Writer: Paul Goodwin
Cast: Pat Mills, John Wagner, Alan Grant, Kevin O’Neill, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Leah Moore, David Bishop, Alex Garland, Karl Urban
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 100mins
The lowdown: Long overdue account of Britain’s most punk comic, from its birth in the ashes of previous boys’ comics in 1977, the 1980s golden age, the rocky 90s and its rebirth in the noughties. Director Paul Goodwin presents the unvarnished truth recounted in colourful language and illustrated with gorgeous panels taken from hundreds of issues (or “progs” in 2000AD speak). Creator Pat Mills leads the charge, but the range of interviewees include Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Kevin O’Neill and recent Dredd movie writer and star Alex Garland and Karl Urban. Get ready for one hell of an art attack.
The full verdict: For many British men in their forties 2000AD was the gateway into a world of science fiction, satire, social commentary and well-drawn, well told stories.
A follow-up to Action comic (banned due to accusations it could incite teen anarchy) and cashing in on the success of Star Wars, 2000AD provided thrills to match the movies you were too young to see as well as reflecting the social turmoil of Thatcher’s Britain.
Foremost amongst regular strips was Judge Dredd, but Future Shock! ensures other classics including Strontium Dog and The Ballad of Halo Jones receive their due. One affecting moment comes when Neil Gaiman recalls Halo Jones writer and creator Alan Moore telling him how the unfinished comic would have evolved if Moore had not walked over a dispute about copyright and pay.
2000AD was always satirical, using the fantastical sci-fi shield to make cultural and political swipes (something Pat Mills is ambivalent about as it risks de-fanging the message). Judge Dredd co-creator John (A History of Violence) Wagner states the inflexible lawman was basically Margaret Thatcher, while writer Alan Grant wryly notes, “the more fascistic we made him, the more people loved him”.
For a moment Future Shocks! threatens to be a nostalgia wallow, but matching the anarchy on the page were frequent ructions behind the scenes between artists and management.
Pay cheques included caveats stating that cashing them meant forfeiting character ownership and residual rights. Original artwork was used as mats for muddy shoes, as criminal as the BBC wiping irreplaceable TV programmes in the 60s and 70s. And censorship battles continually raged.
Director Goodwin has the critical distance to address the boys club 2000AD was (and arguably still is), including the 1990s dark ages when the comic teetered on collapsing and saw ill-advised attempts to court Loaded readers. This culminated in an infamous ad campaign (admittedly out of the editorial team’s control).
Then editor David Bishop is suitably candid in discussing the period and the legal battles that beleaguered the comic during this time. 90s owner Egmont do not come out rosy…
Goodwin also reveals the fascinating account of DC Comic’s talent scout trip to the UK when setting up the Vertigo offshoot, triggering a brain drain and identity crisis for 2000AD when writers and artists such as Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and artists Dave Gibbons jumped ship for the US. He convincingly argues these creators who cut their teeth on 2000AD then injected psychological shading and bolder storytelling into US titles, the influence of which can now be felt, for better or worse, in the myriad Marvel and DC blockbuster movies.
The two Dredd movies are touched upon (no prizes for guessing the reaction Stallone’s effort gets), plus the cultural referencing of the comic in such touchstone works as Spaced and RoboCop (an early Robo design basically lifted and shifted Dredd’s helmet onto the cyborg).
Alan Moore is noticeably absent, but his daughter Leah is on hand for insightful comment, and Simon Pegg was presumably too busy to get hold of.
The only disappointment is the omission of the never re-printed McDonalds baiting Judge Dredd comic strip Battle of the Burger Barons (presumably for legal reasons).
But, Goodwin has produced one of the great comic documentaries. Next up could we suggest he gives similar love to the forgotten 80s horror title Scream?