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Dan Abnett at Demoncon comic convention in Royal Star Arcade, Maidstone

By Angela Cole

While avidly reading Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s and Marvel comics (in black and white) as a boy back, Dan Abnett never realised that there were people who actually wrote, drew and edited them.

More than 35 years later, however, not only he is one of the best known comic book writers in the business, one of his books has been made into a Hollywood blockbuster – Guardians of the Galaxy – the highest-grossing superhero film the year when it was released in 2014. A second is due for release this year.

For the former Maidstone Grammar School boy, comics offered imagination, history, drawing, reading and storytelling all in one.

Dan Abnett, comic book writer and novelist

He says of the first time he came across a Marvel comic: “I’d never seen anything like them. I didn’t know writing and drawing them was an actual job!”

His move into the comic world for real came from a letter he wrote on spec to Marvel – which led to a job, working on the likes of Ghostbusters, Thundercats and Thomas the Tank Engine in the early days.

But the pull of storytelling was strong for this one and it wasn’t long before he chose to specialise. Thirty years ago he chose to go freelance and write his own comics, something he has done through the years alongside his partner in life, and comics, Nik Vincent-Abnett – also an editor and writer – who he met at an end of O-levels party in Maidstone. “We were very nerdy,” he admits.

Dan at last year's event in the Royal Star Arcade

“I realised I could take my two favourite hobbies – writing and drawing pictures – and put them together and create my own comics. I was more interested in the story and so the writing became the thing I did. I just loved writing.

“I like to write things that feel real,” he says. “I discovered early on that the science fiction I wanted to read was stuff I believed, so that’s what I like to write.”

'I realised I could take my two favourite hobbies – writing and drawing pictures – and put them together and create my own comics'

He has also branched into writing computer games, as well as writing tie-in novels for series such as Doctor Who and Warhammer, but it was after he wrote Guardians of the Galaxy that Hollywood came calling.

“They were all characters that were lurking around for ages but I decided to put them together,” he says.

“No one minded, they just let me get on with it. But then people read it and loved it. I’d wanted to do a cosmic story for a while – superheroes in space.”

The story was picked up with director James Gunn at the helm and Dan was invited on set to watch the process.

Dan Abnett's comic book inspired the movie Guardians of the Galaxy

Although he and Nik had to turn down the invitation to the LA premiere, they were at the blue carpet premiere in Europe.

Dan says: “I sat at the end and looked up and as the credits started to roll there was my name. I thought “that’s my name!” I know it sounds silly but I hadn’t thought of it.”

He loved the film and approved of what director had done with his story, including the amount of humour in it, which fans enjoyed.

Always brandishing a notebook – “You never know where an idea’s going to come from” – today Dan spends his days working in his eclectic, comic-filled studio in Maidstone although flits between LA and the UK, communicating with studio and comic editors around the world.

Despite the couple’s success, Maidstone has been, and still is, firmly where their roots are, including where they raised their two now grown-up children.

“You can travel the world but you never really know a place until you live there,” he says.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Darth Vader with Boba Fett

Getting dressed to impress

Look out for some fantastic characters walking the streets of Maidstone this weekend. Comic convention Demoncon attracts hundreds of costumed fans and professionals to the County Town to indulge in their favourite worlds.

Held in the Royal Star Arcade in Maidstone’s High Street, and organised by Graham Beadle of the Grinning Demon comic book shop in the arcade, it brings the streets to life with characters ranging from comic to sci fi – and often draws quite a crowd outside.

Demoncon 13 runs from 10.30am and 5pm on Sunday, February 26, and features artists, writers and stall holders, all dedicated to their love of comics.

For details visit the Facebook group by searching Demoncon 13.

These were some of the characters welcoming visitors in!
Sci fi characters gather for the Demoncon convention in Maidstone
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