What comes to mind when you think of influential comics?
Maybe you think of the big publishers, DC or Marvel, or maybe your mind leaps straight to iconic graphic novels, like Watchmen or The Sandman. What, though, about sci-fi anthology 2000AD. With out its the comic landscape as we know it would be demonstrably different – more barren, and a whole lot less exciting.
Future Shock! The Story of… takes us back to the comic’s origins in the tumultuous ‘70s, as The Sex Pistols fought for cultural relevancy against the crusty institution of the Silver Jubilee. Born from this anarchic jubilation, and the ashes of an ill-fated predecessor, 2000AD was the punk scene rendered with black ink and aliens.
Director Michael Thelin makes use of cutouts and cutaways aplenty, featuring iconic figures from 2000AD, but its the raft of talent who are willing to go on camera, each with their own take on the comic’s success and failures, that gives the documentary its layers.
Conceived by editor Pat Mills as biting satire with enough distance as to escape the censors — of course those aren’t Russian troops gunning down Margaret Thatcher on the steps of Saint Paul — Future Shock! interviews those inspired by 2000AD‘s vibrant, violent ideology; including Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, who wrote a song named for Judge Dredd’s catchphrase, “I Am The Law”, as well as, unacknowledged, the likes of Paul Verhoeven (see: the corporate-fascist overtones of RoboCop).
Future Shock! also details how 2000AD ultimately became a victim of its own success as its status as home to some of the most unique artists and writers around essentially transformed it into a hunting ground for its more mainstream US brethren.
While Neil Gaiman — who ruminates here on how British mistrust was able to breathe new life into Batman and Superman — and Alan Moore — who notably does not appear — went onto greater things, 2000AD sadly descended into titillation and excess.
With a healthy dose of profanity, obscenity, and contradiction throughout — the aggrieved Mills brings the documentary to a close with a potty-mouthed rant — Future Shock! mostly serves as testament to a comic that, though highs and lows, is still going. Even after comic legends like Kevin O’Neill (of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) found themselves reduced to “art bodgers” – systematically removing signatures from artist’s work to prevent them building a reputation – 2000AD still persists; fifteen years, in fact, after the once futuristic promise of its title.
From its early days as a subversive counterpoint to Star Wars, through social commentary and general insanity, 2000AD may no longer unequivocally be The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, but, from Halo Jones to Nemesis the Warlock, its impact on the modern superhero and the birth of the MCU, it remains, inarguably, one of the most important.