DVDanger: Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD
New documentary on the influential and rule-breaking comic
By Richard Whittaker,
1:45PM, Tue. May 30, 2017
Imagine comics with no Sandman. No Watchmen. No Preacher. That's a world without 2000 AD, the British comics institution that rewrote the rules and, as documentary Future Shock! shows, launched some of the art form's greatest figures.
Launching in 1977, the anthology title was a smash in the face to the staid and child-friendly world of British comics. Gone were the cartoon cats and giggling school kids that had hung on for decades: Instead, it injected a punk ethos and subversive politics into the weekly newsstand under the cover of action sci-fi. Beyond its signature character, the lantern-jawed law enforcer Judge Dredd, its pages have been filled with surrealist nightmares, robot-run dystopias, and the first real hints of the post-modern superhero.
It also featured some of the earliest works from giants of the medium, with writers like Neil Gaiman (American Gods), Alan Moore (From Hell), Mark Millar (Kick-Ass), Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan), and Grant Morrison (The Invisibles), and artists including Kevin O'Neill (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Simon Bisley (DC's Lobo), and Mondo prints regular and Dredd and Ex Machina designer Jock. Without it, there would never have been Vertigo, DC Comics' mature-oriented line that revolutionized the U.S. industry as much as those same creators had rebuilt the rules in the UK.
After debuting at MondoCon 2014, the documentary finally gets a U.S. home release from Severin Films. Producer Sean Hogan talked with the Chronicle after that first screening.
Austin Chronicle: 2000 AD is quintessentially English, but its impact has been global, so how did you approach making this accessible to U.S. audiences?
Sean Hogan: First off, we wanted to tell the story of the comic, and we wanted to pay tribute, because it was such a big part of our childhoods. But we were very conscious that we didn't want this to be something that would play only to 2000 AD fans. There's so much going on in it – the subversion, the politics – we thought there was enough meat there that it would be interesting to people who had never heard of it in their lives.
Because if you haven't read it, you've probably read something that's been influenced by it, or you've probably seen a movie that's ripped it off.
AC: The core character in the narrative is (2000 AD founder) Pat Mills. What was the point when you went, "This is the guy, this is who everything hangs off?"
SH: Because he started it, and he's written for it continually over the years, still writes for it, and created so many of the iconic characters, we knew there probably wasn't a documentary if we didn't get Pat. So he was the first person we went to, and interviewed him for 12 hours straight, because Pat will just not shut up. I kept saying to him, "If we're abusing your hospitality, and you want us to leave," but he'd go, "No, no, no, there's lots to say," and boy did he say it. But he was great. I could have sat there, listening to him all day.
He is a maniac, but he's the unsung hero of comics. There are a lot of people who have different opinions about Pat, and certain people warned us in advance that he was really trouble, and really difficult, all that sort of thing, but he couldn't have been lovelier when we interviewed him.
However, I did get to see the other part of him. There's a sequence in the film where they talk about a Mills Bomb. That's what the editorial staff would call it when Pat was very upset, and would ring them or write them a letter about something.
I had my own personal Mills Bomb delivered to me when we sent out the original press release, because I let him know when it went public, and he wrote me back: "You called me the original creator of 2000 AD. I am the creator of 2000 AD. There are no other creators. If you call me the original creator, it makes it sound like there were other creators, and I cannot support your documentary until this is changed." It was signed, "Very disappointed, Pat."
I'm sure it could have been much worse, but I still went, "Oh my God, I've upset Pat." So I got it changed, and I swear that he was sitting there, hitting refresh on the web page, because literally the instant they changed it, I got another email saying, "That's fine."
AC: So, with all the turmoil and mergers, why do you think that 2000 AD has survived for 40 years?
SH: I think it's got a very, very loyal core group of readers. Back in its heyday, it was very widely read, and it's got its niche audience now, but that niche audience is incredibly loyal. If you look back at some of the Nineties stuff, it's amazing it survived, because a lot of stuff was terrible. I think they got lucky, because it could have got canceled unless (current publishers) Rebellion swooped in and took it from the corporate overlords who didn't understand it. They're the ones that kept it going because they love it, they're fans of it, they nurture it. Had that not happened, it would have been canceled by now.
Future Shocks! The Story of 2000AD (Severin Films) is available on Blu-ray and DVD now. Also out now and coming soon:
Deranged H.P. Lovecraft/Stuart Gordon homage The Void, a Fantastic Fest favorite from 2016, is available on Blu-ray now, in all its ichor-dripping and Karo Syrup-drenched glory. Read our review here, and our interview with filmmakers Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski, and Casey Walker here.
Time to support an Austin filmmaker, as The Axe Murders of Villisca (Shout! Factory), scripted by local author/Master Pancake mainstay Owen Egerton, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on June 6. Read our review here, and our interview with Egerton here.