Batman on Ketamine
Not a wacky metaphor, I mean the Dark Knight is literally high on horse tranquilizers.
Happy Friday, you! Have any debauched plans for your weekend?
Brian here, and I wanted to open by belatedly celebrating the many contributions made to our medium by writer Alan Grant, who died last month at the age of 73.
A founder and early contributor to 2000 AD (where he apparently rescued a story from the sludge pile by a young Alan Moore), Grant worked on some of the most influential comics of all time, including the terrifying (and criminally out of print) The Apocalypse War…
…as well as The Last American (co-written by longtime collaborator John Wagner with amazing art by Mick McMahon), which Garth Ennis raved about during our first episode of Mature Readers.
But as a teenage Yank with little access to these UK masterpieces, my first exposure to Alan Grant came via his work on Batman, particularly his collaborations with the late great Norm Breyfogle.
This was right after the Tim Burton movie, and Batman couldn’t have been a bigger mainstream sensation… but Alan’s comics certainly never felt “mainstream.” They were fucking WEIRD, overtly political (I learned more about anarchism from that batshit comic Anarky than I ever did in school), and genuinely subversive, in the best sense of that word.
During his run across various titles, Alan Grant helped create now-classic villains like Ratcatcher, Mr. Zsasz, and my beloved Ventriloquist, but here’s a moment from my favorite issue, after Batman’s been dosed by a baddie named Narcosis, who was attempting to drug Gotham’s water supply to trap the population inside a lucid dream.
Check out Jim Gordon deciding not to be a giant narc, and instead letting his boy ride out a K-hole like a champ.
Seriously, how did Alan Grant get away with subjecting his superhero protagonist to real-world drugs like ketamine (whose recreational popularity was growing in the States, at least at my school)?
I have no idea, but Alan’s comics routinely and successfully smashed the real into the fantastic, smuggled grown-up ideas into stories traditionally aimed at young adults, and transformed the pulpiest pulp into something sublime.
That voice shaped me as a reader and a writer, and I’ll be raising a pint to you tonight, Mr. Grant.
In this weekend’s chat with you generous paid subscribers in The Tower, we’ll be discussing drugs in comics, AND giving away signed copies of three of my druggier storylines:
That’s Ex Machina’s “Smoke Smoke” trade with Tony Harris, the run of Runaways with Adrian Alphona that introduced villainous dealer “Pusher Man” (who almost made it onto the live-action tv series!), and the second hardcover of Saga by Fiona Staples and Fonografiks, featuring a moment that gave birth to this t-shirt (discontinued, sorry, collectors) I’m still pleasantly surprised to see humans rocking in public:
Anyway, if you’d like a shot at those signed books, want to see some more of my weird original comic art collection, or if you just want to talk with us about how great it was that time John Constantine smoked Swamp Thing, I hope you’ll join us beyond this psychedelic paywall.
Either way, I’ll see you back here on Monday for more free Spectators. Have a great weekend!
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