Directed by Paul Goodwin
Produced by Sean Hogan, Helen Mullane and Stanton Media
The Film: Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD is a fan-made, warts-and-all documentary on The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic from the perspective of its creators. From original editor Pat Mills to today’s crew via those who oversaw the dark days, nothing is held back (including language) as an eclectic selection of interviewees share their memories. Now in its 39th year, 2000AD is a British institution and this is its story.
The Review: Before September 2014 I hadn’t read 2000AD, but a post on Lew Stringer’s Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics intrigued me and after a battle finding it (my newsagent tried ordering ‘200 Add’) I was hooked. Then my published letter was seen by the Guinness-fuelled Belfast 2000AD Discussion Group who invited me along and monthly meets with these great people continue. Then, last week, we attended Belfast’s Queens Film Theatre for Northern Ireland’s sole, packed screening of Future Shock.
Including brilliantly animated comic panels, much rock music and a no-holds-barred approach it’s at its most basic a talking heads documentary. At its heart though, it’s so much more. I won’t rhyme off everyone who took part but some favourites were John Wagner, the very funny Alan Grant, Kevin O’Neill, Dan Abnett, Grant Morrison and Carlos Ezquerra who were honest and forthcoming with their memories – good and bad – from various points in the comic’s lifetime. These included many revelations – and not just for this newbie. For example, when discussing 2000AD’s influence on modern culture the original prototype of RoboCop’s helmet was met with gasps of shock (and derision) from Judge Dredd fans throughout the theatre.
Add the likes of Dave Gibbons, Emma Beeby, Colin MacNeil, Cam Kennedy and the legendary Brian Bolland and the audience’s whooping and cheering was understandable. Topics included its creation, 1980s highlights and reaching out to female contributors, as well as Fleetway’s divisive film and television division. Paul Gravett, British Library’s Comics Unmasked curator kept things grounded and helped move the story along, Neil Gaiman gave some personal insights into the dark years and, while I’m not a fan of the music, Scott Ian from Anthrax (he wrote ‘I Am The Law’) was hilarious.
Naturally the comic’s creator Pat Mills was the main protagonist in our tale and very funny with it. He was animated, honest and used some choice language which spoke volumes of his passion while never feeling gratuitous. His descriptions of pre-2000AD comics were certainly memorable and as the heart and soul of this punky, rebellious title he’d the attitude and forthright opinions to match. He didn’t hold back, both in his praise of the writers, artists, colourists and letterers from the last thirty-eight years and in his condemnation of those in the 1990s who he felt tore down what they’d built.
Most surprising were David Bishop’s segments. Editor of the Prog during those dark days, he made decisions which some argue tarnished the comic and its reputation. He came across as an intelligent, funny, self-deprecating man who admitted his mistakes, taking the hand out of his younger self with equal measures of embarrassment and comedy, but his enduring love for 2000AD was most evident. (His impression of fans when he’d wanted to drop Tharg was hilarious.) With Pat’s comments on the former editor matching David’s own opinions of himself, skipping between the two was a fascinating take on that troubled time.
While 2000AD’s influence can’t be argued, both from contributors moving to the United States and how the comic itself has influenced wider culture, the film did include some examples which were a bit of a stretch if I’m honest, but only a couple. But these few seconds were the only flaw in an otherwise perfect documentary.
Retrospective documentaries can be very by-the-numbers and ultimately quite boring, but Future Shock matches the relentless energy of the comic. There’s a funny look back at the original Judge Dredd movie, but coupled with the serious repercussions after the reaction to said film. We also heard how afterwards Fleetway wanted to exploit various forms of media with their profits rather than pumping money into the comic. It also touched upon how the mass exodus from 2000AD of creators moving to US comics publishers affected those left behind. Then there were the meaty sections regarding the creation of some truly iconic characters (even if it omitted Strontium Dog was created for Starlord) and watching these talented individuals talk so enthusiastically about their creations it was impossible for that same feeling not to rub off on the viewer.
For veteran squaxx dek Thargo this lovingly crafted film of their cherished comic is the long-overdue celebration it deserves and they’ll revel in the tales and personalities of its creators.
For me, I’ve been inspired to get seriously collecting to catch up on all those years of thrill-power. After the credits no one watching could possibly be a nonscrot(*) any longer.
– Philip Boyce
* Someone who doesn’t read 2000AD
• As yet there’s no wider release planned for Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD, which is being shown at film festivals. If you’re a fan, it might be worth you suggesting a screening to your local independent cinema. There’s a list of these here on the Independent Cinema Office web site
• 2000AD Official Site: www.2000adonline.com
Stanton Media have been producing all sorts of short films, documentaries and animations for over a decade. Based in London and Buckinghamshire, the three partners: Paul Goodwin, Nick Harwood and James Jefferies-Hinson have been turning their skills and passion towards more personal projects in recent times, Paul’s particular love of comics being the driving force behind Future Shock.
Philip Boyce writes The Oink! Blog and is in the early stages of putting a book together about Uncle Pigg et all and in the research stages of my first novel.