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Home ¦ Features ¦ Alan Grant interview part 9

Steve Parkhouse - A 2000 AD Review Interview

12th January 05

Part 9

Back to part 8

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
The Bogie Man (Art by Robin Smith)
What was behind the creation of The Bogie Man? Is it true that it was originally going to be set in America?

Originally set in San Francisco, Ian Gibson withdrew as artist and DC rejected it because nobody wore a silly costume. It sat in a file until Robin Smith and John McShane (AKA comics of Glasgow) were talking; they decided that Glasgow, as Europe's city of culture, needed its own comic. Robin had the vision to see that Bogie would fit right in, and called us to ask if we'd rewrite it.

Fat Man Press published it, and had things worked out--i.e. had they not acquired the publisher's disease of dishonesty--there'd have been an annual Bogie release from then till kingdom come (not the Alex Ross version).

Francis Forbes Clunie seems to be something of a favourite character of yours – do you still see it as one of the best things you've written?

John and I both love the character. I recently saw the BBC adaptation for the first time in a decade, and it was even worse than I remembered. If Robbie Coltrane had put half as much effort into playing the part as he injects into a grizzled oaf in Harry Potter, they'd still be repeating it every Christmas (instead of never, as is the
current case).

How did the sequels [Chinatoon and The Manhattan Project] compare to the experience of producing the original series?

All three were a lot of fun. Chinatoon was based on a Joe Soap story we wrote (The Manchurian Dragon) for Eagle in its photostrip days. The comic folded before it could be shot, so we adapted the script to Bogie.

Manhattan Project was a special favour for Robin; its story content didn't justify the number of pages in the end, and his colouring then was nowhere near as good as it is now.

Were you surprised at how well the title sold: I believe its still the highest selling independent British comic?

I think the first mini-series sold 30,000+ per issue. I was disappointed; if we'd had proper publicity and a publishing schedule, we'd have sold a lot more, and perhaps even achieved what John and I wanted--to break over into the mass market that reads the Broons and OOr Willie cartoons in the Sunday Post each week.

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
The Bogie Man (Art by Robin Smith)

What was your working relationship like with John Wagner on the new Bogie Man story, 'Return to Casablanca' – is the dynamic still the same between the two of you? Do you feel you're better suited to writing more comedic stories together?

Same as always. John came and stayed up here, we sat down opposite each other on the floor...and we talked. Yes, the dynamic is still there, it'll never go away when we both care for the characters the way we do.

It's always helpful to have a duo writing comedy.

Can you let us in on what's in store for Francis Forbes Clunie in the new story, and do you plan to return to the character again after this new story has completed it's run in the Megazine?

The Edinburgh Festival, illegal Albanian immigrants, the plot of Casablanca, poisonous shortbread, Glasgow gangsters, the kidnapping of Sir Rab McNab (originally Sir Sean Connery, till we were told his agent would sue).

The follow-up is already tentatively tiled Key Largs, though we haven't started writing it yet.

2000 AD - Alan Grant interview
Shit the Dog (Art by Simon Bisley)
What was behind the creation of Shit the Dog? Was is supposed to be your reaction to the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

It was just a laugh, no more, no less. Nothing to do with the TMNTurtles. And a very profitable laugh it would have been --a distributor had offered to take 75,000 copies a month for sale to non-comic, non-newsagent shops. Then his lawyers called--the deal was off unless we changed the title, and took all mention and images of defecation off the cover. Evidently, under Britain's quaint obscenity laws, everybody from the retailer, wholesaler, distributor, printer, publisher, down to me, John and Bisley could be sued...presumably for depraving children by encouraging them to defecate.

We declined, and the rest is an expensive lesson in how to lose money.

Given your perceived dislike of superheroes and licensed products, how did you view writing titles like Superman/Terminator and Robocop, and how do you look back on these strips now?

I hated writing Terminator, and I hated writing RoboCop. For some reason it was all Dark Horse and Marvel would offer me at the time.

I look back on them now by realising that they're filed someplace where I can't find them, and feel strangely content to let it remain that way.

How did you find working for Toxic, a comic which almost seemed doomed from the outset? I believe was some problems concerning Cam Kennedy replacing Robin Smith on the sequel to The Bogie Man, Chinatoon?

Toxic was doomed because its publisher, like so many others, chose to lie to his creators rather than just be straight with them. He seemed to encourage factionalism, so that despite our best intents, and without quite knowing how, John and I found ourselves on opposite sides from Pat Mills and Kev O'Neill. Crazy stuff.

Yes, John and I played a dirty trick on Robin. Toxic wanted Bogie, but it didn't want Robin. With hindsight, John and I should have refused, and I'd refuse today.
But we didn't. It caused a rift between Cam and Robin, who had previously been good friends. John and I have both apologised to Robin since, and old friendships have been restored, but it's one of the few things in my life that I regret ever happened.

Genghis Grimtoad (Art by Ian Gibson)

How did Marvel UK, for whom you produced 'Genghis Grimtoad' with Wagner and Gibson in Look Alive!, differ from working for Marvel US or even other UK imprints like Fleetway?

I don't remember any difference. Marvel UK may indeed have been better. We wrote, they paid, and that was always enough for us. In contrast, Marvel US seemed to be always meddling in every aspect of everything.

You produced Tattered Banners with Mike McMahon, initially co-writing with Keith Giffen, for DC's Vertigo imprint. This proved to be one of your most experimental narratives, with Mike McMahon matching in the art stakes. What was the origin of the strip, and how did you find Vertigo as a publisher?

It was Keith's idea, and Keith talked Vertigo into doing it. There was talk of movie options a couple of years back, but nothing ever came of it. Shame, I thought it was an interesting story of disintegration. It'd make a weird movie, though.

What was behind the creation of the JLA original graphic novel Riddle of the Beast? Did you enjoy writing the book, and working with the huge multitude of writers who worked on it?

This was originally proposed as a 48-page book for Jim Murray to paint after Batman/Demon. DC liked the idea and the story so much, they asked me to increase it to 100 pages. But they offered Jim a peanut rate of pay, so little that he couldn't live on it (he paints 2 pages or less a week). Quite rightly he bailed out and went to computer games.

I was asked to re-do the story for a variety of artists, in order to cash in on the upcoming Lord of the Rings movies. I didn't like the idea, but I did it because I had very little other work on at the time. In retrospect, there were far too many artists. Bad idea.

Grant's Anderson story for Zarjaz (Art by Adrian Bamforth)
You're also one of the few professional writers who still work for both small press, such as scripts for Bulletproof Press, and fanzines, such as the Anderson story you donated to Zarjaz #2 [2000AD fanzine]. Do you like to try and support the 'home grown' industry in Britain? How do you feel about writers and artists working on your creations in these fanzines?

I've no problem with anybody doing my stuff in a 'zine, as long as they don't make (serious) money from it. I have considerable respect for anybody bold and crazy enough to put out their own 'zines. They need to be supported. I don't confine it to Britain--I've written stories for Argentinian and American fanzines. In fact, usually for anybody who asks.

Speaking of 'homegrown', you also regularly contribute scripts to Northern Lightz, such as 'Buck Roachers' with Frank Quitely, 'Tales of The Buddha' with John Haward, and 'The Dopranos' with Jim Devlin. How did you get involved with the comic?

Perhaps not surprisingly, marijuana being involved, I can't remember how we first became acquaint. I do remember feeling they needed help to turn the comic into a proper comic, because it was such a great idea. Since about issue *4, around 30/40% of each issue has been written by me. I love working with some of these artists--Jon Haward continuously delights, Jim Devlin is great, Nulsh (Bush Doctor) is a cartoon great. I've talked several pals --Xuasus, Alan Burrows, Jason Brashill, hopefully Bisley--into doing stuff for us.

Jamie Grant and I now own the comic. The next issue of Northern Lightz, *11, will be the last. It'll be replaced by a brand new comic, at half the price, featuring similar material, as from Spring next year. We're working on it noo; also working to bring out Frank Quitely's The Greens, never before collected, and hopefully a massive Bogie edition featuring all the black and white stories, including the one currently
running in the Megazine.

Back to part 8

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