Tornado No 6: “The boy’s a wild animal! Hunt him down like a mad dog!”

This cover has Storm fleeing from a helicopter, and you know what that means? If a cover has a flying machine on it then send for Ian Kennedy! As with all other covers, this isn’t credited (and I can’t spot a signature anywhere) but it looks like Kennedy’s style to me.

The Big Editorial has Big E interviewing himself (he was supposed to have been taught by Tharg – he certainly gets a Big Ego from green bonce). Tornado is based in Room 2605 – I’m going to speculate that this means room 5 on the 26th floor of King’s Reach Tower – that’s how interesting I’m finding the editorials…

Blackhawk’s condemned criminals turn on him as he leads them into misty valleys beyond Rome. We weren’t told last issue, but there’s fifty of them, so assuming he gets out of this without killing any of them then he’s half-way to his century. Blackhawk has a moment of doubt in his hawk, Scythe-Wing (assuming it is actually the warrior-spirit of his tribe). All is not as it seems though, as mysterious figures emerge from caves in the valley. They are the Untouchables – ill and diseased exiles from Rome (I can’t work out if this means they have leprosy or not – they’d certainly instil fear in the enemy if they do). Azpiri’s portrait of Crassus after Blackhawk has spent three month’s training his century reminds me that he’s responsible for much of Ant Wars (I hadn’t made the connection before). Crassus has to admit that Blackhawk has earned the title Centurion as a timely message arrives. Two legions have disappeared in the Rhine regions. Knowing that Blackhawk is a desert fighter, and his men both untrained and potentially likely to desert their leader, Crassus sends Blackhawk to the forests. I’m familiar with the character of Blackhawk from 2000AD, which (spoiler) starts with the centurion being teleported from the streets of Rome to become a gladiator in an alien arena. I’m not even sure that required a spoiler – it’s an entirely different tone of strip which made no attempt to follow from what has appeared in Tornado so far. Either way, I’m liking this strip (not as much as the 2000AD strip, but that has Belardinelli on art – no offence, Azpiri).

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 110: It’s the Rebel Leaders! Guards – Kill Them!

The first thing to say about this prog is that the printing has improved drastically (as was noted in other prog slogs), more akin to Starlord than to 2000AD or Tornado. A forum thread details changes over the years. This particular prog has a Dave Gibbons cover of Dare and Sondar on the run.

The Nerve Centre does not mention the change in printing at all, though does have a reader write in to inform us all of the Strontium Bitches, a group of girls in South Shields who want more females in starring roles. Tharg’s reply alludes to Judge Death, which won’t be printed for nearly forty weeks – I’d heard Brian could be a slow worker…

Speaking of Brian Bolland, in Judge Dredd Punks Rule! this prog. In the wake of Cal’s reign, Gestapo Bob Harris has declared himself Chief Judge of Southside Sector 41. In the style of the first Judge Dredd story, one judge suggests getting together a squad of judges (50 or so) but Dredd declares that one judge will be enough, to give the street punks back their fear of Justice Department. Hmm, Gestapo Bob surrenders, is forced to say he’s a cheap punk after which Dredd uses water torture on him to force him to say it again – wouldn’t that be excessive violence? I’m sure other judges will be sent to Titan, and cadets expelled from the Academy, for less. Instead of being cubed, Dredd drives towards the South Mutieland Tunnel and expels them from the city for, revoking their citizenship for ten years. Something curious about that though – the word balloon obviously changes style for the second half with “As punishment for your crimes I remove your citizenship.” In one style of handwriting and “You will not be allowed to enter Mega-City One for ten years!” in another. As for Dredd’s hard line with the punks, going on about how citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and that the law must be obeyed – this is a bit rich considering some of the laws that have been in place for the previous 100+ days under Cal!

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Tornado No 5: Panic on the Pan-Martian Highway!

Looks like Ian Kennedy providing an Angry Planet cover, featuring the ship that Markham used to travel to Earth and back making a landing on a Martian highway. If I’m right on my guess, they really do get Kennedy to draw anything involving a flying vehicle!

The Big Editorial carries on the office politics photostory from previous weeks. I guess it marks the editorial pages as different when compared to 2000AD and Starlord…

Black Hawk is still trying to get together one hundred men to serve under him. What happens is that he ends up at the colosseum, the hawk tricks the emperor into sparing both of the best gladiators, blackhawk subsequently tricks them into not killing and robbing him, he recruits them, then the hawk leads the three up to a hill of execution. Crassus intervenes to spare the criminals due to be executed, allowing Black Hawk to recruit them. Despite their attempting to murder him less than an hour earlier, Stronus and Batus (the gladiators) are concerned that the criminals will do exactly the same as they had planned… My initial thought was that the only character who acts with agency is the hawk, though (the human) Black Hawk did trick Stronus and Batus into attacking his uniform while he watched from the shadows, then fought them. The emphasis of the comic on ‘heroes’ means I’m always going to be looking at how heroic those appearing actually are… Footnote – in checking the spelling for the colosseum, I found out two things: 1) it was originally called the Flavian Ampitheatre and 2) it was built in 70CE, twenty years after the setting of Black Hawk (to be fair, it isn’t called the colosseum in the strip, but it does look exactly like it).

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 109: Flames of Hell!

Carlos Ezquerra’s cover shows our Stront trio in a boat crossing a lake or river of liquid fire. There’s somebody else in the boat with them – I’d guess it’s Fly’s-Eyes, but if it is then he’s donned a hood.

The Nerve Centre points out the lack of Dredd, plus we get reader’s art of Fergee for the second week running (I’m wondering if the previous prog’s was the first reader’s art submitted by a female reader).

Robo-Hunter is heading for a resolution, with Slade getting the idea to use Radio Verdus to transmit a signal that will destroy the circuits of all robots on the planet. Boots is unimpressed by the latest plan (which involves using technology banned on earth as it leads to all cybernetics being damaged). Despite this being the episode where Slade gets the idea of how to ‘solve’ the problem of Verdus, it’s otherwise not exceptional (though the annoying cab-robot is well done).

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Tornado No 4: Loathed by his Men! Feared by his Masters! Blackhawk is the Savage Centurion!

Finally! Tornado gets a proper cover, with Blackhawk taking centre stage and not sharing the space with a free gift.

The Big Editorial continues the Daily Planet-inspired photo strips about the editorial team behind Tornado. Dave Gibbons’ involvement in this blatant rip-off didn’t do his career any harm though – DC would hire him to draw (amongst others) Superman and Watchmen within a decade.

As well as the cover, Blackhawk takes the prestigious first story slot (I can’t decide which is most valued – the first story or the story taking the colour centrespread). Gerry Finley-Day and Azpiri tell the tale in 50 BCE of a Nubian warrior who has been caught by the Romans, bemoaning his fate, that he should have died fighting before being captured. A desert hawk is the symbol of his people and looks like it will be food for the legion’s mascot – an eagle called Zeus. We already know this story is called Blackhawk, so it comes as no surprise when the hawk rises, then dives to kill the lumbering eagle. Not happy with the totem of the conquered tribe beating their totem, a roman legionairre called Crassus moves to slaughter the hawk, but our (as yet un-named) slave strikes Crassus to protect the bird, proclaiming that the bird has won it’s right to life. Before Crassus can execute the slave, a Roman governor stays his hand. I won’t summarise the entire episode, but the end result is that the slave to be known as Blackhawk ends up with the hawk, a scroll signed by the governor before he died granting him freedom and a position in the Roman army and finally a name, though it was used as an insult by a beggar, so lowly do the Romans think of nubians. It’s a good start, and atypical for a Roman Empire story.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 108: The doctor will examine you now… Say ah… Aaaaah!

Dr Feeley Good appears on the cover, terrorising a pair of humes in their living room, cover courtesy of Mike McMahon.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg takes recent industrial action as an excuse to push subscriptions. Tharg also blames industrial disputes on the changing of Belardinelli to Carlos Pino towards the end of Flesh (I’m still convinced it’s because he got moved over to The Angry Planet).

The Day the Law Died! reaches its climax as the de-programmed judges reclaim the streets from the Kleggs. Meanwhile, Dredd uses a roadliner (much like the one that crashed through to the Undercity) to break in to the Statue of Judgement. Fergee finally gets his opportunity to get heavy as the de-programmed judges weren’t as de-programmed as it had at first appeared – at least not in the presence of Cal himself. Pinned down, only Fergee has the strength to pick Cal up and carry him to his death (along with four brainwashed judges who tried, and failed to stop him). So dies Fergee (and Cal). Kleggs attempting to escape don’t get much further than the atmosphere, while statues to Fergee are erected citywide. Not for the last time, there are calls for Dredd to become the next Chief Judge, though his place is on the streets. Instead, Griffin is appointed Chief Judge, with Pepper as his Deputy. After the trials of his trip to the moon, his trip across the Cursed Earth and his trip to the Undercity, Joe needs a rest so will be back in two progs time.

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Tornado No 3: Who is Storm? Where is he from?

Another ‘new comic cover’ with a tiny picture of newcomer Storm taking about a fifth of the cover space, a photo of Dave Gibbons’ face and the rest promoting the ‘sensation free gift’ which, when, laying out the comics I’d be reading in the coming week or so, gave no clues to what the gift was going to be (I know now that it was a spud gun, from the teaser ad in the previous issue). Hopefully this is the last Tornado cover that won’t have a big picture on!

The Big Editorial is not so big, and for good reason – it’s cut to about a third of normal size to make way for new thrill Storm. Despite it’s reduced size, Big E’s blurb still gets cut down further when ‘newshound Billy Preston’ speaks over him to tell the true tale of Lachlan, a wild boy in Clydesbank in ‘the last war’ – this was before the Falklands and I’m going to guess Billy doesn’t mean Korea or Vietnam! Anyway, so Storm is either based on or has parallels with this Lachlan.

Storm takes the front spot from Drago. Scot Goodall delivers poetic narration while Musquera has a more grounded, less fantastical Belardinelli style, particularly when it comes to wild landscapes. Andrew Kane has given up a job in the city as a research chemist to become a shepherd in the Scottish highlands, working for Sir Gordon Forbes, the Lord of the Manor who only has an interest in visiting once a year, and then only to shoot at wildlife. Storm is a mysterious wild boy who saves Kane’s dog Bracken when she slips down a crumbling embankment. Later, Storm attempts unsuccessfully to save a stag shot by one of Forbes’ hunting party. Kane is ordered to give chase in a landrover and follows Storm to a cave, where he is not welcome. It’s a good opener – I have no idea whether Storm is actually supposed to be superhuman – he runs around in winter barechested but for a furry waistcoat thing, swims in icy-cold water and can run across rough terrain at twenty miles an hour.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 107: Johnny Alpha Enters The City of Lost Souls

King Carlos brings us a Strontium Dog cover, showing an inhabitant of Hell lurking in the foreground as our trio approaches.

The Nerve Centre doesn’t have any names I recognise, though reveals that Tharg a) is from Betelgeuse IV (did we know that before?) and has ferret-like creatures who are shy. Tharg gets the epiphets ‘the Handsome’ in the reader art and ‘the Fair’ in competition winners.

If you like world-building then The Day the Law Died! gets off to a roaring start, with the resistance judges emerging from under the tomb of “Judge Fargo 2001 – 2051 First Chief Judge of Mega-City One Father of Justice”. Without referring back to the first episode (where the narration said how long Goodman had been Chief Judge) I think that leaves about four or five years between Fargo vacating the top spot and Goodman ascending. Yes, I know we’re going to get Origins and other stories at later stages, but I’m taking the world-building one week at a time… Judge Walter welcomes them into the Hall of Justice and the five judges, Fergee and Fergee’s flies make their way to the briefing room. There’s a frame of Dredd punching a fellow judge that they come across – not the last time that Ron Smith will show a judge’s face being punched by Dredd! The effect of the anti-hypnotic tapes on the judges at the briefing is immediate and Dredd is ready to give them instructions until all the sections have been deprogrammed. The last assault on Cal begins and as the Chief Judge retreats to the Statue of Judgement to set off the nerve canisters throughout the city, Deputy Chief Grampus dies, as does Judge-Tutor Kelso. The last cliffhanger of the story has Dredd and Giant on the wrong side of the anti-vandal door at the foot of the Statue while Cal heads up to press the button.

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Tornado No 2: Your Multi-role Maydaypack’s got Codes; Tests; ID pass and all you need to form your own T.T. units!

Like the cover to the first issue, No 2 has a few panels from the stories inside, plugs the free gift, then shows a photo of Dave Gibbons as Big E. Boring! (sorry, Dave).

The Big Editorial has another photo of Big E, this time flying over a cityscape (presumably the view from Kings Reach Tower, as that would be the easiest way to get a cityscape if you work in a comic based there) and another photo of the editorial team – including the old Heroes logo. Tharg lurks in the corner.

Victor Drago and the Terror of Troll Island! Part 2. There’s a bit more to go on this week. Drago and Spencer (or is that Victor and Spencer – we’re not told if Spencer is a given name or surname) – are on the lookout for the murderer of Moffat but this being the second of seven (I think) episodes, they obviously don’t find them (though we do see a pair of shadowy hands just before they dispose of the body). They stumble on to a stately home occupied by a famous crime writer, Edgar Hollis, who invites them to a house-party, room and board included. Almost immediately Hollis lets them in to the secret of his success – he has a team of ghost writers and doesn’t actually write any of his own books (they also get to meet all the actual writers). One of two butlers (no explanation is given to why Hollis has two butlers) comes up to Drago to tell him that ‘they’ plan to murder him. It seems a bit more interesting than the previous episode, though I suspect my enjoyment of this story (and future Drago stories) will hinge on how this one resolves – if it fizzles out without loose ends I don’t think I’d be able to maintain interest in future installments.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 106: Blow Their Circuits Out, Kidd! What do you Think this is – a Baby’s Rattle?

Prog 106 has an Ian Gibson cover of Slade and company getting stuck in to the war on the robot planet, with speech balloons.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg makes an attempt to increase readership, concentrating specifically on getting more girls to read the Galaxy’s Greatest. Meanwhile there’s mention of “a Starlord complete story” over the next few months – I don’t recall this ever occurring, apart from the story commemorating 40 years since the launch of the sister comic. In other news, a suggestion from a reader to use cornflake boxes to store progs (good) and decorate it by cutting out your favourite picture from the comic (bad).

In The Day the Law Died!, Cal gazes out over Mega-City One, Grampus by his side, the city encircled by the one-mile high wall. Liking the worldbuilding, as I do, here’s the following… It’s not quite a ‘named block’ but Labour Block K19 (note British English spelling) contains slaves working to maintain the wall. The city trains last ran on time 170 years earlier – were the 1920s particularly good for railway punctuality in New York? Fergee’s address is 18 City Bottom Row, District 437 (WJ2) 17/8 673(9). No mention of sectors. Meanwhile in the story, strip-searches mean strip-searches in the Mega-City – and all done publically (though I’m not sure this is just something under Chief Judge Cal). The resistance consists of Dredd, Giant, Griffin, Pepper and Kelso, who between them prove that the briefing tapes contain subliminal messages brainwashing the judges to “obey Cal”. A the same time, Chief Judge Cal is suffering worsening visions of the old Chief Judges, taunting him (the old Chief Judges at this time would be Fargo, Solomon and Goodman). Walter falls into old habits and so is the first to find that Cal has a plan as he brings the CJ his breakfast one morning. The plan is to execute the entire city the following day, including all citizens and all judges.

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