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Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD
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by Jay Seaver

"Brings a fair amount of thrill-power."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2015: "2000 AD" is not the only comic that could believably have its history scored with punk rock, but most of the rest burned out fast, or never made any sort of popular impact. "2000 AD" has been a big deal for the better part of 40 years, and while "Future Shock!" may not be telling fans a lot that they don't already know - regular artist "interrogations" in "Judge Dredd Megazine" do a good job of keeping the history alive - it's a good overview. After all, it's always nice to have something to point to when someone asks me why this comic is kind of a big deal.

For those that don't know, 2000 AD is a weekly British sci-fi anthology comic that started in 1977, created and edited by Pat Mills, who figured that the futuristic material might help it avoid the controversy that had doomed his previous magazine, Action!, despite its popularity with its target audience of young boys. Over the years, the magazine would launch dozens of popular characters - the most well-known being Judge Dredd - as well as the careers of comic-book creators popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

There aren't exactly a lot of surprising twists and turns to the story - people came and made comics, often moved on, but the magazine endured with new writers and artists. Director Paul Goodwin does a good job of building a sort of progression out of it anyway, generally moving forward in time but also bending the timeline so that he can examine a character or feature and talk about how it is relevant to the book's history and evolution. Judge Dredd, for example, is able to endure because it works both satirical commentary and as an example of what it parodies without losing equilibrium, making him a bit harder to outgrow. In particular, Nemesis comes across as very personal for Mills.

Goodwin gets to interview a number of people involved with 2000 AD, past and present, and he's actually kind of clever in how he recognizes the largest hole - Alan Moore, a titan of the art form whose firm but unusual principles have had him turn his back on his greatest work, declined to participate - by not quite confronting it directly, but by having another interviewee (Neil Gaiman) point out what we're all missing, in that Moore had plans for many more verses in The Ballad of Halo Jones. Celebrity fans come across as genuinely enthusiastic, and those involved directly turn out to be a colorful cast, telling good stories that don't sugar-coat that the magazine had issues (including a lousy run in the 1990s), balancing their personal experiences with thought on what makes the magazine work. They're a great group, but it's not surprising that Goodwin keeps coming back to Mills; though less involved now - he contributes series as a freelancer on a regular basis, but there have been several editors since he stepped down - it's clear that this particular creation means a lot to him, even if he seems to start out just talking about it as one of many projects in his career.

One thread that comes up is that 2000 AD was often owned by people who didn't really understand it or want it around, and there are times that the more accommodating owners it has had over the past decade-plus sometimes seem to mess with the narrative. It's not just that it makes "us against the world/establishment" a little harder to sell in the final act, but one can almost feel the filmmakers backing off a bit. A segment about how some talented people stopped working with 2000 AD because the publisher would wind up with control of their creations is followed fairly closely by a look at some of the new blood over the last few years without commenting upon the paradox that this anti-establishment icon is, in its own way, kind of exploitative and corporate itself.

Of course, as a fan I already knew that, and it hasn't stopped me from picking up my progs as they arrive at my local comic shop. They're still a blast to read, and while "Future Shock!" may have mostly helped me put faces and voices to names in the credits, it will probably be the resource I turn to the next time someone asks about the Galaxy's Greatest Comic.

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originally posted: 05/20/15 13:24:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2014 Fantastic Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Independent Film Festival Boston For more in the 2015 Independent Film Festival Boston series, click here.

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