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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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 105: Judge Dredd is a Wotten Cweep Twue by Judge Walter Dredd Betrayed!

Bolland draws a classic Walter pic, giving away the contents of the comic somewhat by showing him wearing a judge badge. This is the Walter that will appear in later annual one-page stories.

The Nerve Centre introduces us to Big E (re-named from E-Man, as he had been a few weeks earlier), shaking hands with Tharg. This is not a spot illustration by an art droid – they got one of editorial to don the rubber Tharg mask and Dave Gibbons to get dressed up as a superhero! So, the next post after this one will be about issue one of Tornado.

Ewins and McCarthy show Walter cowering before Cal in The Day the Law Died! before carrying out Dredd’s plan – to betray him! Cal sends for the Badgemaker and, as shown on the cover, Judge Walter is appointed – Mega-City One’s first robot judge – take that, Mechanismo! Slocum questions Cal’s judgement in making Walter a judge and makes a big mistake – he calls the Chief Judge ‘crazy’. This is picked up on, and Slocum claims he was just worried. There follow the panels featured in last prog’s teaser page – featuring parodies of late 1970s TV personalities and talk shows – I’m a bit young to get them, but I thinkthey’re Frank Bough, Robin Day and Russell Harty. All too aware that calling Cal crazy was a huge mistake, Slocum has been keeping an eye on Walter, so is there to catch the robot red-handed when he attempts to steal a briefing tape. Too late though, Cal has him paralysed, molds his face into a smile and pickles him in vinegar before he can reveal Walter’s secret. Apparently this episode would have been half a page longer, but the image of Slocum pickled was censored in case children copied it. Copied getting a specimen jar large enough to put a human being in and enough vinegar to fill said jar. Censorship can be weird sometimes!

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 103: Turn up the heat! The robo knackers yard is— Hell on earth!

Kevin O’Neill brings us a very red cover, with melting droids screaming in the furnace while humans look on.

In the Nerve Centre we get instructions on how to put the four parts of the poster together (cardboard, painted black to stop print showing from the other side, stick on to cardboard) plus a warning from Tharg for Earthlets not to copy art from other comics. He also says something about how his robots would be punished by a visit to Mek-Quake if they copied…

John Howard continues on Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died! with Gary Leach returning, alone this time (if you remember, he was working with Bolland on an earlier episode). It’s a Klegg-heavy episode, and Leach is great at drawing Kleggs – starting from their first appearance and continuing to a post-Cal tale (which I think is going to be called Night of the Blood-beast, but I might be mixing up stories). Dredd and Fergee pay a visit to his old rooms and Walter, who is forced to serve the Kleggs billetted in the rooms. A few great moments, most of which revolve around Fergee being slow on the uptake and overreacting when he understands a joke.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 102: What’s the big idea, creep? Your players are cheating! Play Robopoly with Robo-Hunter!

Two series went on hold for the 2000AD and Starlord merger – Dan Dare and Robo-Hunter. Dan Dare got a Dave Gibbons cover last prog, this week it’s the turn of Sam Slade, Kidd and B.O. ably brought to the cover by Ian Gibson.

The Nerve Centre is given over to overseas readers, from far-flung places like… the Channel Islands. (Also South Africa, New Zealand, Ghana, Germany, Dar Es Salaam and B.F.P.O. (which could have been on the mainland for all we know).

The dream team of John Howard, Brian Bolland and Tom Frame (other dream teams exist) bring forth The Day the Law Died! as Fergee leads the five judges and judge tutors to his palace. In the same way that the mystery of Verdus was revealed some way into the tale (robots programmed to think humans were superior only worked when SJ-1 was the only robot on Verdus), we finally find out how Cal keeps his reign of terror – his role as head of the SJS meant he compiled the daily crime briefings downloaded directly into the brains of the judge force of Mega-City One. Now they have an inkling of the source of Cal’s power, it’s up to Dredd and Fergee to creep to the Hall of Justice (Grand or otherwise) to use these tapes against him. Tapes! How fast technology can date sci-fi!

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 101: I… must… obey… the… Mekon!

We get a proper cover from Dave Gibbons for this prog, with the brainwashed Dan Dare in thrall to The Mekon (not that this scene appears in the prog, but at least it isn’t assembled from panels of previous comics).

Tharg talks about E-Man and Tornado in the Nerve Centre – I guess E-Man got renamed Big E late in the day! Mention is made of Tornado’s Hall of Heroes – I gather it was originally going to be named Heroes rather than Tornado, so this lived on…

Ro-busters: The Terra-Meks Part Four: The Big Lie! has Charlie lured out to sea where the navy destroyer fires on the giant robot, who sinks below the waves. Nice touches are that the crewmen of the destroyer (including the captain) are none too happy with their orders, being sailor’s themselves. In the aftermath, the public are not fooled by the ruse and Howard Quartz bemoans his collapsing share prices, while Mek-Quake apologises for doing Big Jobs, though this apology does not get a good response from the people of Northpool. Famously, Charlie is not dead, and stirs on a stormy night some weeks later. Can he make it back to shore? With encouragement from the working class people of Northpool he makes it through the wind and rain (and won’t be walking alone).

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 100: 100th Thrill-powered issue! Robo-Hunter Returns Still fighting – Still in trouble! Did Dan Dare die? Find out in Servant of Evil!

An unimpressive cover for the 100th Prog – no original art commissioned, just art taken from two stories inside and a small version of the collectable poster (which itself is just a blown-up reprint of the cover to the first Cursed Earth prog). The logo got redesigned so that 2000AD and Starlord are no longer sharing equal billing, with the word Starlord merely underlining 2000AD.

More impressive than the cover is the reader’s art in the Nerve Centre – one of Tweak and family (misidentified as ‘drawings of Tweak’ but it definitely shows both Tweak and his family) and another of Tharg, Starlord and a host of the characters from both comics – there are loads of word balloons but unfortunately the picture is reproduced at too low a scale to read.

Ro-busters go from the centre pages last prog to the first spot this prog – both are coveted spaces! Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons bring on the fight, with Charlie quickly dispatching Tyranno-Mek, Fantas-Tek and King Konka while Howard Quartz and Northpool Council leader Ron Murdoch trying to pin the blame on each other. When it’s clear they’ll both do their level best to avoid any controversy touching them they come up with a plan to blame Charlie. As robots can’t lie, their plan will also involve killing Charlie. A navy destroyer is on its way to trick Charlie into going out, before it unleashes its guns on the giant robot. Mek-Quake acts (and talks) more like Mek-Quake this prog. Quartz paraphrases Adolf Hitler (“the bigger the lie, the more likely we are to get away with it”) and the next prog tag is a direct quote from Mein Kampf: “The Big Lie!”

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 95: Burn them – burn the robot rebels!

Mike Dorey provides his first cover for Ro-Busters (apparently he also did the uncredited cover for Prog 6 – John Probe against Nazi skeletons underwater).

The Nerve Centre has letters about the 2000AD and Starlord merge – from those who like 2000AD and not Starlord, those who like Starlord and not 2000AD and those who like 2000AD and Starlord. Andrew Saunders is awarded the £10 prize for a picture of Starlord wearing the rosette of sirius and Tharg’s jumpsuit. Or possibly Tharg wearing Starlord’s boufant, robe and carrying his gun. Is this the first ‘Tharg the…’ reader’s picture?

John Howard, Brian Bolland and Gary Leach are back on The Day the Law Died, with lettering by ‘Thomas’ – Tom Frame has previously been ‘Tomas Frame’ so he seems to like playing with his name when crediting himself! The executions begin but Dredd has a plan. ‘Recruiting’ Slocum, Cal is told that Deputy Chief Judge Fish died at the time of the first execution. The death sentence is suspended and following an unattended funeral parade, Cal promises to make the city suffer like never before. There’s not much I can say about this episode, except how pitch-perfect it is – I’m not sure how the art duties were divided up (I’m guessing Bolland did pencils while Leach the inks) but they perfectly capture John Wagner’s script. Plus Tom Frame puts in a irregularly shaped speech bubble to surround the over-sized final word of the episode – “SUFFER!”.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 94: Citizens of Mega-City One, I sentence you to… Death! Can no-one stop the insane Judge Cal?

Chief Judge Cal glares out while pronouncing his death sentence on Mega-City One in this eye-catching cover by Mike McMahon. Possibly the first colour depiction of a Chief Judge, the gloves and shoulder pads are all red, rather than green or yellow…

The Nerve Centre is jammed full of letters this week, half on Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein the others on a variety of topics, including one who wants to see Dredd’s face in Prog 100 on the grounds that “Never, but NEVER have you shown us JUDGE DREDD’S face!” – I’d let that slide but they were very insistent. Dredd’s youthful face was shown in profile in The Return of Rico, alongside his brother on the shooting range. You can’t see much, but it does disprove both ‘Never’ and ‘NEVER’.

Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died (Behold the Hordes of Klegg!) starts with one of those flash-forwards I dislike so much, and perfectly shows why they’re a bad idea. The splash-forward page shows Kleggs raining from the sky and shooting rifles. In the actual story, art duties are shared by Bolland and Leach and start with Dredd and his army of tutors and citizens driving Cal’s judges back to the Hall of Justice with Joe giving Cal an ultimatum. Cal responds cooly, telling Slocum that Dredd will get his answer in five minutes. If we hadn’t had that splash-forward page already we’d have no idea what Cal’s secret weapon would be, as it is we’ve seen it and it’s been given two names (Hordes of Klegg and the Curse of Cal). That aside, we get five page of rebellion, alien mercenaries and a finale showing Cal outlining how his earlier sentencing of the entire city to death will be carried out.

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2000AD and Starlord Prog 93: No! Please let me drown before the giant scorpions get to me!

In case there’s any doubt, this Flesh cover shows off Belardinelli’s skill at depicting monstrous beasts as a giant scorpion emerges from the waters to attack hapless humans in the Triassic.

The Nerve Centre highlights that there was an industrial dispute which kept the prog from the shelves for the best part of a month. I can sympathise – something similar happened in my first year as a squaxx. The droids antics in the Laugh-In have been brought to Tharg’s attention and they’re on a warning not to refer to him as ‘green bonce’ or ‘mush face’ again…

Brett Ewins continues the revolt with Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died! ably assisted by Brendan McCarthy. As Dredd and company take over Broadcast Control, Judge Schmaltz lives up to his name, sobbing with emotion. Mega-citiznes heed Dredd’s call and take to the streets. Cal’s bath is interrupted and sentences the entire city to death. Meanwhile Dredd is unhappy at the casualty rate and leads a small convoy to Justice Dept Armoury East so that weapons can be distributed out ot the people. It’s a great episode (even fitting in a “the people are revolting” gag, but even so the highlight is the next prog tag. “The Kleggs are coming!”

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