With his new documentary Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD, filmmaker Paul Goodwin has taken on the challenging task of bringing the history of the beloved British comics magazine 2000AD to -- at least potentially -- a mainstream audience, and with it, to shine a light on the good work of British comics icon Pat Mills, who created 2000AD and has been with it through good times and bad.
The film is described as "The story of how the multi-award winning comic came to be, how it has survived for 37 years, and how it continues to be an innovator and game-changer in both comics and the wider cultural world beyond. This feature documentary is a funny, moving and passionate chronicle of how a band of talented eccentrics came together to create something both visionary and extraordinary."
Mills joined ComicBook.com to discuss the project, and his upcoming book Be Pure, Be Vigilant, Behave: 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History, out soon on eBook (subscribe to Mills's newsletter on his website for specific release information), and check out our conversation with Future Shock director Paul Gibson, which ran yesterday, as well.
Imagery of Zenith was front-and-center in some of the promo material I saw at some point, and it made me wonder: Were there bits of 2000AD's history that were harder to talk about than others?
Not harder, but more controversial, perhaps. The conflict between factions for superheroes and against.
From my book:
Doubtless many readers felt the same way and things could get heated between these two rival teams competing for British readers, a competition identified at the very beginning of 2000AD when Kevin O’Neill wrote and drew an excellent Future Shock where a superhero comic fan meets Tharg in the Nerve Centre and the differences between the two genres are fully aired.
It was also brought over to me at a comic convention where the Eagle Awards were being presented. I was nominated for favourite writer and so was Grant Morrison for his DC Comics work. I was voted the winner and, as I went up to receive the award, I was dismayed to find myself being roundly booed by the superhero fans, even as I was cheered on by 2000AD fans. I’d never come across such rudeness and so I was a bit slow off the mark. Looking back, I should have given the superhero fans the finger from the podium
Afterwards, Angela told me how she heard two DC execs in the audience reacting to the disappointing news. Making sure Angela could hear them, one of them said loudly to the other, “Well, of course, the Eagle Awards don’t really count anymore.”
Are you more or less at peace with the concept that your work has "influenced a generation of artists" and all that, or when somebody tries to take the long view of 2000AD is it still a bit daunting?
Not at all. And more importantly than artists
From my book: (the teachers he refers to were the basis for Dredd and Torquemada)
Today, many 2000AD readers are in positions of importance in the media, and I like to believe some of our subversive themes just might have rubbed off on them. Many are well known. British actors, film and TV directors, musicians, producers, animators, a UK film studio boss (Lionsgate), heads of computer game companies, publishers, journalists, novelists, comedy writers, artists, television editors… the list is endless.
The most important for me, though, is the CEO of a school. Reading his letter, I don’t think he’ll be receiving an MBE any time soon. And I rather think he’d turn down such an “honour”.
As I’m a paid-up member of Republic, I can relate to that.
Here are excerpts from two of his emails:
We've got a library that we need filling, and I am creating a section I would like to call with your permission, "Mills and BOOM!"... dedicated to yourself and others that engage kids through graphic novels with a decent message within them.
When people ask me how my moral compass developed, I always say that it was from 2000AD! I learnt about fascism from Dredd, racism from Strontium Dog, feminism from Halo Jones etc and most people just think I’m weird saying this…
I’m now 44 and I’ve been working in education for many years, and have recently opened up a new school in my home town of Doncaster.
Myself and Andy, our Principal are both comic readers, punks, and want our kids to be open minded, questioning and challenging. We’ve both refused invitations to Downing Street and Buckingham palace that arrived because we’ve opened a school.
I really just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you for all the subversive and subliminal plot lines and stories I’ve read over the years written by you! It worked!
I’m doing this because I just read your blog post about your disgusting teachers, James and Solomon! Schools don’t have to be like that at all. Ours is fantastic!
I’m sure you get shed loads of fan mail, but whether you read this or not, I really want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for influencing/informing me in the way you have.
Creating a world-class education free for our children is the most subversive thing I believe I could do.
Keep it up, and so will we!
Gwyn ap Harri
A not so evil CEO
XP School Trust
Thank you, Gwyn.
So the foundations many of us laid in the 70s, 80s and early 90s as Gwyn has described, have their impact today and will continue to have an impact for decades to come. And Gwyn and co. are about to open a second school. “Spread the Word!” as Hammerstein would say.
2000AD's early appeal in the punk and anti-Thatcherism are covered pretty well here; is it kind of ironic, then, that the film comes out with the rise of Brexit and Trump, as antifascist protests are once again becoming more of a "thing" in popular culture?
Not in comics, especially.
Thankfully, there are still outlets where Crisis and 2000AD’s subtext, on which their commercial success was built, still resonates. I’m giving a talk at Marxism 2017 on July 8th on the “Politics of 2000AD” with Sasha Simic.
In the past, science fiction and comic writer and 2000AD Nemesis fan, China Mieville, who has a similar point of view, has given talks at Marxism. Also, Professor John Newsinger, who wrote A comic history of Russia’s Red Year 1917, which I wrote the introduction for. And The Dredd Phenomena: Comics and Contemporary Society.
So it’s good to know there are some kindred spirits out there. I hope to see you there.
Here in the States, the '90s are often maligned by critics and fans, but most of the artists who were working in the industry at the
time still defend it to some extent. You have no such qualms talking about some of the challenges the magazine faced at that time. How was it to take a longer and more detached view of that point in time?
I’m not sure I do. The late 90s nearly killed 2000AD! I think that would upset anyone
From the book:
When Rebellion took over, shortly after the Millennium, and the Dark Age came to an end, 2000AD was close to death’s door. I was so aware that it could be axed at any time, I took a voluntary page rate cut, and at least one of the comic’s top artists did the same.
That 2000ad survived, found its way again, and regained something of its original position in the market place, is down to everyone at Rebellion, but notably editor Matt Smith.
His cure was simple enough, although it seems to have been beyond the abilities of at least three previous editors: To make 2000AD like 2000AD again.