Tornado Summer Special

I’m trying not to do too much research into uncredited writers and artists, or disentangling the complex system of pen-names used by creators throughout 2000AD’s (and other House of Tharg publications) history. The reason for that is if I start then I’ll get caught in a rabbit warren of 1970s comic history, which won’t do this prog slog any good. Which is all a roundabout way to say that I hit Barney to identify Graham Cotton as the cover artist for this, the first (and only) Tornado Summer Special. You may recognise his style from about a quarter of the Starlord covers.

No Big Editorial as such, but there is a contents page, including a photo of Billy, Sam (short for Samantha, in case we get confused) and Percy. The photo has the ‘Heroes’ logo on the wall, so was probably taken before the comic was re-titled Tornado (unless they just forgot to take down the sheet of A3).

First up in this special is Wheels of Fortune. I have no idea what the thought process behind this one was, but it’s going to make me appreciate the weekly a little bit more. The setting is an international car race in France where the teams discover that every team apart from the Spanish has had their fan belts cut through. For some reason, this act of sabotage doesn’t lead anybody to cancel the race, or hold an enquiry, or get the police involved or anything. During the race a few of the teams come under fire from a sniper, which eventually affects every team. Again, the race continues as if nothing untoward is happening (alright, there’s a police presence, but I’m pretty sure that if a sniper took pot shots at cars in a race, the race would be suspended, even in the 1970s). The script doesn’t convey any sense of drama at any of this, reading like a filler story with well-established characters, though I’m not aware that it’s anything other than a stand-alone strip. The art’s good though, right? It’s adequate, but not inspiring. And I dearly hope that the artist took a leaf out of Dave Gibbons book, and did the lettering themselves as – being diplomatic – it suits the story and art.

Voice of Treachery. Is it another strip? No. Is it a text story? No. Is it a one page article about the second world war? Yes. For whatever reason there’s an article about William Joyce. So far I’m wondering if Tiger existed at that time, because Wheels of Fortune belongs there more than here, and this feature should be in Battle, surely?

After those two, it’s almost welcome to see Captain Klep. Almost. First things first – I’d forgotten that Clep’s boss’s name was Schwartzeneger, which explains Big E’s comment on that coat of arms the other week. This story has Clep read about a millionaire who lives as a ‘dirty tramp’. He then sees a tramp and assumes they’re the millionaire and aids them in helping themselves to a local millionaire’s property. There’s no surprises and inconsistency in Clep riding out on a paper round, Klep returning and no comment about his change of identity from Mr Schwartzeneger.

Next up the tightly packed art and lettering that signifies a reprint from about twenty years earlier – I have a feeling that Eagle and similar comics were closer to newspapers in size, either that or kids from the 1950s and 1960s had better eyesight – must be the lack of TV that helped them. This assumed reprint is called The Three Mile Drop! This is the true story of Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade of the R.A.F. whose parachute burnt up when the Lancaster bomber he was in was hit (yes, it’s another world war two feature). In this case he opted to jump out of the turret rather than burn up, though he was 18,000 over Germany. He woke up in a fir tree forest in thick snow, and ended up having more trouble convincing the Gestapo that he’d survived the fall without a parachute than he did staying alive in the first place. He ends up convincing them through some technical issue with the parachute harness which proves it hadn’t been used and ends up being celebrated in the P.o.W. camp by Germans and British alike. This is entertaining enough and being only three pages long does it no harm (unlike the condensed life stories running in the weekly at the same time, this is only recounting one event in somebody’s life).

More history in the form of two paintings of vikings and Canadian Mounted Police, one page each and reminiscent of the Carlos Ezquerra pictures in the Hall of Heroes, though this is in much more of a traditional painterly style as appears in some old Treasure annuals I had as a child. The pictures are competent though the writing makes me question why they’re here – something about ‘moments of decision’ the first about the vikings deciding to go to Britain and possibly on to Vinland (Westward Ho!) the second about desperadoes on the run from the mounties (A Man Alone).

Tornado! An article about whirlwinds, which is fair enough as if you don’t have an article for children about the natural phenomenon in a comic called Tornado, where can you?

The windy article is followed by another article about the fighter plane called Tornado. I’m saying articles – they’re more a small amount of text surrounded by paintings of the subjects.

Finally we get a story about a Tornado character (let’s not count Klep, eh?) with The Mind of Wolfie Smith by unknown creators, but with lettering in that printed format instead of hand-lettered. As with 2000AD, the stories in the special (if they’re based on the same characters) are by different creative teams and this one is sort of Wolfie Smith but missing the things that limit his powers. He essentially has X-ray vision here and has no problem with using multiple powers in quick succession, with none of the burn-out that he gets in the weekly. The story itself must take place before he goes on the run when wrongly accused of murder as he has run-ins with the law without it being brought up.

Another page, another feature, this one is “‘Amazing’ inventions the world didn’t want!” with spot illustrations of the kind of Victorian inventions that now lead to many a steampunk image.

Another page, another feature, well, text story. I made a mistake here. I peeked ahead to see how long this story was going to be. Just the two pages, but over the next page is another two-page article. Then another double-spread painting with a few words, then another text story. Then it looks like a reprint. Oh well, on with the first of eight an a half pages of text with “Sea Monster!” This tells of a 16-year old who’s given a submarine by his uncle as a birthday present and immediately takes it thousands of feet down where he thinks he’s being attacked by a giant squid but is actually being saved from being crushed in a collapsing ravine. That’s pretty much the entire story.

The next text feature is an article called “Nothing Could Hold Houdini” which is self-explanatory.

“Repel Boarders!” is a colour painted picture of Caribbean Pirates accompanied by a few hundred words that add nothing.

Victor Drago and the Hand of Horror takes the last few pages of text (in this batch, if not the entire special). Things are very Hound of the Baskervilles until the appearance of “a Chinese” called “Ching” and then it rapidly goes downhill, with jiu-jitsu grips, joss sticks from the Orient and fireworks (also from the Orient). Let’s hurry on to the next comic, shall we?

Tendrils of Terror: A Hurricane Jones Story is what looks like a reprint. It’s a rushed two-pager about a Peruvian scientist who has been sending plants to people in Britain. The plants have been developed by the scientist and grow ‘at a terrific rate’ when watered and start strangling those nearby at the time. Hurrican Jones is a secret agent who travels to Peru, gets caught pretty easily and escapes just as easily (the scientist carelessly getting himself killed while chasing Hurriance). We never find out why he’s sending them out to people in Britain. That’s it.

Two more ‘moments of decision’ – “To the Ends of the Earth” (Alexander the Great) and “Stand and Deliver!” – you can guess what that one’s about.

Redskin Deerfoot versus Paleface Mills – more text, this time another true story. I managed to look past the dated language…

Every Raid was a Date with Death is more true text, this time about early Commando exploits during world war two.

Prisoner Was a Pig! Yet another article, this one about animals that have been taken to court (pigs, cocks, beetles and a few cases of rats).

Tornado’s War of Wits is a puzzle page.

The Jetcopter Raiders: A Hurrican Jones Story – will this one be so rushed? Will it last more than two pages? Will their be any explanation by the end why the bad guy/s do what they do? I didn’t go into too much detail on the last Hurricane Jones story, but he got captured on the top tier of panels on the second page, which is exactly what happens in this story. He escaped by using his All Purpose Weapon (A.P.W.), which is also what happens here. In both stories he also then switches to a stun setting… To answer the earlier questions – it was rushed, it didn’t last more than two pages, though at least they have a clear motive here – stealing a jetcopter to carry out robberies.

Holiday Humour – spot cartoons which have no doubt been published before…

Assassins Unlimited! A Victor Drago Story. This one is a comic and some far-fetched tale of some terrorists luring Victor Drago to Kent so that they can steal some identity papers from him during a scuffle and use them to access a manor where some foreign diplomats are staying.

Black Holes in Space …cosmic death traps in which you cannot die! Talk about a misleading tagline – this article is about black holes, as you’d expect, though the bit about ‘cannot die’ is really about time slowing down due to the vast gravitational forces (as readers of Halo Jones Book III will know).

All About Indians! It being the 1970s, this is a feature about native Americans rather than residents of a subcontinent of Asia.

“Rescue Mussolini!” An article about a successful mission to rescue Mussolini from Italian partisans in 1943 (with a footnote to say his freedom would only last two years).

Wolfie Smith in The Magician’s Assistant – a text story, potentially paralelling the story currently running in the weekly (I’ll find out in the next few weeks of comics). This one is about Wolfie getting a job at a holiday camp, rescuing the daughter of a mind-reader (not a real one) from drowning and uncovering a smuggling operation in the process.

Battle on Vector Four! is probably a text story to accompany a colourful picture by Ferrer depicting a snail-like creature with a spiky shell (described in the text as slug-like). Earth people go to alien planet, attack the wildlife, will probably get killed by the mate of the creature they killed. The picture’s good though.

I’m not going to devote time to a breakdown of how many pages were original story, how many text and how many reprint (partially because I can’t be totally sure which ones were reprint) but the stories from the weekly comic were nowhere near as predominant as they should. There was no Angry Planet, Wagner’s Walk, Blackhawk or Storm (though with the lead times of these specials I can understand why Storm, the relative newcomer, wouldn’t have been able to make it in time).

Grailpage: Ferrer’s crab, snail thing on the back page wins it for me.

Grailquote: this is going to be difficult. Tornado just isn’t as quotable as 2000AD, Starlord and the merged comics. The chances that there are going to be pearls of wisdom in a special – traditionally rushed out by IPC using non-standard creators – are slim indeed. The Mind of Wolfie Smith, Carole Burke: “You were miles away when I started going under. How did you know I was drowning?” Wolfie Smith: “Must have guessed it. Guessed you were a very pretty chick, too. Or perhaps I’ve got very good eyesight.” Smooth, Wolfie, real smooth.

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