Thursday, 21 August 2014

Future News

Things happen every day, millions and millions of things.  Some of them get recorded; others are simply forgotten.  Can you remember the year that America's Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning for the seventh time? No? Well then, maybe you can remember when Red Rum won a record three Grand Nationals?  OK, that's a bit tricky. Would it help if I said that it was the same year that Kanye West was born, Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah, and the rings of Uranus were discovered?  Warmer?  It was also the year that Star Wars hit the cinemas and The Sex Pistols released the instantly banned Never Mind the Bollocks. Any closer? If the penny still hasn't dropped, this should do it: it was the year the first ever issue of 2000AD was published (with a free frisbee stuck on the front - the infamous - Space Spinner). Drum roll… that year was 1977.

When Pat Mills, the creator of 2000AD, launched the comic it was very much fuelled by what was happening in the world at the time: the politics, the punks, the pop culture. To get a really comprehensive view of what the world was like back then director Paul and I spent most of yesterday in the deepest, darkest vaults under the ITN building, sifting through their one million hours of archived news recordings which, incredibly, date back to 1890 (handily enough for the makers of The King's Speech; we, of course, didn't have to go quite that far back).  It's an incredible place. They've got those huge shelves that stretch across the room and move when you twiddle the wheel at the end (I was asked to stop fiddling with these). And if there's a fire you've got just 30 seconds to get out before the doors seal shut and the 'gas suppression system' is activated, which apparently removes all the oxygen from the room - meaning anybody trapped inside will die fairly quickly, but more importantly the archive will be saved...

We were told that these days, every 24 hours, a whopping 36 fresh new hours of news gets added to the collection.  And looking around the room at all the film cans and tapes I couldn't help think about all the stuff that just didn't make it to our screens - you know the real stuff, the horror, stuff you'd want to unsee.  Anyway, nice guy Mark at ITN is going to assist us in getting some lovely old archive footage to help us tell the 2000AD story, to put it in context.  It's weird to think that we once lived in a world where mankind was yet to discover the rings of Uranus.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The (not in any way) Grievous Journey continues..

@IanEdgington @leahmoore @johnreppion.

Another day, another epic road trip!  Once again we embarked on a 3-stop tour of Britain to speak to some of 2000AD's most popular current creators.

First stop - Birmingham and to the home of Ian Edgington.  Ian has brought his own weird worlds and many original creations to 2000AD over the last few years in hugely popular new strips such as Leviathan, The Red Seas, Stickleback and most recently Brass Sun (loving it!).

We set up in Ian's office among an absolute treasure trove of comics, fantasy & sci-fi memorabilia. It's like a museum!  This is one serious collection, my favourite piece being the little James Brown figure from The Simpsons hiding in the back of our shot  :D

We had a great chat about all things 2000AD, focusing on more recent eras right up to the shape of the comic today.  Ian's a gent, he and his wife were very welcoming and gracious hosts, so many thanks to them for having us.  Hope the decorating is going well guys!

Onward to the Manchester and the home one of 2000AD's longest serving artists Steve Yeowell. I was first exposed to Steve's art in Grant Morrison's Zenith back in the 500's, which is surely one of the comic's all-time seminal strips. I remember how I found his combination of realism & horror absolutely chilling and really hadn't seen anything like his style in the comic before. Re-reading through some of the progs doing research for the doc it still creeps me out.

So Ian's 2000AD career stretches back from the 80's right up to the current issue with art duties on the brand new strip Black Shuck, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion - who in a handy not-too-clumsy-segue kind of way were the next stop on our journey!

Leah & John are a short hop from Steve over in Liverpool, and we had a great discussion about the history and impact of 2000AD, their contribution to current era and of course Leah's unique perspective growing up in the home of one of the comic's legendary writers.  Once again, Leah & John made time for us in their busy schedule and family home, and were extremely gracious and welcoming.

It's such a joy to meet people who's work you admire, then to find that they are kind, approachable and sincere, and one of the most enjoyable things about producing this doc has been the discovery that the comics industry that we all love and cherish so much is full of genuinely cool people!

I love comics.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

2000AD Unmasked

@britishlibrary @paul_gravett.

Last week we had a lovely chat with Paul Gravett, comics activist, and one of the curators of the Comics Unmasked exhibition currently running at the British Library.

Sitting among the exhibits, Paul was kind enough to find the time for a stimulating discussion about the history of comics and 2000AD's place within it.  Paul's perspective as a comics historian offers a fascinating insight into the the cultural importance of the medium, including 2000AD's contribution to the comics industry and pop culture in general.

The exhibition is very classy indeed, and it was especially thrilling to see the infamous 'Burger Wars' strips from Paul's private collection.  These chapters we part of the epic Cursed Earth storyline in Judge Dredd in the early 80's, and were completely deleted from subsequent reprints of the saga to avoid legal repercussions from Burger King & Maccy D's.  I had only seen scans of a few of the pages before so it was cool to see them first hand on the old yellowed paper!

Big thanks to Paul, also to Evie Jeffreys at the British Library for arranging us access to film.

The Comics Unmasked exhibition is running until the 19th of August, check it out..