Right around the time the punk rock scene was picking up its full head of system-bucking steam, another punk scene was taking shape in a very different medium, but with no less anger, discontent, and desire to shock. While American comic books in the late 1970s were goofy, disco superheroes, British anthology comic 2000 AD was upping the violence, packing in the subversive satire, and becoming a staple for readers looking for something decidedly from the future. The book has been much hailed over the years, but until now the full story has never been shared. Paul Goodwin’s comprehensive documentary Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD covers the entire 35+ year history of the book with interviews with creators and fans alike.
We’ve all probably heard of Judge Dredd, the creation of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra which has gone on to be the most popular and famous of 2000 AD‘s recurring stories, but this film is by no means simply a history of that character; it goes in depth into many of the other series such as Strontium Dog, D.R. and Quinch, The Ballad of Halo Jones, and Future Shock itself, many of which aren’t very well known in this country, but are positively revered in the United Kingdom. It’s these stories and their creators I found to be most interesting in the documentary, because while certain big names did cross over into American comics (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, etc) during DC and Vertigo’s cherry-picking in the mid-to-late-80s, there are others who I flatly didn’t know about, to my own shame.
Goodwin’s film is full of energy which perfectly reflects the attitude of the book and its creators. This is one of the more foul-mouthed documentaries not having to do with organized crime, and that’s simply because these creators, many of whom came to work in comics because of 2000 AD‘s influence, never lost their edge or their disdain for authority. If not for 2000 AD, the American comics industry might still be all smiles and spandex because of how many writers and artists came over to work here. But, we’re told time and again, for all their grumbles about the way the magazine paid people and took all rights to characters and the like, it offered them the chance to pretty much do whatever they wanted.
It’s not all a love fest for the book either; on top of the issue of creator non-ownership and poor payment, the film also spends time talking about the level of ultra-violence in the stories, which gave the censors a lot of cause for concern, and how these books were written for boys by boys. It wasn’t until much, much later that women got involved in 2000 AD in any way at all, limiting a lot of the scope of story and alienating a readership who might otherwise be very interested.
In short, Future Shock! is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen about the medium of comic books and one that packs in the information while still maintaining a high energy and style. The speed metal soundtrack doesn’t hurt. If you get a chance, I highly encourage you to check this movie out.
Rating: 4 out of 5 burritos
Featured Image from 2000 AD Prog 1821, art by Brian Bolland