EIFF 2015 – Future Shock! The Story Of 2000 AD

Dir: Paul Goodwin

2000 AD has been around so long that it has become an institution. That it survives at all, in the face of shifting trends, feuding egos, and the complete disappearance of the traditional UK comics market, is astonishing. This documentary pinpoints the high and lows of The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, while also exploring the wider world of the comics industry, and the personalities found within it.

It all began at the tail end of the 1970s, at a time of industrial unrest and a burgeoning punk movement. 2000 AD came about as a pre-emptive response to a wave of sci-fi films (namely Star Wars) and a desire to inject some life into boys adventure comics. Despite controversy over the violence, 2000 AD was a hit. Aside from the always fantastic art, the comic had an anti-establishment streak lying under the surface, as well as sly humour. The comic’s most famous creation is, of course, Judge Dredd, a futuristic comment on authoritarianism and police-state fascism. Oddly, the more fascist the creators made Dredd to be, the more popular the character became. Weird.

Along with Dredd, characters like Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Sláine and ABC Warriors captured the imagination of a generation of curious teenagers. The movie doesn’t focus on the creations as much as the creators themselves. 2000 AD would become the playing ground of some of the most famous talents in the comic industry. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis and countless more would go on to become comic superstars. For a while, it seemed that 2000 AD was merely a stepping stone to America, where the big bucks are. Much to the consternation of Pat Mills, a founding editor and writer, who has stuck with the comic through thick and thin.

If anyone emerges as the star of this documentary, it’s Mills. He’s sweary, opinionated, outspoken… much of the original attitude of the comic comes from him and his close colleagues from the early days, and it seems that some fires never go out.

The film highlights 2000 AD’s failures as much as it’s successes. For a while, the movie feels like a boy’s club, only occasionally letting some women talk, like the great Leah Moore, or Dredd writer Emma Beeby. The film acknowledges this imbalance, with a discussion of the disastrous ad campaign in the 90s which said “Women Just Don’t Get It.” Clueless publishers imposed this advert on the creative team, and it’s a relief that everyone in this film were horrified by it. Diversity and inclusivity are major issues in comics at the moment, and it’s nice to see 2000 AD and this documentary deal with it.

It probably goes without saying that fans will love this movie. If you can see it on a big screen, please do so; seeing original comic panels come to life in stark black and white is a strange thrill. For everyone else, this is still a great documentary about creatives and popular culture. And if you feel like buying some 2000 AD comics afterwards, you’ll be supporting a homegrown British industry. Win-win.

****

Stuart Addison

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