|'Whilst the link to Vertigo is established fairly successfully, that chapter of the film becomes more and more outlandish as it widens the net to claim that 2000AD has influenced every bit of pop culture you can think of.'|
If watching the filmic history of a slightly niche, counter-culture comic sounds like you might be about to spend a lot of time listening to beardy middle-aged white guys talk, whilst strategically placed in front of shelves of attractive books then you've pretty much got Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD down pat.
In fairness to Paul Goodwin's Documentary, this is a problem addressed on screen, shortly after the first female contributor to the film has been shown at the twenty-three minute mark. It's a mature discussion about the problem of gender representation in comics and the sexist trends of the industry and it's handled well by all involved, until it is undercut by the fact that one of 2000AD's greatest crimes isn't covered until a later section. The segmenting of the comic's ridiculously tone deaf adverts identifies them as a one-off. Nothing at all to do with the industries underlying sexism, no, not at all sir. Still, Grant Morrison gets some of the too-heightened tension around the debate spot on: try and write for women and you get told off, deliberately avoid it and you also get told off. Just focus on good stories and see what happens, seems to be the mantra.
It's not the only mantra Goodwin manages to reveal. Throughout the film there's a bubbling undercurrent of discussion about the commercialism of art. Many of the writers and artists featured bemoan the poor pay and practices of UK comics, but few are defensive about their move to the American market. In a way, why should they be? The poor practices of 2000AD in terms of pay and rights has been well documented and largely undisputed, though the fact that much of the talent seeps back from the US to at least guest at 2000AD speaks to a level of spiritual attachment that goes beyond whether your cheque is in dollars or pounds.
Some of the discussions prove less fruitful. The incomparably sweary Pat Mills comes across as egotistical, even for a film full of creatives who are by nature at least semi-egotists. He contradicts himself on several occasions and seems less impassioned and more unreasoned as the film progresses. If Goodwin wanted to cast his net for a villain then surely here he is. Mills is part of this story, yes, but his belligerent badgering adds little to it. As a long-standing fan of Vertigo it was interesting to see the parallels drawn with 2000AD, presented here as its forebear and nurturing ground. Whilst that link is fairly successful, that chapter of the film becomes more and more outlandish as it widens the net to claim that 2000AD has influenced every bit of pop culture you can think of. It's a great publication, and this is a largely a successful history of it, but the deserved criticisms of 2000AD could perhaps have been a little sharper and the praise of it perhaps a little less fawning.