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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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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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.

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Star Lord No 14: Doomsday is just around the corner for Carl Hunter in Holocaust!

This is another mystery air-brush style cover – almost certainly by the same artist as the Issue 11 Mind Wars cover. It shows a besuited man pointing a revolve, helicopters and a formation of traditional flying saucer UFOs. The new series is called Holocaust and the concept looks pretty straight-forward.

First story – Mind Wars. Was the Vegan Belle destroyed last episode, in the heart of the sun? Of course note – instead, Ardeni nullified the gravitational pull of the star, allowing momentum to fling the starship 20,000 light years away into the Chaotic Zone. We take two brief interludes – one of what looks like a balcony high above (the capital) city on Earth where the controller is professing his beliefe that the Vegan Belle somehow escaped and that Ardeni must be located for the future of the Stellar Federation. Over on the Jugla homeworld, the Supreme Cosmol is overseeing the reconstruction of his palace, and keeping tabs on where Ardeni is. Meanwhile, Ardeni is taking a shower. I haven’t mentioned before, but just about every second or third scene we see of Ardeni she’s swimming (skinny dipping), having a bath, lying in bed (au naturel) – must be a Vulcrugon thing. This time is justified for the story though – narratively it lets us know that the shower isn’t working properly, which is due to nothing working on the ship since the sun jaunt. Luckily there’s a planet nearby where they can look to get repairs done (and at that moment a friendly face appears on the vid-screen welcoming them to the planet). Unluckily it’s a creepy planet without any other spaceships at all in the spaceport. They’re offered villas to rest in while their ship is repaired, gratis. That’s one luxurious villa each. Nothing suspicious going on there. Also the autarch of the planet, Yilik, is always surrounded by a flock of birds. Unlike Ardeni, Tillman can’t sleep, and makes use of his restlessness to explore the planet, pretty quickly stumbling over a spaceship graveyard, atop which is the Vegan Belle. This prompts an attack by a bird that has been spying on him, though it’s a short-lived attack as the bird is killed with an energiser (looks like a blaster pistol). His gratitude towards his rescuer is rewarded by being shot by the mysterious energiser holder. Meanwhile Ardeni wakes up and goes to have a bath! While in the bath a bird comes along and starts to hypnotise her – she might be the most powerful being in the galaxy, but she spends an awful lot of time under mind control…

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Prog 76: Introducing the man called… Robo-Hunter!

We’ve had the first 75 progs, now things are really taking off with the introduction of Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter. This was one of my favourite stories in the very first progs I owned so this story starting makes it feel a lot more like my prog!

The Nerve Centre brings the news that (as well as Old One Eye’s son appearing in Judge Dredd) that Flesh will be returning soon.

Now for Robo-Hunter and Slade jumps onto the page, catchphrase in hand (“The name’s Slade, Sam Slade! That’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you!”). It’s written by T.B.Grover and illustrated by Jose Ferrer and Ian Gibson, though Ferrer will be moved off the story in a few episodes time. Unlike the shared art duties on Mind Wars in Star Lord a few weeks earlier, their two styles are so different that it’s very easy to tell which pages, panels and parts of panels are drawn be each artist. Unusually for an action/adventure story protagonist, Slade is old – dates might be given at a later time, but he’s been in the robot hunting business alone for forty years. The racial stereotype of Chan (called ‘Charlie Chan’ by Slade) date it, as does the presence of a barely-disguised Star Destroyer (it has to be said that Slade’s clothing is not unlike that of Han Solo either).

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Star Lord Issue 2: You’ll never be the same after reading it!

After Star Lord No 1 comes Star Lord Issue 2 (nothing like consistency in a new comic). This issue had a free gift, a Space Calculator. I’ve never seen one of these, but it looks like it was a piece of cardboard with windows cut out and another card which slid up to reveal facts about various planets (and possibly the moon). Other than that, this issue features what looks like a Brian Bolland Time Quake cover.

Over the page is the first episode of Mind Wars. Confession time – I’ve cheated on this one, as I read the whole of Mind Wars last week, from the two floppies that were given away with the Judge Dredd Megazine this month and last month (plus I dug out the Star Lord annual which had a derivative sequel set one year later). But this time I’ll try to forget all that and take one episode at a time. This story is set in 3000 A.D. and takes place in the midst of a war between the alien Jugla Empire and the human Stellar Federation. The Jugla use Primary Neural Irradiation to both grant supernatural powers and gain (partial) control of two humans on a remote colonised world. We’re introduced to the story’s female lead while she’s skinny-dipping. Pretty soon Ardeni (and her brother Arlen) have seen their parents die, been primary neural irradiated by the Jugla, almost got crushed by a falling escape pod, brought the pilot back to life, been accused of treason, turned a gun into white hot metal (assuming guns in the year 3000 are made from metal), been tranqulised and are to be put before a planetary inquisition. Alan Hebden and Jesus Redondo don’t waste time!

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Prog 65: Wuuuuuuuurgh! Zero is Back!

MACH Zero returns, in a dynamic, eye-catching cover – no subtlety here!

Inside, Tharg informs us that there was a Frognum Gruelis (April Fool’s) joke in prog 58 – I completely missed the announcement in that prog that Dredd would be removed from 2000AD…

Dare is still on the ice planet with the joker, Wise, who continues to tell jokes, even as crewmen are dying around them (then again, Dare’s not much better, with the line “With that heavy gear draggin’ ’em down, they don’t stand a chance! Now we’re down to two!” – even before they’ve been dragged down into the icy waters)! So, the crew stand around not doing a whole lot while they get picked off and then dragged on an ice floe towards a huge ice pyramid. There’s a whole lot of ice, though the next prog tag promises us tentacles… of doom!

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Prog 62: Can Commander Lorna Varn survive on… Death Planet!

The cover introduces us to Lorna Varn and Death Planet. But before that, the Nerve Centre reveals that Walter is so upset that Dredd is taking off to the Cursed Earth that he needs to take a few weeks rest from his adventure with Doc Frankenheim. Presumably in the real world Bolland was too busy drawing episodes of full-length stories… For the second time, Walter signs a message with a splodge and the words “Walter, his oil mark”. I’m just now realising why there is the one-page Walter strip – Star Wars had just hit, and the fact that the first quarter of an hour focus on the droids must have had an impression on the Tharg/s* of the day. I’ve also just taken a look at the results of the 1977 Eagle Awards – Favourite British Comics character had Judge Dredd at number one with 25% of the votes, Dare in third place (11%) and Walter in fourth (6%).

And replacing Colony Earth! on to Death Planet. I’ve looked at other artwork by Lopez (full name Francisco Solano Lopez, so claim a few obituaries of said artist. Or is it? The 2000AD ABC video says it’s Cesar Lopez Vera) and characters there have full ranges of expression. For some reason characters in this story do not – every character has one fixed expession which they keep throughout this episode, no matter what emotional turmoil is being expressed in the word balloons. I don’t know how prevalent it would have been in other comics at the time, but the uniform of the security-guard type on the colony ship is rather judge-like. Future-Shock style, the commander of the ship is hidden in the first panel with a character shown, only making the big reveal that the captain of the ‘Eternity’ is Commander Lorna Varn. The text doesn’t make a big deal that she’s a woman, but all those Future-Shocks have let us know that if a character gets referred to but is hidden by shadows or objects in the panel, then when we finally do get to see them there’s going to be a twist in store.

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