Directed by Paul Goodwin, Future Shock! is a terrific new documentary which looks at the history and influence of the long-running weekly British comic book magazine 2000 AD (still being published after nearly forty years).
The film takes us back to the England of the mid-70s, a period of bleak prospects for the young, ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher in office, crippling garbage strikes, a modern day Jack the Ripper on the loose in Yorkshire, and punk rock just waiting to explode. It was within this simmering cauldron that the controversial weekly comic book magazine Action was first born out of in 1976. Withdrawn from sale not long after its debut due to concerns over its strong depiction of violence (particularly in a youth gang story called ‘Kids Rule, O.K.!'), editor Pat Mills retreated (by his own admission and lingering regret) to the relative safety of science-fiction, where violence could be more tolerated since it was depicted in a fantasy setting.
2000 AD was a hit, mostly with its prime target audience of younger males, from the moment it appeared on the UK newsstands in February of 1977. The popularity of Star Wars later that year only helped its cause. Soon, older teenagers and even young adults started digging the combination of futuristic ultra-violence with stories containing clear and often clever observations and commentary on the social, political and moral climates of the times. This was particularly evident in 2000 AD’s most popular creation, Judge Dredd, who dishes out tough and merciless justice (“I am the Law”) in the futuristic dystopian American metropolis of Mega-City One. It was the curious and unique mix that came from English writers and artists doing their take on American culture and society, which made the Judge Dredd stories so fascinating.
Featuring interviews with Brian Bolland, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Mills and many more artists, writers and creators, Future Shock! celebrates the history and success and great times of 2000 AD, but the downsides of the industry and working with the publisher (Fleetway Publications) are not left untouched. A familiar story within the comics industry, artists and writers had to sign the rights to their work away if they wanted to cash the check, and editor Pat Mills had to guide the comic’s survival through the wholesale poaching of much of its best talent by DC/Vertigo in the US.
Also discussed are the clear influences which Judge Dredd had on Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987), as well as the two official live-action Dredd films: Danny Cannon’s awful Judge Dredd (1995) starring Sylvester Stallone (which flopped both creatively and commercially) and Pete Travis’ Dredd (2012) starring Karl Urban (which made even less money at the box-office than Stallone’s version, but was a terrific, violent and much more faithful adaptation of the character and his environment. One of the best and certainly most underrated comic book adaptations of recent years, and an amazingly trippy experience in IMAX 3D).
An informative and entertaining look at a comic book title that's been as highly influential as it has been maligned.