Graphic Content returns with a new Q&A with Scottish writer Jim Alexander who, on top of his self-published comic strips, you may know from his work for 2000 AD, Marvel and DC. Jim has a new novel out and is one of the contributors to Marvel’s new Uncanny Origins: Myth & Magic comic (his contribution is a story about The X-Men’s Storm).

Here, he tells us his comics history, what he would do with his last day on Earth, and how he got Billy Connolly into Judge Dredd (well, kind of).

Hello Jim. Why don’t you introduce yourself to us? Who are you? Where are you? What do you do? What do you never do?

I’m a writer of pulsating, occasionally challenging fiction; a keeper and destroyer of worlds. I live in East Kilbride, the unofficial centre of the universe. There are enough roundabouts to justify this claim. When I’m not writing, I try to be better at all the other things: husband, father, would-be (half) marathon runner. By day I work in pensions. I have never learned to properly tie shoelaces. Also, I’ve just discovered I’m a little pretentious if that opening sentence is anything to go by.

What is your history with comics? Did you discover them as a kid? What did you read?

I’m old enough to remember only three channels on the telly. Nature abhors a vacuum so like most kids at the time I read humour comics such as Beezer and Topper. I then graduated onto war comics like Warlord. This and the old black and white Marvel reprints such as Conan the Barbarian and Mighty World of Marvel. I’m getting all misty-eyed here. I bought the first issue of 2000AD and threw the free gift which came with the comic, a “space spinner”, over the neighbour’s hedge, never to return. It should have been a space boomerang.

I stopped reading comics once I became a spotty teenager, but returned when a student friend dangled some Warrior Magazines in front of me. Alan Moore’s writing on Marvelman and V for Vendetta just blew me away. And I was back, and it never felt like I’d ever been away.

When did the idea of creating them yourself begin and how did that develop?

I’d always enjoyed writing stories. The comic strip captured my imagination in a way no other medium could. I can’t draw for toffee, but I can think visually. I have this thing in my brain that can switch seamlessly from one scene to another, so creating momentum all its own. Initially, I sent in some Future Shock proposals to 2000AD. I remember sending in a story idea to Dan Abnett when he was an editor at Marvel UK. Everything got rejected, but there was the odd comment which accompanied each rejection, some words of encouragement to keep me going.

Included in that number was David Bishop editor of Judge Dredd Megazine at the time. As fate would have it, he was due to appear at GlasCac; the Glasgow Comic Con of the 1990s. I’d spent most of the morning searching for him without success when I spotted him in the cafeteria area about to sink his chops into a chocolate eclair.

Instead of leaving the poor man alone to eat his snack, I approached and introduced myself and asked if I could have a quick word. As it happened, the Megazine’s frequency was about to change from monthly to bi-weekly and he was actively looking for new writers and artists to fill the additional pages created as a result.

I came up with the idea on the spot of Calhab Justice (set in a version of Scotland which forms part of the Judge Dredd universe) describing the main character (later to be called Ed MacBrayne) as a cross between Judge Dredd and Billy Connolly. And the rest is history. Well, kind of.

Read More: David Baillie on writing for 2000AD and DC

You’ve also written novels. Is it a very different discipline?

I bring a strong visual sense to my novels. I think people who’ve enjoyed my comics work will enjoy my novels and vice versa. The one big thing I needed to do was bend my head round the transition from writing in the present tense (in terms of comics) to the past tense on books. It does feel sometimes like I have to rewire my brain.

Your new novel the Light is set in a world where you know when you wake up that this is the day you will die. Where did that idea come from?

I was invited to pitch to Vertigo several years ago. My idea revolved around a world where people were set certain tasks and if successful their reward was 15 minutes added to their lifespan. It didn’t grab the editor sufficiently and in truth it didn’t grab me either. I knew there was the germ of an idea buried there that I could really work with. I just needed time for it to fully form in my mind. And then at some point I came up with the Light, brimming with all kinds of interesting and exciting possibilities. It just needed a few years to get to that point.

HeraldScotland:

If you lived in the novel would you want to know the day of your death? And if you did, what would you do with your last day on the planet?

Such is the all-encompassing nature of death in the book, it would be difficult, when it comes to it, to avoid knowing that this is your last day. In the book there are so many viewpoints and experiences surrounding a person’s last day.

We see how the nature of death has changed. How the sanity of the world was saved by the media spotlight falling on a grieving mother and her dying child. How the Church of the Last Day came to be, which allows people on their final day to do anything they want legal or otherwise; no matter what, the police do not interfere. We look at how war is rendered obsolete. How can nations send troops off to fight when they know in advance the ones who are going to die? We follow an NHS worker with the ghoulish job of identifying the patients who won’t survive the day and therefore freeing up hospital beds. We follow the President of the USA who spends his last day hunting a giant panda on a Scottish golf course.

OK, I’m conscious I’m prevaricating somewhat. That’s a good question. One I’ve not been asked before. If I’m honest up to this point something that hadn’t even occurred to me. What would I do if I was a character in the Light facing their final day? Throughout the book there is the reoccurring theme of Last Dayers (as they are coined in the book) being surrounded by the people they love and trust. Of fate putting people together at the right time for no other reason than it is the right time. I’d like to think that this would apply to me as well.

You’re now working for Marvel. How hard has it been to get to this point?

I’ve worked for Marvel (and DC) over the years, but only intermittently. This story is a big deal because it features such a prominent character as Storm.

The story charts Storm as a young child, through to being a street urchin, through to beginning to discover the extent of her powers. How her troubled life up to this point informs and instructs her as she enters maturity and a world of responsibility which comes with being both a god and an X-Man.

It’s a challenge because it’s Marvel and everyone wants to work for Marvel. I’d like to do more of course, and who knows if I'll have another opportunity, but happy to concentrate for now on promoting the Light.

What is the fun and the challenge of working on an X-Men comic? What do you want to do with the opportunity?

It was terrifying. When I look back, the prospect of working on it still terrifies me. And I’ve done it; it’s out there already! I hope I’ve done the character justice. The artist on the strip Marc Campos has definitely captured what Storm is all about. For me if the fans read and enjoy the comic that’s enough, because I’m a fan too. I know that’s a screaming cliche, but in this case, I really don’t know what else to say. Except maybe, umm, next question…

What is your dream job?

I’m doing it.