Rather self-explanatorily, Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD charts the development of the legendary British comic from its inception as a part of subversive ‘70s counterculture to its present day status as a national institution, as told by a number of the writers, artists and editors who were along for the ride.
Unsurprisingly, the comic's original creator and guiding force Pat Mills has the most screen time, talking candidly about the comic’s ups and downs, many of which he was both directly and indirectly responsible for. Generally, the earlier anyone was involved in the comic the more screen time they have, so the likes of Alan Grant, Kevin O’Neill and John Wagner have the most to say.
You can’t talk about 2000AD at any length and not bring up Judge Dredd, and while the legendary lawman of Mega-City One gets a big chunk of discussion, he doesn’t dominate the entire film. His original development is discussed in detail (did you know his original incarnation was an occult detective?) and we get conflicting stories of precisely why his creators Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra didn’t actually write and draw the strip.
Much time is also dedicated to the beginnings of the British Invasion of the late ‘80s, where UK comic talent was routinely being snapped up by American publishers (principally DC imprint Vertigo while under the aegis of Karen Berger), unfortunately leading to many creators seeing the comic as a stepping stone to breaking into the American industry. The frustration of many over the state of affairs – Mills in particular – is evident, since writing for 2000AD should have been seen as a prestigious achievement in and of itself.
The film also doesn’t shy away from the less celebrated aspects of the comic’s history, such as the controversial decision to retain all the rights of its contributors’ work, preventing them from getting any money from reprints or having any say in negotiations of their sale, which resulted in many creators walking away entirely (which is why Alan Moore’s magnificent The Ballad of Halo Jones remained unfinished). Also discussed is the “dark age” of the comic where the quality took a decline under the stewardship of Dave Bishop and Andy Diggle, the former freely admitting he was a bit of a dick to work for. This downward spiral, as well as regular and frequent threatening legal letters from “Bastard, Bastard & Fuck You,” and the horrifically clueless “Women just don’t get it” advertising campaign by gormless marketers attempting to appeal to the Cro-Magnon lad’s mag readership, all contributed to the comic coming close to being cancelled before being saved by its sale to Rebellion.
The comic strips’ influences on numerous film are also discussed, and not just the criminally unsequellised 2012 Dredd movie and the just plain criminal 1995 Judge Dredd movie. Be honest, how many of you originally recognised RoboCop as a Judge Dredd analogue? Likewise, the concept art of The Book of Eli was basically a recreation of the Cursed Earth, the Kurt Russell clunker Soldier was a Rogue Trooper movie in all but name, and leather-clad vampire warrior BloodRayne was suspiciously similar in appearance to Durham Red. Okay, that last one was a computer game first, but any excuse to remind people of the inadequacies of Uwe Boll should not be passed up.
The film is a wealth of fascinating trivia, such as the mutant minority underclass of Strontium Dog being particularly resonant in Apartheid South Africa, while the “Be pure; be vigilant; behave” slogan from Nemesis the Warlock ended up sprayed on the Berlin Wall. Thousands of words could be spent recounting everything Future Shock discusses, and while in no way intended to be nostalgic it will bring back many childhood memories of being transported to other worlds by the comic’s pages. When you’re done you’d better have a lot of free time available, because it will make you want to go back and read them all over again.
FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: PAUL GOODWIN / SCREENPLAY: N/A / STARRING: PAT MILLS, KEVIN O’NEILL, ALAN GRANT, JOHN WAGNER, DAVE BISHOP, GRANT MORRISON, NEIL GAIMAN / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10