OBITUARIES these days, for me, open up a wormhole of memories, almost intact and entire. Thus the passing of Scottish comics writer Alan Grant, storyteller of Judge Dredd and Batman, takes me back to my excited teen days as a consumer of UK comics, pre-eminently 2000AD.

I mean UK comics: I had been trying unsuccessfully to connect with Marvel and DC superhero titles, but there were too many muscles, too many superpowers mysteriously imbued, too much operatic (indeed galactic) evil and goodness.

It’s interesting to find out that 2000AD was launched in anticipation of a season of SF blockbusters coming out in 1977, particularly Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was already what they call a “hard SF” kid, reading books by Issac Asimov, Brian Aldiss and Robert A. Heinlein.

So I was their target audience. Give me a transformative technology, or a distorted society, or ideally both. But keep the kryptonite in its box, ta. I also can’t disconnect the desire from something a wee bit grungier than the Silver Surfer from the tenor of the times.

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1977 was wild. Punk in its full scabrous pomp, Dounreay exploding, the Yorkshire Ripper on the move, industrial strife mounting … you would want to see a future beyond all this. But you couldn’t help expecting it to be dystopian.

Grant’s collaboration with the American-born John Wagner gave rise to Judge Dredd, the authoritarian law-man dispensing summary justice in Mega-City One, a sprawling American conurbation of 500 million. I got the satire straight away: we were being invited to identify with a legal executioner whose response to the psychopathy produced by a broken and unequal society was to blast first, and ask questions later. “I am the law!” was how a Dredd strip often ended. Nothing and no one to admire here. It was like prep-school for Thatcherism.

But I didn’t love British comics for the nobility of their characters – it was the quality of the worlds they made. Another early Grant series in 2000AD was called Robo-Hunter – the premise a shameless lift from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (itself the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in 1982).

Grant, and the artist Ian Gibson, filled each panel with as many robots as there are household gods. It’s still my favourite imagining of a society filled with intelligent, varied artificial intelligences (and Sam Slade the Robo-Hunter as a Philip-Marlowe-like defender of the human – while vaping with his robot stogie).

The American comics industry started to notice Dredd in the 80s, and invited Grant to write for DC’s Batman. Grant was contemptuous of most American superheroes – “all that magic stuff, complete nonsense”.

But he went for Batman because he was fully human, and scripted him as “a fighter not quite for the poor, but for the underprivileged, or those who couldn’t find justice in any other way”, as Grant says in John MacLaverty’s excellent BBC Scotland documentary Scotland’s Amazing Comic Book Heroes. The doc also shows that Grant got Batman to Scotland in one story, where his adversary was revenging the Highland clearances (perpetrated by Batman’s ancestors).

Grant came to prominence among a generation of comic writers and artists that were, in their own way, a parallel to the post-punk and post-modern experimentation in other artistic fields. As class war bore down on traditional industries in the mid-eighties, I was reading strips like Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta in Warrior magazine: an all-too-convincing rendition of a modern fascist Britain (and which has bequeathed modern protest movements their Guy Fawkes mask).

Moore – whose early scripts Grant picked out of a slush pile at 2000AD, and who wrote The Ballad of Halo Jones for them in the mid-80s – went on to create Watchmen for DC in 1986. This brilliantly embroiled a cast of costumed superheroes in Cold War and Reagan-era corruption and collusion.

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The creative writing giants of the last twenty years of comics, Coatbridge’s Mark Millar and Glasgow’s Grant Morrison, both came up through a 2000AD helmed by Grant. Millar is now a major executive at Netflix, with his prodigious talent for action and superhero franchise feeding their system. Grant Morrison, always more oblique and mercurial, followed Grant’s route of writing off-kilter, fractured versions of familiar US superheros (Batman, Superman, X-Men, Green Lantern).

As Professor Alan Riach says in the BBC doc, Scots writers and inkers – rather like musicians – have both immersed themselves in the Americana of comics, but obviously maintain a cultural, historical and even ideological distance from it. One of Grant’s recent Batman villains was literally called Anarky, the writer delighting in charting his destruction of Gotham.

Grant wasn’t predictable, in terms of his politics (few Scottish comics writers are). Anarky was based on the philosophies of Neo-Tech, a libertarian offshoot from Ayn Rand that once harnessed its share of the swivel-eyed. I also found a Newsnight Scotland interview from 2008, where Grant declares himself opposed to smoking bans, says a human-based climate crisis “can’t be scientifically proven”, and predicts “they’ll come after free speech and mobility next”.

Well, nobody’s perfect. But it does seem that Grant was tailor-made for the unruly spirit of most comics. Like so many, he began at DC Thomson, where all those great resisters of authority – Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, the Bash Street Kids – sent their stories out to generations of children, chafing under adult rule.

But there seems to be a darker element to Alan Grant’s carnaptious sensibility. In a 2017 video clip for Glasgow Museums, Grant can be seen making an amazing cognitive case for comics – but also roots it in an appalling childhood experience.

Unlike any other art-form, comics use both hemispheres of your brain – the right-hand side that appreciates whole visual worlds, the left-hand side that processes language. His grandmother taught him to read and write, as a toddler, using comics.

Grant began primary school as a left-handed writer – “and in 1953 you weren’t allowed to be left-handed in school … At four years old, I was marched out to the front the class, every morning before we started, and given the belt on my left hand, until I couldn’t use it. When I started to write with my right, it came out in mirror-language, backwards, like Leonardo Da Vinci …

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“If they’d allowed me to write naturally, would I have been a better writer at an earlier age?

"Or did I become a good writer because they belted my left into oblivion? I’ve never come up with a satisfactory explanation.”

Perhaps it’s no wonder Grant perpetually wrote about war, law, violence, and those who would resist their arbitrary oppressions.

Comics, for all their power and profitability these days, are still the place where you can overturn the world – at least for 24 to 32 pages.