I’m no connoisseur of the long-running British weekly comic 2000AD, though I did read it intermittently as a teenager, attracted by its edgy mix of anarchy, violence and wit (all of which can usually be found in its most famous long-running strip, Judge Dredd). The influence of 2000AD can now be felt across many of today’s sci-fi and superhero movies, as well as many comics, while even as far back as 1987 the likes of Robocop – referred to as a (very good) Judge Dredd rip-off here – used the title for inspiration. This documentary by Paul Goodwin was quite illuminating for me, given that it traces the full history of the comic from its inception during the mid-to-late 1970s (birthed into a storm of punk and the early days of Thatcher’s Britain) to the present day (it still comes out every Wednesday), and I presume its loyal readers will love all the interesting detail and anecdotes included. Along the way there have been editorial squabbles and lean periods – the comic endured some poor years during the 1990s, and there was the small matter of Danny Cannon’s much-maligned Judge Dredd film – but the overall focus of Future Shock! is on the combined talent of the artists, writers and editors who have contributed to 2000AD‘s success. Most of these appear as talking heads, and it’s an impressive roster; the likes of Grant Morrison, Alan Grant, Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar and Neil Gaiman all cut their teeth on various strips, and they have plenty of interesting things to say about the comic here, as well as their wider careers as writers and artists. (Alan Moore – one of 2000AD‘s most famous contributors – is a notable absentee. His story The Ballad Of Halo Jones remains unfinished due to an intellectual property dispute with the publisher, which still upsets many of his contemporaries today, with Gaiman stating here that it would have become one of the greatest ever comic books.)
One of the most interesting passages is about the way in which several of these writers and artists moved on to work for big American publishing houses – some of those mentioned above became very influential in the comic book world, particularly with regard to their work on DC and Marvel titles – and the subject becomes a platform from which one of 2000AD‘s co-creators, Pat Mills, is able to launch a staunch and impassioned defence of his baby, refusing to accept the suggestion that it’s a mere stepping stone to greater things. Indeed Mills’ defiant, sweary testaments and barbed score-settling comments invoke the spirit of the comic regularly, so it’s a shame that the lively punk attitude synonymous with 2000AD is otherwise largely missing from this film. Presumably Goodwin had very little archive footage to draw from other than old comic panels and spreads, and thus the film relies a little too heavily on talking head interviews, which is something that eventually I found dull and overly-repetitive in a film that’s nearly two hours long. That said, the interviewees are generally quite interesting and the presence of fans such as Alex Garland, Karl Urban, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow mixes things up a bit. The passion for the subject is evident here, but I’m not sure there’s enough to sustain the interest of people who aren’t already interested in 2000AD, or comics generally.
Directed by: Paul Goodwin.
Cinematography: Paul Goodwin, Nick Harwood, Jim Hinson.
Editing: Paul Goodwin, Jim Hinson.
Music: Justin Greaves.
Running Time: 109 minutes.