Tornado No 1: Free Turbo-Flyer! Plus The U.K.’s First Real Live Super Hero!

So far everything in this blog has been a re-read. All those times I’ve guessed how a Future-Shock ends, I’ve read that story before. It may have been thirty years ago, but there’s a possibility that I’m remembering rather than working out the ending. This is different. I bought a full run of the 22 issues of Tornado for this blog and have not yet read them. Everything I know about Tornado I know from 2000AD and Tornado and from a few annuals (which I have read before). So, here goes…

The front cover is a medley of what’s inside and is mainly set up to make space for the free gift. The turbo-flyer is from the same school of cover-mounted free gifts as the Space Spinner though a different design (looking a little like a three-pronged boomerang). My run of Tornados don’t have any free gifts, so that’s enough of that.

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg introduces us to Big E. Alright, it’s not really a Nerve Centre, but Tharg does introduce it. I was just listening to a Space Spinner 2000 podcast from a few years back, and apparently the person in the Tharg mask isn’t just a random office junior – it’s the actual editor of the time! So, the editor of 2000AD is pictured shaking hands with the editor of Tornado (except it’s actually Dave Gibbons dressed up as the Big E, instead of Kelvin Gosnell or Dave Hunt). The theme of the comic is ‘Heroes’ (and I think that was going to be the title of the comic at one point) so I’ll see how the starting line-up of stories copes with that theme.

Good news on the first story – written by Bill Henry (a pseudonym for Jack Adrian) it’s drawn by Mike Dorey, whose work I love on MACH Zero and Ro-Jaws Memoirs. Victor Drago is a re-named Sexton Blake (due to rights issues), which itself is ‘strongly influenced’ by Sherlock Holmes. His first adventure is Victor Drago and the Terror of Troll Island! It’s a bit of an odd beginning – some smugglers are taking advantage of a bitter, snowy night in London’s docklands in 1929 when they encounter Drago. I say encounter, but he just stands there while his assistant, Spencer, Tarzans down on a rope, taking out two of the five smugglers. Then his dog Brutus bites another (is there a word for when a dog latches on to you and doesn’t let go?) – I’m beginning to wonder whether Drago will actually take an active role in this story, though it turns out he does have a mean right arm and knocks a gun-wielding smuggler to the ground. Detective-Inspector John Carter turns up a little too late to capture the smugglers, but in time to do the paperwork and actually arrest them, so Drago and Spencer go back to Baker Street as the phone rings. They’re lured to Cornwall (Troll Island, in fact) and get there just in time to witness the person who contacted them get shot by a crossbow, his dying words speaking of what he thought was a joke. So, not a lot to go on, and weird that the protagonist takes until page three to do anything – I’d have thought a hero-themed protagonist would be more pro-active.

The Mind of Wolfie Smith, using the same logo as it would after merging with 2000AD (designed by Jan Shepheard). Written by Tom Tully with art by Vaño (probably Vincente, though could be his brother Eduardo, or the both of them together) it starts with Earnest Patrick Smith’s early childhood where he exibits signs of telekineses and ESP and tells how his nickname Wolfie stuck and how he was considered a weird kid until one day he does so well in an exam that his teachers think he must be cheating. Sent home, he instead goes to the library where he reads up on his psychic abilities though by the time he gets home his teacher has passed on the false allegations to his parents, as well as revealing a school photograph that has been ruined (for the others in his class) as a Kirlian effect means only Wolfie is visible. Threatened with being taken away and tested upon, he lets loose a wave of mental energy smashing through the whole street he lives on, turns and runs. Is he heroic? He’s not really had a chance to do anything yet, though I suspect he’ll become more anti-heroic than heroic.

The next story is what I’m looking forward to most – and it explains why Massimo Belardinelli didn’t draw the last few episodes of Flesh Book II – he was busy at work on The Angry Planet, starting off as that story did with a single black and white page before the colour centre-spread and then continuing from there. He’s teamed up with future Meltdown Man co-creator Alan Hebden in a tale of the colonisation of Mars. Matt Markham is the first person to be born on Mars and thirty years later is a farmer, buying water from and selling produce to Mars Incorporated – a monopoly who could give Trans-Time a run for their money. Unlike Trans-Time, this company has a stranglehold on the colonists as the Mars natives cannot go to Earth due to the difference in gravity. When Mars Incorporated prospectors barge onto his property, ruin the agricultural land and offer a paltry amount for prospecting rights, Matt has had enough, though the consequences are that their water supply is cut off. Thus begins the fight back against the multi-national. Multi-planetal?

Up next – Triple T/Tornado’s True Tales: The Tale of Benkei by Steve Moore (a name I recognise from 2000AD) and Musquera (presumably another agency artist, as Vaño is/are). The concept is that these are true tales of heroism though confusingly at first, Benkei is the villain of the piece – an excellent swordsman who challenges random strangers trying to cross a bridge and steals their swords. He hears of another swordsman who the villagers think would be able to best him. Not much later he encounters a young man with a sword who quickly gets Benkei on his knees before revealing his name, Yoshitune (a much more heroic figure).

Almost finally is Wagner’s Walk by R.E. Wright (Pat Mills, continuing to make use of his Charlie’s War research – sorry, wrong war) and Lozano. This was reprinted in the floppy given away with the Judge Dredd Megazine not too long ago, but I held off reading it as I wanted to be fresh when I read Tornado. In the aftermath of World War Two, two million former German soldiers are marched to Russia to rebuild the country. Major Kurt Wagner is our hero, and if you think it’s unusual to have a German soldier who fought for the Nazis as a hero now, imagine what it would have been like in 1979! The story resists the temptation to have their (Wagner and his tankmen Big Karl and Gruber) captors mistreat them, but other than forced labour with no guarantee of release date, the Russians treat them well. They are, however, then moved further East after a few years, to the cold wastes of Siberia. Their hope of a escape changes when Wagner finds a child’s atlas, revealing that India isn’t too far away. Comparatively speaking, that is – it’s two and a half thousand miles away on the other side of Mongolia, China and Tibet, but still closer than Berlin.

A teaser page for the next issue, with a Red Alert survival wallet-style ‘Team Tornado Mayday Pack and an intro for the back cover star…

Captain Klep, by Dave Angus, Nick Landau and Kevin O’Neill. It’s not the best story of the issue. The first episode is a straight-forward spoof of Superman (specifically the film that Kevin O’Neill recently wrote an article about in 2000AD a few weeks earlier). So far it’s a bit better than Bonjo, but that’s not really saying much. We’ll see how it develops.

Grailpage: the first page of Mike Dorey’s Victor Drago, featuring dock cranes looming over a stormy London night while smugglers row a dinghy along the Thames.

Grailquote: this is difficult – the advantage over in 2000AD is that I’m incredibly familiar with the source material, so I can pick them based on the relevance they have, on what I’ve remembered down the decades or the more immediate humour in the situation. Their aren’t really any jokes in this comic so far, other than the forced humour in Klep. R.E. Wright, Kurt Wagner: “For two years now I have served your country, and it is right that I should… for I have seen what Hitler’s war – my war – has done to Russia… but I am still proud to be German and I will not betray my countrymen by giving them your orders. I will serve my sentence as a prisoner.”


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