Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, 2015.
Directed by Paul Goodwin.
Starring Pat Mills, John Wagner, Neil Gaiman, Karl Urban, Dave Gibbons, Scott Ian, Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra, Kevin O’Neill.
A detailed look at the history of the 2000AD comic and its main character Judge Dredd from those involved in its creation.
Documentaries are a bit like concert films when it comes to commercial appeal as it is only really the fans who are going to rush out and buy it. They are also a bit of a task to review as, again, the hardcore fans are going to rush out and buy it anyway so it doesn’t really matter what you write about it. But if a documentary does its job properly then it doesn’t really matter what it is about as presentation is key and should be able to draw you in regardless of the subject, and Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD presents itself in a warts and all fashion that details the good and the bad from the comic’s history.
Beginning in the late 1970s, 2000AD was created as a response to the boy’s comics of the day that were getting ever more ridiculous and fantastical. Subconsciously aligning itself with the burgeoning punk movement of the day, 2000AD was seen as anti-establishment in its depictions of extreme violence, especially when Judge Dredd became the focal character during a time when the country was being governed by Margaret Thatcher, even though Dredd himself is a right-wing fascist. The first part of the documentary does a great job in setting up the genesis of 2000AD during a time of social unrest in the UK and, after seeing news footage from that period and then hearing originators Pat Mills and John Wagner recall their mindset at the time, if you were young and into comics at the time then it is no wonder that 2000AD took off like it did.
The documentary consists mainly of talking head interviews with Mills and Wagner, plus other alumni such as Neil Gaiman, Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra, Kevin O’Neill and Dave Gibbons, along with some notable fans such as Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, and each contributor seems to talk enthusiastically about 2000AD as if it were their own baby. Topics such as the contracts that the writers were forced to sign that gave away their rights to any of their work seems to animate them, as do the tales of writers and artists using the comic as a stepping stone to move on to bigger things in the American comic market, for which there is a lengthy section about many of the writers jumping ship to go and work for DC Comics. The troubled 1990s is also covered, when 2000AD started to struggle and various editors and publishers came up with ludicrous marketing campaigns to try and increase sales, such as the ill-advised move into the ‘lads’ mags arena with slogans claiming that “women just don’t get it” or the cyborg Tony Blair story that stepped over the mark from satire to parody. Fair play to director Paul Goodwin as he gets the interviewees to open up and acknowledge the lows as well as the highs, and the final word must go to the colourful Pat Mills, who sums everything up with a big “Fuck you, leave it alone!”.
What you really come away with from Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD is the fact that despite the internal wrangling and difficulties the comic has had over the years it has endured and its influence is probably more widespread than you probably thought; did you know, for instance, that Richard Stanley’s Hardware was very strongly influenced by a 2000AD story called SHOK!? In fact, pretty much every post-apocalyptic movie to have been released over the past 35 years seems to have a 2000AD connection somewhere (except for the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd, which seemed to ignore most of the folklore and concentrate on Hollywood blockbuster action with a version of the character that was in name only) and we even get an appreciative nod towards the Karl Urban-starring Dredd movie from 2012, which seemed to get the character and universe right but failed to score commercially at the box office. Perhaps critical praise rather than commercial success is 2000AD’s ultimate legacy as it seems to be a theme that runs throughout its history but, regardless of whether you’re a fan of 2000AD and/or comics in general, Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD is a raw and intriguing look at a part of British culture that often gets overlooked on a wider scale.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★