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 96: We’re gonna hit him! That guy’s dead… unless he’s – Superman! Eject into hell with – Angel!

Aircraft on the cover means that Ian Kennedy is drafted in to bring an Angel illustration.

The Nerve Centre has a warning of a ‘special shock issue’ – no idea what this is a reference to.

The Day the Law Died! sees Grampus, leader of the Kleggs, appointed Deputy Chief Judge, replacing Fish, and a plethora of draconian laws brought in, designed solely to make the mega-citizens suffer. This leads to a second page splashpage, showing a column of evacuees appearing to leave through a gate in a wall (not that there’s supposed to be city walls at this point), with little touches like ‘Booth is a bowb’ graffiti on a ruined wall in the Cursed Earth / Mutant Land. Cal is not happy (but when is he?) and gives the new Deputy Chief Judge absolute power to stop those attempting to leave. With Grampus on the case, the exodus is stemmed by late afternoon. Cal orders that wall built, one mile high with gun emplacements and searchlights. In the course of a single episode we see a guerilla attack by Dredd to disrupt the construction, but to no avail as the wall goes up within three weeks. Cal still isn’t happy that ‘Dreddists’ continue to resist his rule. Grampus isn’t just along for the ride – he gets involved, and brings in the Hounds of Klegg – in his words “creates nothing can hide from”. The hunt is on!

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 91: Out of the way, Volgs – us war droids are programmed never to surrender! Hammer-stein is… Mek-Warrior!

Dave Gibbons presents an image of Hammerstein racing towards the enemy under heavy fire, hammer poised and shooting a jet of flame from the other limb, with a red/green colour scheme provided by an un-named editorial or lettering droid.

On the inside front cover, Tharg is still plugging the 1978 annual squashing a much-reduced Nervce Centre to the bottom half (and a third of that space is a promo picture of next prog’s cover).

But I didn’t buy this comic to read the Nerve Centre – on with the thrills! Judge Dredd in The Day the Law Died! continues where it left off last week, with Judge Percy (one of the two judges knocked aside by Giant last prog) reporting that Dredd is on the run. The first half of the episode is the standard ‘escape from capture’ sequence, though with Giant taking the lead and Dredd merely a passenger. The highlights begin in the second half, with Slocum helping Judges Percy and Glass escape the full wrath of Cal by pretending that Deputy Chief Judge Fish has sentenced the pair to dress like little girls as they didn’t act like men while Dredd was escaping. It gets better as the manhunt for Dredd begins, particularly the reaction from the citizenry when a one mllion credit reward is posted. The comedy set-ups lined up by Wagner (sorry, Howard) are ably carried out by McMahon, when citizens make unlikely accusations against other citizens (or even themselves). Meanwhile, Dredd comes around to find himself surrounded by tutors from the Academy of Law, most of whom were wounded in action. They may be all that stand against the might of Justice Department, but that’s going to be enough for Dredd.

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2000AD and Star Lord Prog 87: Dinosaurs rule in Flesh Book 2

Massimo introduces us to Big Hungry – a huge nothosaur – on the cover. This is going to be our Old One Eye of Flesh Book II!

We usually get one less story for a jumping-on / merger prog, to allow for introductory pages, though this continues into this week. Tharg trails the returns of Dan Dare and Robo-Hunter, though not when they’ll be coming back. We do get told that there’s a forthcoming series of cut-aways featuring the Preying Mantis (or is that a series, the first of which will be the Preying Mantis – though as the ship splits up into sections it could be either). Mention is made of a Dan Dare novel by Angus P Allan which was released in May 1977, but it’s entirely unrelated to the 2000AD version of the character, so I’ll pretend it doesn’t exist.

Judge Dredd: Outlaw gets the proper Dredd logo (last prog’s episode got generic lettering) while Bolland shares art duties with Gibbons. Bolland does the pencils while Gibbons does the inking, very closely so that at times it’s difficult to tell whether Bolland has inked his own pencils. I think I remember reading somewhere that the pair were sharing a flat at the time. Dredd comes to the conclusion that he is, in fact, innocent, so escapes in order to clear his name. Cal’s megalomania comes to the fore, and in case we were in any doubt following his unjudicial behaviour the previous prog, we get to see his private quarters – filled with images of himself, plus a portrait of Hitler (the same go-to in case we hadn’t realised Call-Me-Kenneth was the bad guy). The portraits of Cal also look rather like Pat Mills, which did not go down well…

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2000AD Prog 79: Dredd in Las Vegas

McMahon’s cover introduces us to Las Vegas Judge Fingers and Dredd in front of a huge fruit machine (albeit one with death’s head symbols instead of fruit)!

The 2000AD Nerve Centre tells us that Dare is going to face the Doomsday Machine in this prog (recognise the name but the story eludes me for the time being). Tharg reveals that Tweak will be accompanying Dredd for the rest of the journey across the Cursed Earth (are you supposed to reveal that supporting characters will survive to the end of a story?) and that Walter will be back soon, presumably in a series of one-page strips.

Slade is being carried through the experimentation complex – and is fully drawn by Ian Gibson now. Slade and Kidd are stripped and examined by medical robots, who it has to be said look rather similar to the drones from 1972 film Silent Running. Ardeni Lakam may get naked at the drop of a hat over in Star Lord, but Sam Slade provides the (enforced) male nudity over in 2000AD. The word ‘Drokk’ get used by Slade… After a bit of pseudo-science the captive Robo-Hunter adjusts his blaster to cope with the hard metal which Verdus robots are made from and escapes – next prog promises a riot!

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Prog 75: Have you the nerve to play the Cursed Earth game?

The cover is Dredd looming over the boardgame that starts this prog and looks like it was provided by an art editor (and is sort of an amalgam of Bolland, Gibbons and McMahon’s styles).

The 2000AD Nerve Centre has no letters and is also cut down to half a page by an advert. At least we get a mention of upcoming thrill Robo-Hunter – this is probably the tipping point for me – before this point it’s a kids comic whose main interest for me has been that it builds into the ‘classic’ 2000AD (like James Bond and Doctor Who – this being the one that was in place when one starts reading).

Inferno is at the front of the prog for its last episode – knew this was coming when three characters died last prog, one of which was only mentioned in a narration box! It gets worse this prog – Slim Shafto – a character who has been with us since prog 1 has two androids closing in on him and a tharg’s head narration panel tells us that “another Hellcat bit the dust”. Zack Harper is also dispatched in the same non-visual panel. Louis succeeds in intercepting the signal controlling the androids and uses it to get the to destroy themselves, and each other. And then he and Moody Bloo are assassinated by the Syndicate. The story backtracks on Cindy being a casualty and she was back to merely being hospitalised. I’d like to think that John Clay and Cindy go on to parent Judge Giant and in lieu of any other evidence that’s who the judge’s parents are. There is a ‘whatever happened to Giant’ story but that’s well over twenty years away and I can’t remember anything about it.

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Prog 69: O.K., come quietly – or else there’ll be trouble! Tweak!

Dredd and Tweak (not that we know who Tweak is yet) are surrounded, from our point of view 17 gun barrels pointing at them (more in the background). This is the way to do a Dredd cover, courtesy of McMahon.

The Nerve Centre has a few letters, one from a reader who noticed that the price for other planets was missing from the cover of Prog 61 and another from somebody who was shocked that Gruber had arrived in Inferno…

Speaking of Artie Gruber in Inferno – he cackles over the prone body of Clay, dowsed in highly flammable jet-pack fuel. As I thought, Louis’ ommission from the previous prog’s line up of helpless onlookers meant that he was the one to rescue Clay, using mindpower and that wrist aerial he had improvised earlier. Using the discipline circuit that Torso and Chubb had installed, Louis drives Gruber to take his revenge on the two, and as he finishes his work (which a gleeful Belardinelli portrait watches with relish) proto-Judges/the law/security arrive, though set fire to Gruber’s jet-pack, sending him to a firey death in the waterway outside. If you believe Gruber’s dead then you’ll be as shocked as that reader if he re-appears (the next prog says “The Return of Gruber..?” I suspect so).

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Prog 51: You are fast, Dare — but it will take more than clever swordplay to beat the Killing Star! You are as good as dead!

As predicted, Dan Dare gets out his laser broadsword to deflect the Dark Lord’s Killing Star, which has an autopilot function. While Dare deals with that, the Dark Lord takes the opportunity to escape in an Eagle craft where he orders an Armageddon Missile to destroy the Space Fort and all ships surrounding it (including Starslayer ships). Unaccountably he doesn’t get out of the way of the missile first, and dies in a massive explosion. Over the page we wrap up the sixteen-episode story – the Starslayers surrender, the Starslayer’s Empire is renamed the Star Alliance, which will be directed by the insectoid Drones and policed by the Grawls. In all the excitement the credit card got missed off again – ironic considering that Dan Dare was initially the only story which did credit the artist.

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Prog 48: Those escort ships will never fight again… but half the Starslayer fleet’s closing in on us, Dare!

This week’s cover harks back to that of prisoners staked on stars and left to die in orbit around Starslay, though this time it’s the Starslayers who are floating dead through space. Dare drags the captured Dark Lord before the vid screens in an effort to free all the slave races of the Starslayers’ Empire. I’m not convinced that the Starslayer’s would obey Dare just because he caught their leader. In fact, I’d have expected that leadership of Starslayers wouldn’t be compatible with being caught. Though the Dark Lord does manage to escape by using a nifty flying star.

Frank Hart, the Visible Man, also manages to escape, though his escape route is through lying in bed for three days and hitting a doctor when they come in to see what the problem is.

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Prog 44: Too late, Judge Dwedd *sob* this is our last Christmas!

With the Supercover Sagas finished, the covers now have a less tenuous connection to the contents of the prog. This is the first Christmas prog. Thanks to the preculiarities of the British publishing industry, the cover date is Saturday 24 Dec 77 and is on the shelves every Monday (so released on the 19th). This week’s cover and first story feature plenty of snow, Judge Dredd, Walter and Geek Gordon. We get our best view of the hover bikes used on the Moon (basically a Lawmaster above foot level with more prominent foot rests and a cannon below the laser). Geek Gordon kidnaps Walter in the hope that Dredd will save the robot. As Gordon has a predictable modus operandi, Dredd wears some flexi-steel on his neek, so that when Gordon tries to decapitate him the blade of the axe is shattered. We get the more human side of Dredd, with him showing attachment to Walter, and not one but two panels of Dredd smiling!

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