Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD

****

Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Future Shock
"This is not the most revealing documentary ever, and it deals with a subject that is ultimately pure pop-culture, but it is impossible to feel anything other than inspired by the pluckiness of the this British underdog."

The all consuming void that is mainstream comic movies is slowly devouring more and more screen time with each coming year! Where did this terrible plague come from? How did it become so voracious? What dragged the American comic industry out of its own navel and inspired countless youths to challenge authority? All will be revealed, Earthlets.

The story behind 2000AD is one that mirrors the motley crew of heroes and villains that take residence in its pages. Helmed by the incorrigible Pat Mills, 2000AD was a fire lit under the arse cheeks of authority. At its most cutting edge and violent during the years of Thatcher and Mary Whitehouse, it was a comic unlike anything before it, and to this day it remains a unique vessel for cutting-edge entertainment.

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Future Shock is the story of the comic’s inception, its lofty highs and its nadir of irrelevance through the Nineties. This documentary brings together the many people who made it possible, with a list of talking heads that would inspire awe and reverence in any comic fan. Each segment is lavishly book-ended by excellent interstices rendered by 3PS and Zebrapost, and an appropriately high-octane soundtrack. It’s the story itself that makes this documentary so watchable, expertly stitched together through many candid explanations of how the comic functioned. These artists and writers make it abundantly clear that they were part of something special, and they talk freely about the brilliant culture of creativity that it inspired, without holding back about their publishers insipid copyright control.

Stories like Dredd, Strontium Dog and Nemesis The Warlock were all incredibly prescient, created by people who understood the impact and depth that comics were capable of. John Wagner’s deadpan humour comes as no surprise considering his work on Dredd, and his mantra of “Dredd is hero, Dredd is villain” is the kind of twisted idea that enshrined the punk ethos of the comic. Giving its speakers plenty of time to speak their minds, this documentary shows how a comic managed to create a punk character out of a fascist lawbringer. How they achieved commentary on the nature of good and evil by casting post-eugenic humans as the enemies of the freedom of the known universe.

The history and influence of 2000AD is respectfully handled. Alex Garland and Nacho Vigalondo explain how the tiny, inspired details within the comics lead to them to create 28 Days Later and Timecrimes. Even Dan Bishop and Andy Diggle get to say their piece, perhaps not as humbly as one might expect, but still with enough humility to admit that their approaches were lacklustre in retrospect. Tracing this storied history reveals how Grant Morrison and Co. were nurtured by 2000AD, and how their defection to the greener grass of America and DC/Vertigo created the template for the modern Superhero, and thus the current crop of Marvel and DC titans that dominate the silver screen.

This is not the most revealing documentary ever, and it deals with a subject that is ultimately pure pop-culture, but it is impossible to feel anything other than inspired by the pluckiness of the this British underdog. The writers and creators don’t bother to focus on pithy anecdotes to win over the audience, but much like their beloved comic they tell the brutal truth of the matter without pandering. As people, they wear their convictions on their sleeves, and Mills’ enthusiasm for talent brushes up against Bishop and Jones desire to run a business,something which is handled elegantly by the edit.

Even the heavy bias against female writers is handled well. As a comic ostensibly “by boys, for boys” it doesn’t attempt to shift blame for this (although Morrison’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t attitude to writing women doesn’t quite wash) and it does go out of its way to position Karen Berger of Vertigo as one of the key players in the transit of talent from the UK to the US.

Ever the underdog, 2000AD remains a hugely important piece of contemporary culture. WIthout its permanent two-fingered salute to the mainstream, the landscape of current pop-culture would be a very different place, something that this documentary perfectly captures. Comics and films would be a poorer place with it, and Future Shock! is an explosive and accessible history. What’s left to say, other than zarjaz!

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2015
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Study of the British sci-fi comic's evolution.
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