Friday 19 June 2015

Future Shock! The Story of 2000 AD

No film or book should ever be described as the story or history of its subject, whether as a title or a subtitle. There is not The Story of Film, nor The Story of 2000 AD. Rather there are stories, histories, accounts, necessarily incomplete and intentionally or unintentionally biased.

One demonstration of this here is the absence of Alan Moore as one of the interviewees. His presence is felt, perhaps as a structuring absence, through comments from others, including his daughter Leah Moore and Neil Gaiman, on The Ballad of Halo Jones in particular.

Another, which makes Moore’s absent presence that bit more surprising, is that the filmmakers provide others associated with the comic plenty of scope to be critical of others, of one another and of themselves.

This, crucially, is in line with the anti-authoritarian mindset typical (or presented as such) of 2000 AD’s writers and artists. An irony here is that 2000 AD is shown as coming from the banning of its predecessor Action, whose mistake was to present its anti-authoritarianism in a contemporary rather than science fiction/fantasy guise. (Here I’d hope that in an extended DVD version Martin Barker was included amongst the academic commentators and that Battle's Charley’s War was mentioned.)

The most important question for 2000 AD’s creatives is presented as one of recognition. For whatever reasons -- likely worthy of a documentary in their own right -- most of those working in the comics industry were historically not acknowledged as the authors or given the rights according with this designation.

2000AD’s crediting of its creatives proved a triple-edged sword. For the creatives it meant the ability to move onwards and upwards to the USA, Marvel and DC if they wanted to. For the comic it meant talent increasingly using it as a stepping stone towards greater audiences and remuneration. For comics, especially in the US, it meant a greater breadth. (The influence of Japanese comics on 2000 AD, and/or vice-versa, if there are such, are not mentioned.)

The critical theme, and self-criticism, re-emerge. (In the spirit of self-criticism I don’t know if there is a chibi Dredd, say, but would like to.) One of 2000AD’s, and the comics industry’s failings, is given as the masculine focus. Halo Jones excepted the other key characters from the early days discussed -- Judge Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Rogue Trooper, Johnny Alpha -- are male.

So too, however, do the limits of the critique: the 1995 Judge Dredd film is bad, the 2012 film good. Rebellion Developments, the current owners of the brand, are good.

Overall, though, a good documentary -- if you were not around in 2000 AD’s first decade you’ll likely learn something and, if like me, you weren’t around for much after that, you’ll likely also do so.

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