If you don’t want to read the whole, lengthy review then just know this: Holy drokk! This is BRILLIANT.
2000AD is a comic that, it’s fair to say, paved the way for so many others that are celebrated today. You could argue that without 2000AD you wouldn’t have the likes of Watchmen, The Sandman, Hellblazer, and much more. It was born out of a Britain in the 1970s that saw many people downtrodden, disappointed, and at an all-time low. There were strikes, high unemployment, and civil unrest on a scale not seen since . . . . . . . . . . . well, just not seen since (even the widespread riots from 4 or 5 years ago pale in comparison). Also, despite it being a much lesser problem in the grand scheme of things, the British comic industry was in serious decline, churning out the same stale yarns in a variety of interchangeable titles. And then along came 2000AD, after a little comic called Action came along and was subsequently banned for showing the kind of graphic violence that parents just didn’t want their kids seeing.
This documentary starts off by covering that time period, quite rightly. It sets up the creation of 2000AD in much the same way that punk came around. Indeed, 2000AD can most easily be labelled as a punk sci-fi comic. Yet the more you think about the content, the more astonishing it is to think of how it found an audience, and how it kept pushing the envelope. Judge Dredd is a rigid enforcer of the law, and a complete fascist to boot. And he’s the figurehead of the comic. Slaine was a wandering barbarian who would also go berserk when fighting a super-strong opponent (what with him being a berserker and all that). Nemesis The Warlock was an alien who battled against Torquemada, killing plenty of humans along the way. And so on and so forth. Many of the characters were outsiders or underdogs, and just as many presented readers with stories that should have had them questioning their values as they smiled at the unfolding antics. But they were SO well-written and beautifully rendered that the comic got to have its cake and eat it.
Almost everyone who is anyone in the history of the comic gets to comment on the journey that they’ve gone through. Pat Mills is the main man behind it all, and has the most to say, but there’s also plenty of time given to Kevin O’Neill, Alan Grant, Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Brian Bolland, Emma Beeby and many others. They all have their views on various aspects of the comic, and a couple of sections cover problems such as the treatment of the artists and the low point for the comic in the 1990s, and you can tell that even those with no small amount of bitterness poisoning their experience still have some pride in their association with what I think can rightly be called a British institution.
Broken down into a variety of sections, covering topics such as the genesis of the whole thing, the attempts to make movies from the material, the defection of many artists to the USA, director Paul Goodwin keeps everything moving along perfectly with a great mix of animated visuals, mainly using imagery culled from the comic (of course), and an energetic soundtrack. It’s an unabashed celebration of something that many would have assumed wouldn’t last more than a few years. Hell, as mentioned in the documentary at one point, the name itself shows just how unlikely any longevity seemed when it was first created.
I was stunned by the wave of fond memories that began to wash over me during the opening title sequence alone, and even before the documentary had finished I was considering what kind of omnibus I could purchase to throw me back into a world that I once loved so much, and obviously still do. Which probably tells you all you need to know about just how enjoyable this is for fans. If you like 2000AD then you owe it to yourself to see this.
Future Shock! The Story Of 2000AD is screening at EIFF 2015 on 22nd June.
DIRECTOR: PAUL GOODWIN
STARS: PAT MILLS, KEVIN O’NEILL, GRANT MORRISON, DAVE GIBBONS, NEIL GAIMAN, ALAN GRANT, BRIAN BOLLAND, EMMA BEEBY
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX