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Home ¦ Features ¦ Alan Grant interview part 8

Steve Parkhouse - A 2000 AD Review Interview

12th January 05

Part 8

Back to part 7

Whose idea was the ongoing monthly The Demon series? Had you read the Kirby original, or Alan Moore's revival of the character in the pages of Swamp Thing before you came to write the series?

It was Bad Dan Raspler's idea. I'd read and enjoyed the Kirby originals, and I'm sure DC must have sent me Alan's stuff as reference, though I don't remember it.

I once wrote a Dredd story for 2000AD called 'Jack Kirby's Demon', but they changed it.

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
The Demon (Art by Jim Murray)

The Demon has been one of those DC properties, along with Doom Patrol, that seems to continually be re-starting in new series. Why do you think the character has never particularly gelled with the readership?

I don't know. It has good ingredients--magic, Hell soap opera, a bit of mystery, tragic hero/villain in the same body. I think the problem was, Etrigan could never be really bad, the way a demon would be.

The whole DC magic genre is something I've always found suspicious, despite Neil Gaiman's best intentions. The truth is, if you want to build a bridge, you don't hire 3 guys in capes to chant mumbo jumbo and wave wands. You hire engineers.

In real life, magic seems to do nothing. In fiction, it appears to be limitless. I tried to make the point in Anarky that evil requires free will and the deliberate negation of rational thought. I called the editor of Darkseid to find out why said villain was evil, what traumatic event or whatever had turned him bad. "You don't understand,"
he told me, "Darkseid is the essence of evil. He IS evil."

Get a life, pal.

How did you come to be offered the job of writing Legion for DC?

Karen Berger's idea, I think, though it may have been Keith Giffen who asked for me to dialog his plots. When Keith left, I took over.

Was your working relationship with artist Barry Kitson different on Legion – I believe he co-plotted with you?

Barry and I have been friends a long time. He lived in Norfolk, I lived in Suffolk, and he actively wanted to collaborate on the writing. So we spent a day or two each month at each other's homes, figuring it out.

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
The Main Man (Art by Simon Bisley)
How did you come to co-write Lobo, perhaps your American work most similar in tone to your 2000AD work, with Keith Giffen, and how did you divide up the writing?

Because of the Legion material, Keith asked me to do the dialog on Lobo. Barry Kitson was up for being the artist, but Keith wanted a dirtier, more in-your-face style to revamp the character. We always used to say--Keith writes a loose plot, Bisley draws whatever he feels like, and I try to make coherent sense out of the result.

Keith and I argued vehemently against the decision to launch Lobo as a monthly. We knew a one-dimensional character like this can't sustain a monthly book. But DC knew better. Keith refused to do it. I refused, too, till they told me the book would be put out to tender from any writer interested. I preferred to stay with the character. Keith didn't talk to me for a year, he thought I'd betrayed him. But I was trying NOT to betray the character.

We still work the same way now. Lobo has been taken over into the Wildstorm universe, so expect more of the Main Man's exploits.

How did you find re-teaming with Keith Giffen and Simon Bisley for the Lobo/Authority crossover – had your method of working together changed?

I hated that book. Kieth, for the first time ever, wrote a meticulous, tight-assed plot that left neither Simon nor I room for manouevre.

Hopefully that will change with the sequel, currently in the works.

You also worked for Marvel Comics, on titles like The Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, Silver Surfer, and The Punisher. How did you find working for them and also their troubled imprint, Epic?

Despite the efforts of guys like Tom de Falco and Nel Yomtov, I don't think I ever enjoyed a single story I did for Marvel. Robocop was a nightmare. They chose the 8th and worst of my 8 Silver Surfer ideas. They made John and I cut out all the Scottish humour from Punisher: Blood on the Moors. Archie Goodwin at Epic was different--Archie was one of the last of the old school American editors (they've all gone now Denny has retired). He KNEW what a story was. Most editors today don't.

For Epic you produced Nightbreed with John Wagner and Jim Baikie. What was the process for adapting the Clive Barker story/film?

They sent us a script, we adapted it. Barker never had any contact with us. We never saw the movie. I think Jim Baikie worked from stills from the movie--actually, some of the best, most atmospheric work Jim has ever done.

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
The Last American (Art by Mike McMahon)

Also for Epic you wrote, again with John Wagner, The Last American (recently collected as a graphic novel by Com.X), with stunning art by Mike McMahon. This seems perhaps the most personal story you've written, with very little of your usual leavening black humour present. What was the inspiration for the story?

We wanted to do something different, and because Mike had complained about the millions of folk he had to draw in Block Wars, we decided to make it simple. Just a hero, 3 robots, and a wilderness.

Together with Chopper in Oz, it brought the crisis in John's and my partnership to a crescendo. We had radically different ideas on how to play it--or should I say, our overall idea was the same, we just couldn't agree on how to do it.

Eventually, John wrote Books 1 and 2, I wrote 3 and 4.

Now that the whole story has been collected and readers can buy it easily without having to scour specialist shops and the internet, what are your feelings about the strip looking at it today, and are you still as proud of it more than a decade on?

It looks great. Mike's artwork is a visual delight--some of it stares down from my wall even as I type. I'm more proud of it now than I was then.

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
Batman vs Dredd (Art by Simon Bisley)
Q: How long did the Batman/Judge Dredd crossover Judgement in Gotham take to come to fruition, and how did you and Wagner decide to approach writing the book?

I think it was originally proposed by Nick Landau, to be written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland. John and I were furious; we may have threatened to stop writing Dredd altogether. The idea was dropped for a while, then resurfaced. I guess it was at least 4 or 5 years from first talking about it to seeing it actually written.

We approached it the way we approached anything else: we sat down on the floor opposite each other, and started talking...

Was there a lot of pressure from the two companies (DC and Fleetway, then publisher of 2000AD) when you were writing the book, and were you surprised with how successful it became?

We came under no pressure, because we wrote it pretty damn fast. We knew Batman, we knew Dredd, and we just sat down and wrote it. Simon then did his inimitable bit. We were surprised by its success, and small royalty cheques still arrive all these years later. When we did the signing at Virgin in Oxford Street, more than 1400 folk turned
up--more than either Elton John or David Bowie drew.

How did you find the production of the three follow up crossovers, Vendetta in Gotham, The Ultimate Riddle, and the long-delayed Die Laughing? Why was Die Laughing so delayed? Would you consider penning another Dredd/Batman team up?

The production was totally screwed, mainly because Glen Fabry turned an 8-month job into a 5 year slog (still love him, though). Cam Kennedy and Carl Critchlow stepped in at short notice to keep the franchise alive and never really received the praise they deserved. (Both of their stories were written after Die Laughing, but were published
before it.)

I'd have no problems with another Dredd/Batman, though I might prefer to do Batman/Anderson or Batman/Strontium Dog.

Back to part 7

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).