Note: Though previously published, I wanted to slightly update this review due to the sad passing of artist Kevin O’Neill, who died on the 3rd of November 2022. He was a big part of the success of 2000AD in the early days and was instrumental in ensuring that artists and writers were properly credited for their work on the comic, changing the entire UK comics industry for the better. He features heavily in Future Shock; his passing is a huge loss.
The first time I properly sat and read an issue of 2000AD was in the early 80s. I was with my Dad, visiting one of his mates; his son was older than me and had a copy of the latest prog (that’s ‘issue’ in 2000AD lingo) on the coffee table. I was bored as the adults chatted and started to read through the comic; I was immediately hooked. It was like nothing I’d read before. It felt dark, edgy and quite mature – far beyond the adventure comics or daft humour titles that I’d become accustomed to at that point. It was funny too though; there seemed to be a vein of black humour running through most of the strips that gave it an extra appeal and took the edge off some of the darker elements.
Most famously the home of Judge Dredd (who didn’t actually make his first appearance until issue 2), the comic has been the place to keep up with a ridiculous number of iconic characters, including Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog (who actually first appeared in Starlord, rather than 2000AD) and Sláine, amongst many others.
Future Shock is the story of the creation of 2000AD, taking its name from the Twilight Zone-esque one-off stories with twists in their tails that have graced many progs over the years. It has an incredible array of talking heads with plenty of stories to tell and a crazy rollercoaster of history to go over. It’s absolutely riveting stuff.
Launched in 1977, a time when anti-establishment attitudes were prevalent (for a number of reasons) in all kinds of areas, perhaps most prevalently – and most significantly – with the rise of punk rock, 2000AD was always densely layered with social commentary and politics under its veneer of violent, dystopian science fiction and fantasy.
Creator Pat Mills (pictured) features in Future Shock and comes across as a principled, driven and highly engaging interview subject, with an awful lot to say about the struggles with the higher ups and other artists and writers on the comic. He doesn’t hold back. Mills is only one of a number of creators, editors, historians and other personalities to feature, however, and everyone involved has something fascinating to impart about their own involvement with or influence taken from the self-proclaimed ‘Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’.
Though the format of switching between a rotating cast of interviewees runs the risk of becoming dull or confusing, there’s an amazing amount of drama involved in the ups and downs of the comic’s 40+ year history and it’s endlessly enlightening and entertaining. Opening with some depressingly bleak newsreel footage of the UK in the 70s – followed by some absolutely kickass comic book panel animation and a guitar-heavy soundtrack – we’re immediately grounded in the environment the comic was launched in. It’s fascinating to see how 2000AD became a sort of springboard for all sorts of creative people to launch themselves into other industries or even across the pond in working for the big American comic companies in various capacities.
The low point of the comic in the 90s – which was also felt in the big American comics of the period, though for different reasons (it’s a whole other story!) – that’s covered here is embarrassingly cringeworthy, but fascinating to see with the benefit of hindsight. It’s a wonder that 2000AD escaped cancellation at this time, not to mention at certain other points in its history. Of course, it’s no secret that in the year 2000 itself, 2000AD was purchased by video games developer Rebellion; thankfully, they’ve – generally – been fantastic custodians of the comic and it’s still going strong today.
It’s incredible to see just how much influence 2000AD has had on the films, TV and video games we enjoy today – and it’s all covered in the film. For anyone with even the slightest interest in comics, sci-fi or contemporary pop culture, Future Shock is a near-essential watch.
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