Tag Archives: Hardware

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, at the BFI tonight

28 Oct
2000AD characters

A rogue’s gallery of 2000AD heroes, anti-heroes and villains. If you can name most of them, you’re a true “Squaxx Dek Thargo”.

2000AD is the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic. It says so on the masthead. Tonight, as part of the BFI’s Days of Fear and Wonder sci-fi season, a new documentary goes a long way to proving that’s no idle boast.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD gathers an impressive array of interviewees from the comic’s history: founder Pat Mills, editor David Bishop, a wide array of artists and writers (Alan Moore, predictably, is the only no-show), plus fans such as Anthrax’s Scott Ian, who wrote a song about Judge Dredd; Portishead’s Geoff Barrow; and screenwriter Alex Garland, who penned the Karl Urban Judge Dredd movie. The documentary is a master-class in editing: though it’s pretty much all talking heads, apart from some semi-animated stills from the comic (“Gaze into the fist of Dredd!”), the interviewees speak with such passion and eloquence that it’s never dull.

Some of the ins and outs, and the admirable frankness with which the loss of direction in the ‘90s is addressed, may appeal more to the 2000AD devotee (or “Squaxx Dek Thargo”, as we are known). But the key points will be of interest to anyone who loves comics:

1. 2000AD was born in 1977 out of punk and a feeling of revolution. It was Pat Mills’s follow-up to Action, the comic that was too violent to live. It used science-fiction not as escapism, but as a device for satirising the present without getting sued or banned (though they came close sometimes, which is why “Burger Wars” is never reprinted). It had four or five different strips in each issue, allowing room for experimentation and the nurturing of new writers and artists, but its one constant was Judge Dredd – a futuristic reboot of Dirty Harry whose brand of legally sanctioned vigilante justice made him popular with lefties who could see the satire, as well as, uncomfortably, others who couldn’t.

2. 2000AD changed the face of American comics. With the honourable exceptions of Warrior (home of V for Vendetta), Deadline (home of Tank Girl) and the odd Marvel UK or Doctor Who comic, 2000AD was pretty much the only game in town. If you were a Brit, and you wanted to work in comics, this is where you did it. The talent pool, therefore, was incredible. America’s DC Comics, under the editorship of Karen Berger, set up the Vertigo imprint specifically to tap into that pool. Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Kevin O’Neill, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Brendan McCarthy, Pete Milligan – Brits such as these brought a humour, an anarchy, a rule-breaking, risk-taking mentality that shook up American comics and created a new golden age.

3. 2000AD had, and is continuing to have, a big impact on Hollywood. The only two official 2000AD movies so far are both of Judge Dredd, and neither set the box office alight. But the comic’s influence is far-reaching. The sci-fi film Hardware was based on a 2000AD Future Shock (it wasn’t credited at first, until I put two and two together in Time Out magazine and the producers had to settle out of court, full story here). RoboCop was a rip-off of Judge Dredd – the early version of his helmet, shown in the documentary, was an exact copy. The Book of Eli is, to all intents and purposes, set in the Cursed Earth. And it’s wormed its way into the DNA: a whole generation of Hollywood film-makers grew up reading 2000AD, and have absorbed its world-view.

I could go on – but why not see for yourself? There are still a few tickets available now for tonight’s screening, which includes a Q&A with 2000AD founder Pat Mills, artist Kevin O’Neill, and the documentary’s director Paul Goodwin and producers Helen Mullane and Sean Hogan.

Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism scandal – and how history repeats itself

17 Dec

Yesterday, actor Shia LaBeouf admitted plagiarising a short comic strip by Daniel Clowes. “In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation,” he Tweeted after Buzzfeed broke the story that his short film HowardCantour.com bore uncanny similarities to Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano, including word-for-word dialogue.

“Im [sic] embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration,” he continued, even though in past interviews he gave the distinct impression he had come up with the script himself. He closed with a simple, “I f***ed up.”

People are scratching their heads that he ever thought he could get away with it: Clowes is hardly unknown in Hollywood, having written Ghost World and Art School Confidential. But then again there was a much more extreme case, back in 1990, that I broke while at Time Out.

We’d received a tip-off from a comics fan (Alan Jones, I think) that the forthcoming Brit sci-fi flick Hardware (below left) bore a striking resemblance to a four-page strip in a 2000AD comic (below right). So I set up a classic journalistic sting.

I dug out a copy of the comic from my boxes (finally, a purpose for my hoarding!), and wrote out a synopsis of the strip, which was about a killer robot accidentally activated inside a home. I told our Sidelines editor, Alix Sharkey, to call the producer of Hardware and say that we were planning a story on the film, but wanted to make sure we had the story down correctly.

He then read out my synopsis of the comic strip. Throughout, the producer went uh-huh, yep, that’s the plot of our film all right, until the end when he said there were a few extra minutes Alix had missed out. Only then did Alix tell him he’d just agreed that Hardware was exactly the same plot as a comic strip. A long, lo-o-o-o-ong pause ensued. Then: “Can I get back to you on that?”

I later heard from the strip’s writer, Steve MacManus, that he and artist Kevin O’Neill were subsequently offered a cash settlement (way too low in my opinion given that Miramax were involved in the film, but Steve seemed delighted), plus a credit, which you’ll still see on IMDB. Writer/director Richard Stanley, a known comics fan, was even vaguer in his apologies than LaBeouf: “The story came to me in a dream,” he insisted, and even in a recent 2009 interview he downplayed the connection.

But we know better, Richard… and so, bizarrely, should La Beouf, who is one of Hollywood’s biggest actors – even if not, apparently, one of its biggest thinkers.