2016.30: Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (TV, Film Four)
Now this is brilliant. It’s a documentary about the creation and history of the great British sci-fi anthology comic 2000AD. Basically a talking heads piece in which the comics editors and the creators of the strips reminisce about the making of the comic and its ensuing history, full of entertaining commentary and sometimes acidic rants (God bless you, Pat Mills, I owe you my childhood). With a punk-rock, anti-establishment attitude fostered in the dark dismal mid-seventies and Thatcher’s Britain, the comic was an incredible culture shock for impressionable young kids like me and incredibly exciting. It certainly lived up to its reputation as The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.
I read the comic from its very first issue up to, oh, the late-eighties, so it was a real joy to see the heroes of my childhood- and yes, these guys were my heroes. Not the strips themselves, it was the guys in the little credit-box that were my heroes. Guys like Pat Mills and John Wagner and Kevin O’Neill and Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons and Carlos Ezquerra (bless him, I cannot understand a word of what Carlos says in his segments). To see them all now as middle-aged men looking back at those heady days of being young firebrands ripping apart the rulebook of British comics is fantastic. There’s a few notable absentees, like Ian Gibson, and yes I guess no-one would expect Alan Moore to show his face, and sadly he doesn’t. That man Moore is a genius who really should give his fans the Halo Jones saga we’ve been waiting for, but I’m afraid he’s not interested, so Neil Gaiman’s tease about Moore once telling him all the untold Halo Jones stories he had planned was almost painful to watch. Its just one of the many fascinating highlights.
Running nearly two hours, this thing could have been three hours long and it wouldn’t have bored me at all (indeed, film-makers, I want the three-hour director’s cut!). Its almost like a chat in the pub with the coolest dudes ever. These guys lit up my childhood and later saved Marvel and DC comics when the Americans pulled them across the pond to make Watchmen and so many other strips. That exodus of talent is related in the doc, and the resultant problems on the comic that nearly sank it (it’s no coincidence that I stopped reading the comic during this troubling period). There’s the inevitable discussion of creator rights and some horror stories of what happened to some of the gorgeous original artwork. There’s also a look at the two Judge Dredd movies and the influence of 2000AD strips on films and culture in general. The doc brings things up to the present day with the comic on a surer footing.
Still, it’s those early days that live loud and bright in my memory. Me and my mate Andy to this day can sit together and chat about the old strips we used to love- Robo Hunter, Dredd’s Apocalypse War, Nemesis the Warlock, so many others. Reading that comic back then was like a rite of passage. Sometimes I pick up a current copy in a newsagent and flick through it- it looks interesting but I haven’t bought 2000AD in awhile. I had a spell buying it again a few years ago, but I mostly buy collected editions these days. It doesn’t feel like my old 2000AD to be honest, the early stuff was fairly brutal and raw and yes, mostly black and white on cheap paper. The current comic is on better paper, mostly colour, the strips look slick but it feels… well, I’ll no doubt buy it again in future but it isn’t really the 2000AD of my childhood. That was a long time ago, after all.
But this documentary is fantastic stuff. I honestly think it’d be rewarding even for those unfamiliar with the original comic. There’s really a very human story behind the comic and the times that created it, the sensibilities behind it. 2000AD could only have come out of Britain, and its cultural impact would surprise many who aren’t at all familiar with it. For those of us on whom it had such an impact, hell, this doc is brilliant. These guys are heroes.