photo manipulation by nacrowe
i am sad to admit that my introduction, like many AMERICANS, to the world of legendary underground BRITISH comic imprint 2000 AD, was that dreadful SYLVESTER STALLONE JUDGE DREDD (HOLLYWOOD, 1995) film. needless to say i didnt pursue the comic at the time. i dont think i was alone in that.
a few years ago when i rediscovered comics, and by that i mean mostly ALTERNATIVE COMICS, i finally came around to learning about the long-running BRITISH magazine which led me to the excellent recent documentary FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD (DEVIANT, 2014). this film definitely felt like a labor of love, with notable participating interviewees including past artists like CARLOS EZQUERRA, BRIAN BOLLAND, DAVE GIBBONS, GARY ERSKINE, HENRY FLINT, LEE GARBETT and STEVE YOEWELL, writers such as JOHN WAGNER, ALAN GRANT, NEIL GAIMAN, IAN EDGINTON and GRANT MORRISON, EMMA BEEBY and editors including PAT MILLS, DAVID BISHOP and ANDY DIGGLE. and that is the truncated list of interviewees. it really is quite overwhelming.
what i found most interesting were the roots of the magazine, which grew out of a milieu of genre specific cartoon magazines written for young boys. founding editor PAT MILLS found his original ACTION comic censored for its violence so he ingeniously reimagined and rebranded such as a SCIENCE FICTION magazine, and importantly kept the violence, and thus 2000 AD was born. its pretty funny that such worked, given that it was somehow palatable and morally passable for the censors to see MUTANTS and ROBOTS being mangled, trampled, dismembered, tortured, drowned, and blown to bits. so long as it wasnt humans.
i also found it interesting the convergence between the magazine and the BRITISH PUNK ROCK movement of the late 1970s, with the JUDGE DREDD character both a reaction and a commentary on such at the time. in essence he was the ultimate authoritarian figure crushing the perceived opposition, of which the PUNKS were an implicit target. it was ultra-violent and tone perfect for an era and generation questioning authority figures and the relationship between the governed and the government.
and in essence that sense of questioning boundary lines in society and culture is what makes the magazine still relevant, and arguably very BRITISH. that subtext is also what differentiates it from its AMERICAN brethren and readership, who often expect clearly righteous figures and dont appreciate moral ambiguity. an interesting point made is how the 2000 AD model has over time found its way into AMERICAN popular culture with former fans writing, directing and acting in films more aligned with the later's outlook rather than the former. even musicians such as GEOFF BARROW of PORTISHEAD and SCOTT IAN of ANTHRAX are interviewed about how this active questioning of the status quo was what he got out of their fandom as kids. thats pretty cool that their readership included a legion of active, and not passive, creatives.
so yeah, this was definitely a worthwhile film and will serve as the basis for my further investigation into the world of comics, even those i'd hitherto not considered, like JUDGE DREDD. pretty cool. most definitely worth investigating if you are interested in the intersection of ART, WRITING and even MUSIC in modern BRITISH culture.