Future Shock: The Story of 2000 AD
As an avid reader of 2000 AD growing up, I was particularly interested in watching this documentary, which details the history of one of Britain’s greatest comic institutions. It begins with the comic’s progenitor, Action which was banned by censors for being too ‘close to the bone’ with its blend of violence and political satire. Pat Mills who started Action decided to begin another comic, in this case 2000 AD based on a similar premise but with an added science fiction theme which would distance it from the present day world, whilst allowing for a blend of ultra violence and satire to pass the eye of the censor. Although I was oblivious as a kid to the political nuances of the comic I was drawn to its incredible artwork and its fairly grown up and at times incredibly dark, sometimes terrifying subject matter (Judge Dredd’s battles with his arch nemesis Judge Death and Judge Anderson’s conflict with Satan come to mind). The documentary does a good job of highlighting this controversial and dangerous quality of the comic, drawing parallels between it and the era of punk in which it was born. Moreover, 2000 AD wasn’t a typical superhero comic. As an example, Dredd was as much a satirical caricature of the fascist lawman as he was a noble dispenser of justice.
As a talking heads documentary I was worried the film might become boring but fortunately the interviewees were very interesting characters, particularly Mills, John Wagner and David Bishop. Mills never lost an opportunity to express his anti-authoritarian credentials while Wagner had a very dry sense of humour but also seemed more grounded in comparison. Bishop provided some very witty responses about his tenure as editor during the 90s. There were also contributions from Scott Ians of Anthrax, Neil Gaiman (who wrote for the comic in its early days) and Geoff Barrows of Portishead. The section on violence in the comic is the funniest inviting the most amusing, honest responses, with which I could very much identify. There are also some very cool and effective sequences with visuals from the comic accompanied by pounding punk metal, that effectively conveyed its controversial dimension and which made it more appealing to me than other titles back in the day.
The film also explored the business end of things which I found less interesting. However, it was quite revealing about the internal disputes over copyright, retaining artists who would see 2000 AD as a stepping stone to American comics and the general creative direction of the comic when it seemed to lose its way in the 90s with the infamous ‘sex issue’. The bit on Halo Jones became a bit overly sentimental although it did a good job of highlighting the deleterious effects of the contracts being offered writers, given that the strip’s author abandoned writing what could have been the comic’s greatest strip.
The film covered the legacy of the comic and its influence on popular culture. On this note there was also an interesting bit about a copyright dispute between 2000 AD and Richard Stanley, the director of Hardware concerning the film’s M.A.R.K.13 robot design. Significantly, Hardware is widely considered to be the first unofficial 2000 AD film in being based upon the strip Shok!, which details Mike, a Strato-Bat Pilot who buys a Shok trooper robot head for his artist girlfriend that then goes on the rampage in her apartment. In summation Futureshock was highly informative and well put together and it ought to be a boon to the comic as it turned me on to getting a new issue of 2000 AD and reignited my interest in buying Classic 2000 AD issues I lost years ago.