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domingo, 4 de diciembre de 2011

Today's Guest: Alan Grant (2000 AD, Judge Dredd, Batman, Lobo)

Today's Guest: Alan Grant, Author, writer of stories for 2000 AD, Judge Dredd, Batman, Lobo, Robocop and many more.

Hi, who are you? Introduce yourself in your own words, please.

Hi. I'm Alan Grant, Scottish comic-writer who has been fortunate enough to work on some of the comic world's greatest characters.

How did your liking of comics start?

When I was three years old, my wheelchair-bound grandmother taught me how to read, using British humour comics as her teaching aids. She started my love affair with comics which has never ended.

And when did you feel the impulse to write comic scripts?

When I was growing up, I was desperate to become a comic artist. But my artwork was, frankly, crap. So I became a magazine journalist, writing features and editing "true romance" stories for girls...and going slowly insane. When my friend John Wagner started writing Judge Dredd for 2000AD, he asked me if I could take over writing the Tarzan stories which he'd been handling up till that time. My first-ever story was "Tarzan and the Sabre-Toothed Tiger".

What subjects do you like to deal with in your stories?

Although most of my stories fit into the science fiction and superhero genres, I like to bring a sense of the real world to my work. Also, wherever possible, I like my stories to be humorous.

What is your aspiration, fame?

I have no interest in fame, no desire to be famous. I'm happy to live my life doing what I love, writing comics.

How do you judge whether a script is good or bad?

If it's a humour story, it has to make me laugh. If it's a tragedy, it has to bring tears to my eyes. I figure that if it works on me, my fans will like it, too.

Do you agree with publication screening? Who should perform it?

I've never met any writer (or artist) who hasn't benefited from having a good editor. Sadly, there aren't too many of them around. I've been lucky - the great Denny O'Neil was my editor on Batman, and I learned a great deal from him.

How was your experience in 2000AD?

Brilliant! I started work as an assistant editor on 2000AD, working with some of Britain's top talents - the writers John Wagner and Pat Mills, and artists like Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, Brett Ewins etc etc. I became a freelance writer after a couple of years, and some of the happiest days of my life were spent co-writing (with John Wagner) the adventures of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Sam Slade RoboHunter and a dozen other series.

One of my favorite characters is Judge Dredd. I love all the characters. It is true that Pat Mills and John Wagner created the universe. Was it difficult for you to do stories about Dredd?

Wagner and Mills did indeed create the 2000AD "universe". It wasn't difficult for me to write stories about Dredd because I learned directly from the master himself, John Wagner. We share a very similar sense of dark humour, which made life easy. We used to read through the tabloid newspapers every day, looking for ideas which we could extrapolate into the future world of 2000AD.

I tell you I really enjoyed the adventure of Judge Child. Judge Anderson also worked on and Strontium Dogs. Ah! And Sam Slade, Robo Hunter! What can you tell us about that experience?
I started off writing all of these stories in partnership with John Wagner. He had become quite ill, and needed a writing partner to help him keep up with the demanding deadlines which working on weekly series involve. For me, working on these characters was like being a child in a candy store!

We ended our partnership after about 10 years, although we remain close friends and still sometimes get together to work on scripts (especially on our Scottish "hero", the Bogie Man).

Then went to DC to write Batman. Batmanis a character thatyou likealways?

I've been a Batman fan since I was 4 years old, when my emigrant cousin started sending back packages of superhero comics from the USA. What I liked - and still like - about Batman was that he was a self-made hero; he had no superpowers of any kind, no bite from a radioactive spider, no cosmic rays, no aliens to help him out.

To me, it always seemed that anyone could be a Batman, if they persevered in life, always learning.

I remember the dialogues between Dredd and Batman in “Vendetta in Gotham”. Dredd was Batman as a vigilante. The ending is clever after seeing them fight for so many pages How was it working with Cam Kennedy?

Cam Kennedy is also Scottish, and we've been friends for 25 years now. My family goes to stay in his house, his family comes to stay in my house. He has a very similar sense of humour to John Wagner and me, and he is a great storyteller (also a great cook!). When he first started drawing our Judge Dredd scripts, John and I went to stay with him on the Orkney Islands and had a fantastic time.

You know. Working with artists that I admire greatly. Brian Bolland, Mike MacHamond, Simon Bisley. When I see what you did last Bisley, my desire is to achieve its rich graphics, the same happens to me with the Brian Bolland works. How was working on Berserker?

Working with Simon Bisley is always a great adventure. Surely he is one of the greatest-ever comic artists. He has a very short attention span, so you have to spend a lot of time keeping him amused and interested! When we work together, there are always many phone calls lasting an hour or more. His family and my family have also become good friends.

Also adaptto Robocop films about comic books Did you work with Frank Miller?

I've met Frank Miller, but we've never worked together. Marvel just sent me a copy of his RoboCop film script, and I adapted it without any input from Frank.

What are Comics to you?

The greatest medium of all. I much prefer comics to movies or TV or computer games.

Which of your scripts is the one you cherish the most? Why?

A hard question to answer - I have a favourite story for every character I've worked on. With Batman, it was perhaps The Nobody (Shadow of the Bat *13), although I loved Norm Breyfogle's work so much I like every Batman story he ever drew. The Nobody was a simple tale, which tried to answer the question "Why does Batman do what he does?"
I also like the stories I did about Anarky, the teenage vigilante.

With Judge Anderson, it was the series called "Satan", drawn by one of the UK's best artists, Arthur Ranson. I very much enjoyed bringing the Devil/Satan into 2000AD's future world.

For Judge Dredd, it was the "Democracy" storyline, drawn by John Higgins. Dredd, of course, is very anti-democratic so he thought nothing of executing people who believed in democracy. This is a very poignant, though violent, tale.

My favourite Lobo story was perhaps the very first mini-series, with Bisley on art. Lobo was such a breath of fresh air to write, because he's a total anarchic anti-hero, who doesn't give a shit about anybody else. But I enjoyed writing the monthly Lobo, too, with great artwork by Val Semieks.

Do you have any favorite e-zine?

No. I don't have much time to surf the InterNet, so I guess I miss out on quite a lot.

Is there any contemporary scriptwriter you are the follower of?

I read every story I can written by John Wagner and Alan Moore.

Who is your favorite scriptwriter?

Without a doubt, John Wagner.

In your opinion, do comic scriptwriters cooperate with each other or are isolated individuals?

In my experience, most comic writers are loners. I prefer working in isolation with no input from anyone else (except perhaps the editor). But DC Comics used to hold regular scriptwriters' meetings, where I got to know Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon and many others - we had to work on many multi-part tales and crossovers, so it helped to have us all in the same room at the same time!

What do you think of artists ?

I envy them! I always wanted to be an artist, so I have the greatest respect for people who can actually draw - and who can tell the story in pictures.

Is it important the diffusion of new developments in comics?

Yes. Comics is the only medium which forces its readers/viewers to use both hemispheres of the brain at the same time, which in my opinion makes it the greatest medium of all. So any new development is an important one.

What do you think of self publishing?

I'm all for it. However - as I have found out to my cost - it's much harder for a self-publisher to get good distribution than it is for the major publishers. To anyone thinking of self-publishing, I would caution - Be careful! It might end up costing you a lot more than you've budgeted for.

Would you dare to give an opinion on an editor who had published you? Or had not published you?

I prefer to keep my opinions to myself regarding editors. I would only observe that some of them are more concerned with giving work to their friends than to people who can do the job better. The best editor I ever worked for was Denny O'Neil, truly one of comics' all-time greats.

Do you watch television?

Not a lot. I was off work, ill, for 8 months last year and was unable to do much except watch TV. I was horrified at how bad most programmes are. I sometimes watch "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons", but my favourite show is "Coronation Street", which is Britain's longest-running soap opera; they always get the best scriptwriters.

What do you think of daily-life technological developments?

Well...because I live in the countryside, I'd be lost without my car! And because I live in a country with a rotten climate (Scotland), I really appreciate central heating and washing machines! Computers have made writing easier - no more carbon copies needed.

What do you think of the new forms of communication? And of social networks?

E-mail is great, much faster than the telephone. But e-mail has a downside - I sometimes receive 30 or 40 e-mails a day, all of which have to be dealt with before I can get down to work, so it's very time-consuming.

Although I have a Facebook page, and 3,500 Facebook friends, I don't have a lot of time for social networking sites. They steal so much time away from what I think is important - writing stories.

Nowadays youngsters follow adventures via videogames or movie stories conditioned by merchandising: do you feel this is going to replace traditional literature?

I hope not! Movies and videogames engage only one half of the brain - the other half goes into a sort of trance. But I don't think traditional literature will ever die - look at the world-wide popularity of Harry Potter, for instance.

Why do you think that, for the general public, comics are low-quality things or solely for children?

When I was a child in school, I was sometimes punished - physically, via the belt - for reading comics in class. Today, I get phone calls and e-mails from many teachers asking me to go and talk to their classes about comics...because so many of today's kids have no interest in reading at all.

It may have been true in the past that comics were of low-quality and primarily aimed at children, but many of today's comics are extremely sophisticated and demand adult attention.

If there was a climate or ecology holocaust, what would you do?

Make sure my family were around me. I have a huge garden, so we'd be able to grow our own food. And we could sit around the campfire at night, telling stories to each other. (I'd also ask the local policeman to give me back my gun, which I handed in to him for safekeeping!)

Which is your favorite comic-based movie?

Alan Moore and David Lloyd's "V for Vendetta." It's a very grim movie, but we live in a grim world.

Do you think that comic writers are nerds or bookworms detached from reality?

Maybe some are. But most of the writers I know are deeply engaged with trying to make their readers laugh or cry...and the whole range of emotions in between.

You worked for Epic, Dark Horse, Image How do you imagine the future of comics?

I'd like to think it will be like Manga in Japan - comics for children, businessmen, housewives...every sub-group in the world will have its own comic stories. It's true that circulations have shrunk disastrously since the "boom" of the late 1980s and 1990s, but I don't think comics will ever die. They're too important for that.

Which was the last comic you read?

2000AD - I'm reading John Wagner's latest Judge Dredd epic.

What are your future projects?

I'm still writing various things like Judge Anderson for 2000AD. I'm also working on a comic for autistic children. I have a graphic novel coming out soon about the 1812 war between America and Canada. My very irreverent "Tales of the Buddha" (art by Jon Haward) will be released as a download soon. And I'm working on a new superhero concept for a well-known non-comic personality (still top secret).

Do you think somebody is going to read this dialog?

Who knows?

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