based on the blockbuster Arnold Schwartzenegger movies). He is also the co-author of ‘The Bogie Man’, Scotland’s best-selling independent comic, and the recent comic incarnation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’. "


The Interview bit..........


Q) I’ve been big fan since you took over Judge Dredd in the early 1980’s. I know you’ve probably been asked a thousand times, but just what is about him that makes him so popular. After all, he’s essentially a bad guy.

A) Oh I honestly don’t know……but I remember back in the early days John, John Wagner and I got 2000AD to put in a questionnaire page asking what do you like most about Dredd? Why is Dredd your favourite? Do you want to see Dredd being harder or do you want to soften his image?


Q) I bet most people wanted it harder?

A) Yeah, most people wanted it harder and most people, something like 8 out of 10, when they were asked what they liked most about Dredd they replied “The leather costume!” (Laughs)…….there must be something in that (laughs)


Q) I’ve always been a bigger fan myself of Judge Anderson, who for me is more ‘human’. Was that a deliberate intention to counteract the harshness of Dredd?

A) Yeah, I figured that as she was a woman there was no point turning her into a hard version like Dredd .

Q) How did you like her as she was depicted in the movie, Dredd?

A) It was ok, I didn’t have any complaints about it.


Q) I quite liked the movie, a huge improvement on the Stallone thing

A) On the Stallone one, definitely! (chuckles)


Q) Why were you not asked to have any part in it, some input? Its bonkers.

A) I don’t know, it’s the way movies work. There are plenty of people in the movie business who don’t want to share the money!

Q) I must admit that what I didn’t quite like about the Dredd film was the depiction of the ‘rogue Judges’. It didn’t quite fit.

A) Yep, that’s where it fell down for mw. We had done stories about rogue Judges but they were few and far between and when they happened you made a big point of it, you didn’t suddenly say “Aw here’s four judges who’ve been bought off with a million credits each” That was the big stumbling block in the Dredd movie for me.


Q) What do think of events like this (Comic Con’s). Crazy, overwhelming?

A) I think it’s fantastic. I have never understood the pleasure that people get from dressing up (laughs) but it’s unbelievable, I love it.


Q) Do the younger kids know your work?

A) No, no no…..but unless their fathers have introduced them! (laughs)


Q) So when did you join 2000AD?

A) Erm, 1980…editorially for a couple of years before I left to go freelance.


Q) 2000AD ‘got away’ with a lot of stuff in terms of violence at the time that they would now. Do you agree?

A) Yeah it did….but I think the humour in Dredd was a big thing to start with but now I don’t think that the humour seems to count for much. Sometimes I look at Dredd stories and think, well, you know, that could have been anybody….it didn’t need to be Judge Dredd, it could have been anybody at all.


Q) So what are you working on thesedays?

A) I’m working on a new Anderson story……..

Q) Nice, nice……anything that you could share with me about that?

A) No, no…..nothing I could give away (laughs)……but I wanna kill Anderson off!


Q) You’ve done that before though, with your characters!

A) Well I did it with Johnny Alpha - but they brought him back to life! (laughs)


Q) But why kill Anderson off??!!

A) Well they probably won’t let me do it! And even if I did do it they would probably bring in someone else and bring her back to life! (laughs). Characters like that make too much money for the publishers for them ever to allow them to be killed off.


Q) With all the new technology now and fomats, are traditional comics still viable?

A)  Yeah, it’s still the core, comics are still the core but there is much more peripheral stuff for people to buy. But I’m old-fashioned, I was brought up in the old days (laughs) I still like to hold the comic!


Q) Well as I said, I’ve been a long time admirer of your work, Alan. It’s been a pleasure to meet you, a thrill.


A) Ok cheers, you’re very welcome.

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