Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD
Directed by Paul Goodwin
A long overdue documentary that tells the story of 2000AD, the unsung cult hero of the comics industry. This film will celebrate and pay respect to the comic and explore its importance and influence on contemporary pop culture.
See more films
★★★½ review by Graham Williamson on Letterboxd
Massively self-congratulatory - the final fifteen minutes or so are one long parade of all the interviewees being brought back on to talk about how amazing 2000AD's legacy is - but very watchable nonetheless. It's essentially a talking heads film tricked out with animation and hard rock music, but several factors give it real energy and entertainment value.
The first is the undimmed spirit of Pat Mills, the magazine's first editor. He'd come straight off the back of editing Action!, a comics success de scandale which was pulled from shelves entirely following a cover which - accidentally, apparently - seemed to depict a teenager beating a policeman. He realised that this incident set the parameters for his next comics venture, which would be even more violent and angry, but would locate its stories in the future or in mythical otherworlds rather than the increasingly tense streets of 1970s Britain. And, mostly, he got away with that.
I say "mostly" because the second point of interest is the extended mid-section covering the years when 2000 AD was not a happy ship at all. I don't know why, considering I have no interest in entering the field of magazine publishing, but magazine industry horror stories are always so entertaining to me. The mid-90s editorship of David Bishop proves a particularly juicy source here. Under Bishop the magazine went from setting the zeitgeist to trailing painfully behind it, running unfunny parodies of Tony Blair and the Spice Girls and indulging in a strain of then-fashionable laddish sexism which culminated in a genuinely jaw-droppingly midguided advertising campaign (which, to his credit, Bishop desperately tried to pull).
Without the colossal personality of Mills to pull it together, 2000 AD was always going to be a bit of a rickety ship. They weren't at all slick enough to effectively sell TV and film rights - there's a long explanation of how those were mismanaged, which is enough to explain why we're not seeing, say, Juno Temple as Halo Jones in cinemas next summer. But 2000 AD entered pop culture in other ways. At one point the film constructs a daisy chain to show the magazine's influence: Mark Millar wrote strips for 2000 AD, which were noticed by Vertigo Comics, which got him a job with Marvel, where he wrote The Ultimates, which is the basis for the Marvel Cinematic Universe...
Which is impressive, but it leaves the comic as exactly what Pat Mills never wanted it to be; a display window for the mainstream comics industry to pick at. It's posited during the later stages of the film that this is undergoing a natural reversal, that creators now want to come back to 2000 AD to write stories which would be too weird, extreme or subversive for publishers with more of a reputation to defend. 2000 AD's reputation, of course, is that it is weird and extreme and subversive. I wish this film had brought in someone like Kim Newman to give a bit more academic analysis of 2000 AD's relationship with British comic traditions, but as a celebration it's very endearing.
★★★½ review by Gavin Rye on Letterboxd
I was a big fan of 2000AD as a kid. I’ve never been into super heroes, but the worlds of Dredd, Rouge Trooper and Slaine were rich and appealed to me as a youngster. I’d been excited to see this film since I heard about it a year or so ago. It’s basically a talking head piece, but it’s filled with interesting characters and stories. There is also a ton of amazing artwork on display from the comics and is a real feast for the eyes.
I was a little sad to not see too much about Rouge Trooper, but this was explained in the Q&A that it didn’t fit in with the story of the comic as a whole. It’s still a shame to see him put to the sidelines.
It’s a solid watch and made me want to revisit some of the characters that I enjoyed so much as a kid.
★★★★ review by DMB on Letterboxd
2000 A.D. es una ventana abierta al futuro, un reflejo de lo muy jodida que está la sociedad. Tan vigente en 1977 como en 2017, esta es su historia.
★★★★★ review by Russell Dean on Letterboxd
Brilliant, heartfelt , passionate talking head documentary about 2000ad.
If you like comics, science fiction or grumpy British artists, there is something here for you.
It's really great and makes you want to read comics.
★★★★ review by Mark Cunliffe on Letterboxd
Loved this! Yes it's a bit back-slappy and 'weren't we great?' about its initial stages but bitter home truths seep in around the thorny issue of creative rights, as well as the decline and mismanagement of 2000AD in the 1990s, when we came so close to losing it for good.
So many of the contributors nail it when they point out its success belongs to its quintessential Britishness. As a society we're not interested in mighty cape-wearing superheroes who demand our respect, we just don't trust that kind of wholesome entertainment. We're more about subverting the tropes established in the US, adding a hefty dose of black comedy, healthy disrespect and sharp political commentary, and feeding it back to them, spotting the gap in the market. That so much of the glory days of 2000AD was created on coffee and Derek and Clive explains so much.
Oh and I was once in the same room as Leah Moore (it was a Josie Long gig) which was tremendously exciting!
- See all reviews