For those of us, like us, who may have drifted away from the thrill powered weekly that is 2000AD, watching Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD is a great way to get back in touch with a comic that meant so much to many of our formative years back in the day.
Director: Paul Goodwin
Starring: Pat Mills, John Wagner, Alan Grant, Neil Gaiman and more!
Like getting in contact with an old friend after years of neglecting the relationship, watching Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (Dir: Paul Goodwin) was both a fond, fuzzy nostalgic trip down memory lane but also churned up feelings of guilt for a comic that still has plenty to say and plenty to offer, but one we never checked in with regularly. It made us want to check it out once again, and we’re glad we have. Thanks to this documentary, 2000AD has once more become essential reading as one of the few comics out there that offer both action and satire as well as references to the wider issues in British society that American comics from the Big Two just simply fail to do.
And, in its opening montage of a riotous 1970’s, all punk, politics and protests, voiced over by many of the creators who worked on the comic, we were reminded of its roots firmly set at a time when Britain and particularly British young ones were frustrated with a generation of parents and politicians who were simply not in touch with them on any level, it would seem.
2000AD grew out of a punk ethos and punk aesthetics and nowhere better is that personified in the fascistic figurehead, Judge Dredd, all black, skin-tight leather and chains. A character who represented the state but played in such a po-faced straight laced way, you could not help to laugh at his exploits, knowing that those he dealt judgement to mostly deserved what they got.
The familiar faces behind 2000AD’s greatest hits, John Wagner, Pat Mills, Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison and Ian Edginton, amongst so many others, all appear to offer valuable, warts and all insight into the history of the comic, it’s highs during the 1970’s and 1980’s as well as it’s lows during the laddish sexist cultural low points of the 1990’s where they foolishly though by embracing big tits and porno poses on their covers they could entice an all-new readership who, frankly, wouldn’t have given a toss about comics. This, as documented in this fascinating film, was nearly to be 2000AD’s downfall, being bought out as part of a job lot when the title swapped hands into ones that clearly didn’t know what to do with this title. Thankfully, Rebellion did and the mag has gone from strength to strength ever since, as reliably told by editors Matt Smith (still at the helm to this day) and Andy Diggle. And, to his credit, the much lambasted editor of the mid-90’s, David Bishop, does at least offer somewhat of an apology, albeit twenty years too late for some.
Although, let’s not forget that the 90’s wasn’t a complete wash out, with the comic offering at the time characters (e.g. Sinister Dexter and Nikolai Dante) and storylines (Judge Dredd’s ‘Doomsday’ storyline amongst many) that are still revered today.
People like Kevin O’Neill, Alan Grant and Dave Gibbons wax lyrical about their early days at the comics, sharing cramped quarters and listening, amongst others, to the bludgeoning, yet enthusiastic language of Pat Mills, a seeming whirlwind of energy and excitement even on camera to this day, willing us the audience to connect with these characters behind the comic strips. We are reminded that 2000AD grew out of a desire to somewhat mimic the European style of strip at the time as immortalised by Metal Hurlant in France; sci-fi and sex, and as it evolved it was always at its best when it reflected the tastes of its readership rather than trying to create a readership that simply wasn’t there. Hence, in my reading time, the emphasis back in the 1980’s seemed to move away from punk and embrace Heavy Metal music, with Simon Bisley being the embodiment of this for me, on both Slaine and later, the A.B.C Warriors. This wasn’t your nice, Middle Class, middle of the road comic, and that’s the way we liked it.
Readers, who would later go on to work for 2000AD, such as Henry Flint and Gary Erskine, recognised this comic was ‘dangerous’, rebellious, irreverent and ‘one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.’
This is a documentary that not only shows the regrets of the creators and editors of the past (it seems no-one liked Tharg, but they were lumbered with it thanks to the fans), but also the laments too, for example, Neil Gamian relating the time he asked Alan Moore about the lost story of Halo Jones, cut short after only three books. Moore spends the next two hours relating to an awed Gaiman what would have been. Gaiman, at the time, was reduced to tears. He seems almost close again when regaling this story to camera. A lost masterpiece, and one we will never see.
A film, then, that spans the decades, the downs and the lows and the insight of so many creators, including those who while never writing for the comic, were inspired by it, such as the novelist and lately screenwriter and director, Alex Garland, himself no stranger to the title, having written the screenplay for Dredd, and giving us all a Dredd we could believe in. And, yes, THAT film from the 90’s is covered, to great disdain from everyone. Like we said, this is a warts and all doco, and so it should be, given the beliefs and values that underpinned the original concepts behind the comic.
This is a film still available of 4onDemand, but we can’t wait until the end of this month, April 30th to be precise, when the documentary will have a very special, exclusive screening at Birmingham’s The MAC accompanied by a talk from 2000AD greats, Ian Edginton, Jimmy Broxton, Ian Richardson and Phil Winslade as part of the month long Birmingham Comics’ Festival.
Author: Olly MacNamee
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn’t know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at email@example.com. Or don’t.