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  Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD The Galaxy's Greatest Comic
Year: 2015
Director: Paul Goodwin
Stars: Pat Mills, John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Kevin O’Neill, Dave Gibbons, Alex Garland, Lauren Beukes, Brian Bolland, Andy Diggle, Scott Ian, Cam Kennedy, Alan Grant, David Bishop, Leah Moore, Emma Beeby, Karl Urban, Karen Berger
Genre: Documentary, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Pat Mills is the man to thank – or blame – for much of the entertainment landscape as we know it in the twenty-first century, all too aptly for the creator of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic 2000AD. It was born in the crucible of nineteen-seventies Britain, a society that was falling apart as it was torn asunder by strife both external and internal, and the pop culture was reflecting that to an increasing degree. In the world of comics, the market was shrinking since the innovation had gone out of the medium, and if you were not interested in the humorous publications then pretty much all you had were variations on themes established decades before: war, football, the goofiest of science fiction concepts. Then came something that shook that up decisively…

That wasn’t 2000AD, however, it was an instant smash called Action in the mid-seventies that was memorably called “The Sevenpenny Nightmare” by tabloids seeking to appal their readers who couldn’t get enough of the feeling the nation was going to Hell in a handbasket, possibly because if you couldn’t do anything to arrest the decline you could at least stand by and observe with an outraged expression. Action was the punk rock of the comics landscape, throwing a petrol bomb into the previously staid industry, and Mills and his team were the ones doing the chucking with their stories bringing the violent world of entertainment for grown-ups - the hardened police thrillers, the horror movies, the dystopian fiction – to kids who couldn’t believe their luck.

As Mills outlines in director Paul Goodwin’s to the point documentary, they were not able to get away with that for long in an echo of the comics scandal of the fifties and a forerunner of the video nasties controversy of the next decade, so as Action was watered down to appease the cultural commentators, a compromise was reached in other ways: set the violence, the social commentary and satire in a fantasy environment, and thus 2000AD was the result. Goodwin certainly made all the right phone calls, because he managed to secure interviews with more or less every major player in the publication’s at the time near-forty year history, and if some were getting up there in years, their memories seemed as sharp as ever.

Little wonder when the excitement, the battles, the sheer passion for telling these stories in print remained undimmed, and the film made a strong case that these men and women had defined not only comics but other media such as blockbuster movies for all time. Whether everything in that science fiction and fantasy format really had to be dark, gritty and containing absurdly high stakes was not questioned, as it was clear we were here to pay tribute to those who had shaped our future, as far as entertainment went at any rate. That said, Grant Morrison (whose anecdotes and opinions are a definite highlight here) strongly hinted the anarchic, anti-authoritarian spirit in the pages translated to spawning generations of cynics and sceptics. At least as far as what the powers that be told them, as 2000AD frequently went for the jugular when taking down its targets in law, government and religion, not to mention media; a common observation is no matter how fascistic their signature character Judge Dredd became, the readers still lapped up his brutality.

Indeed they encouraged it and the writers and artists were only too happy to comply. This wasn’t because the readers were fascists, quite the opposite, but they appreciated the value of exaggeration and caricature when it came to the status quo, no matter how misguided that was, which made it ironic when we hear how the creatives were constantly battling against the management suits to achieve what they wanted. A sadly recurring theme is how they were screwed over when it came to royalties and copyright, likely why the biggest missing name is the famously disgruntled Alan Moore whose Halo Jones was shaping up to be a true masterpiece before he cut her off. Then there’s the way America would appropriate their talent and ideas, with or without their permission, but the film stayed positive, stressing the comic was as robust as it had been in years. For what was basically talking heads and quasi-animated frames, Future Shock! was compelling stuff, placing the artwork front and centre to underline the marvellous success and influence of a true British survivor.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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