The sci-fi book of the year! Star Lord Annual 1980

The fully-painted cover shows a huge squiddy-crustacean-thing attacking a few spaceships, one of which has ditched in a sea. It’s along the same lines as the propaganda-themed covers of the weekly Starlord, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the artist worked on those.

The contents page makes a refreshing change from the grainy photograph contents of the other annuals – though it’s the same picture of Starlord by Ian Gibson that we’ve seen many, many times before – so it’s not that refreshing. Just a note, I’m generally writing these things as I read through, so when I write the first few words on a story (or feature) it’ll be before I’ve read the whole story. Otherwise I’d have to read the comic, then flip back through and with an annual with this many different sections that could take a long time – too long if I have any hope of keeping up the one-post-a-day schedule.

On to the comics – McCarthy puts in a colourful rendition of Strontium Dog for Funfair of Fear. The story itself concerns a bounty who hides out in a deserted funfair (you might well have guessed that already). The funfair was built to attract holidaymakers, until the spacelanes were routed away from the planet it sits on. Johnny Alpha accidentally shoots Wulf in a Hall of Mirrors and goes it alone, putting himself into a position where he can easily be shot. He’s shot but Wulf recovers enough to save his life. The art is far better than the story on this one.

Continue reading “The sci-fi book of the year! Star Lord Annual 1980”

Dan Dare Annual 1980: “DARE to wingman – peel off! I’ve got to make the DEATH RUN ALONE!”

Another annual cover from Kev O’Neill. Nice colours though I’d have preferred it if he’d been working on more comic pages! I don’t think he’s got any more work on ABC Warriors, but it’s a long time ’til Comic Rock. The cover actually ties in to the first story, so I won’t go into detail.

The contents pages has a still from a sci-fi film or TV series (though nothing I recognise – something like Space 1999 or Blakes 7). As with the 2000AD annual, the only credits in this annual are those that the artists put on their own work – if I spot any signatures (or recognise art styles) I’ll mention it.

The Dan Dare story ties in to the cover. This is set before the Lost Worlds mission, and was probably written and drawn shortly after Belardinelli’s run on Dare in the weekly progs. The artwork doesn’t have the assuredness of pre-2000AD artists or the excitement of the punk generation artists and the best parts of the art are very derivative of other artwork – such as the appearance of Rok, which is very obviously copied directly from Belardinelli’s rendition, or some of hte spaceships, which look like they’re copied from Kevin O’Neill’s design which appeared on the cover. The story itself has Dare taking a break between SASA commissions where he encounters a captain who breaks under pressure and turns to piracy after gaining a reputation as unreliable. That’s about all you need to know – the cover is about Dare making a solo run on the pirate ship, which Rok ignores by gaining access to the ship and saving Dare’s life.

Continue reading “Dan Dare Annual 1980: “DARE to wingman – peel off! I’ve got to make the DEATH RUN ALONE!””

All action adventure, with… Tornado No 21: They’ve set dobermans on me… I’m finished! Johnny Lawless faces the Dogs of Death!

If I’m not mistaken, Mike Dorey draws the Lawless Touch cover this week. If I am mistaken then it’s probably Mike White. If I’m really mistaken then it’s somebody else entirely. At least the weekly prog in 2019 (where I’m writing this, if you’re reading this in the future) credits the artists. Though you must be reading this in the future, because as I’m writing this I haven’t posted it on the blog or scheduled it to be published or anything.

The Big Editorial – quite a few letters, nothing especially notable and news that Sam has a half-page later in the issue (probably going to be a Smile with Sam! feature).

On with the comics – The Lawless Touch continues in the scene pictured on the cover – Johnny in the water being attacked by Dobermans. Johnny is turning into a bit of a James Bond-like super-spy. He escapes the dogs by flipping a switch on the listening device which I probably forgot to mention last issue (but was in the story). Last week it was used to listening through a window to what was being said inside the boat, this week it emits a low-frequency sound which drives the dogs away. Having used this bit of tech, Johnny sinks below the waves, feigning death, and dons an underwater helmet with in-built oxygen supply. Sounds like Q has been working overtime equipping Lawless, Johnny Lawless. He just about manages to get back to his hotel room before passing out. The way it was handled I thought he’d been poisoned, but nope, just fatigue and conventional wounds. He wakes up to find his controller, Mother, and a doctor looming over him. Ordered to take bed rest he instead jumps on his bike and zooms off to the Prix award-giving to warn of the impending assassination attempt. What could go wrong? Forgot to mention – brought to us by Ian Rogan and Mike White.

Continue reading “All action adventure, with… Tornado No 21: They’ve set dobermans on me… I’m finished! Johnny Lawless faces the Dogs of Death!”

Tornado No 8: The Comic with the Super-Powered Editor!

A black and white photo of Dave Gibbons in Big E get-up (along with head-shots of Tornado Team colleagues) does not inspire. There’s a tiny frame that looks like it’s from this week’s episode of The Angry Planet.

The Big Editorial “is very special issue” because Big E produces it all on his own – must be why he missed the word ‘a’ from ‘is a very special issue’.

Black Hawk uses his cloak to smother the flames engulfing the hawk and is rewarded by being shown that they should make like a mole and burrow into the ground to avoid being killed. Black Hawk is a centurion, so I guess that means he leads a century – this century defeats the Germanic tribe, partially through scaring them through (what I’m assuming is an allusion to) leprosy and partially letting the German leader leap onto the spiky standard of the lost legion that Black Hawk was sent to the Black Forest to find in the first place. Back in Rome what I’m going to call the lepers (they’re just referred to as being ‘diseased’) scare off the other Romans and Black Hawk’s century get a feast to themselves. While all this is going on, one of Black Hawk’s men, Barabba mutters about killing Black Hawk (or letting somebody else do the deed). There’s no cliffhanger this episode – just the prediction by the Nubian centurion that Crassus is sure to line up a dirtier mission in the near future.

The demand by Sir George or Sir Gordon – depending on whether you go by the narrative or the dialogue – to have Storm arrested gets short shrift from the police inspector – with possibly the best line in Tornado so far (Tornado just hasn’t been as quotable as 2000AD, Starlord or 2000AD and Starlord) – more in the grailquote section. Something strange about this episode – we have a new artist, an ‘S. Kennedy’. Except the art style looks like Cam Kennedy to me – if so, this is my first encounter with Cam’s artwork chronologically. A little research reveals that Cam is short for Campbell, that he contributed to Commando between 1967 and 1972 and then left comics until 1978 when he started work on Battle. Cam’s website (amusingly named Kenny Who?) says he then moved across to 2000AD with no mention of Tornado, though Barney and Heroes of 2000AD confirm it is Cam (though don’t say why he’s credited as ‘S. Kennedy’). Safe from the law, Storm is not so safe from the media and Kane helps him make a break for it, chased by newshounds. Incidentally, Kane’s name may as well be Shepherd as that’s how Storm refers to him, though he’s a bit negligent when it comes to his herd of sheep – the only time we saw them was when Storm had to rescue one!

The Angry Planet. We’re almost at the end of the Carlos Ezquerra centre-spread post series – as great as it is having an excuse for King Carlos to provide two posters each week, it’ll be nice to have Belardinelli’s work on the centre pages again. Please let his work be on the centre pages again. Don’t let something else fill that spot. The marshies escape to The Canyon of Lost Souls, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a real place on Mars, but may as well be that geological feature that’s bigger than the Grand Canyon and appears in one of the issues of Watchmen. Valles Marineris – up to 7km deep in places. And if you wanted to hide in part of that canyon, the place you’d pick would be Noctis Labyrinthus – Labyrinth of the Night (this could have just been included in the comic – why re-name any part of it?). Whatever it’s called, that’s where the Marshies are now hiding, though Markham knows what they have to do – Mars Inc is jamming transmissions back to Earth, sending their own propaganda instead – the mission is to neutralise the jamming, which means breaking in to the most heavily-guarded place on Mars.

The British Tommy and American G.I. take pride of place in the Gallery of Heroes. Assuming that, even in the 1970s World War Two-permeated era of British comics, the American G.I. still represents the past then it’s my guess that the last two pictures in the gallery will be an S.A.S. soldier representing the present and some sort of (what we’d now call a) Space Marine for the future.

There’s no Wagner’s Walk this week – instead we get an uncredited story called The Search (it’s clearly drawn by Belardinelli though). A soldier called Hale deserts his company during the Korean War in search of his brother. A few days later a small group of British soldiers (who have picked up a mysterious, silent and bandaged soldier) is about to be wiped out when Hale gives covering fire from an old house. By the end of the story the bandaged guy has died, still without saying a word (shell shock) and Hale has thrown away his life in a desperate attempt to continue his search for his brother. It’s four pages long and set in the past, but I’m sure you’ve guessed it will take the Future-Shock route that the bandaged soldier was the brother that Hale was searching for and out of the 31 panels this is only confirmed in the last two. It’s a reasonable enough Shock-style story, though the pacing is not good and it could have been told much better (as we know from over forty years of Future-Shocks told in less time, though admittedly the Shock-style stories in Starlord were often two or three times longer than the traditional 2 and a half / three page Shock).

Enough talking about Shocks, the next story matches my prediction. Victor Drago and the Flask of Doom harks back to a previous age. The text-heavy story of the previous week has now been replaced by that format change Big E mentioned and is now a two-page text story, to be serialised week-by-week. There’s no credits, but the three spot illustrations look like they’re by Mike Dorey (much prefer his work on MACH Zero and Ro-Jaws Memoirs – and of course, his definitive leering Bill Savage). ‘Chalky’ leaves a parcel in Left Luggage at a London rail station and posts the ticket to Victor Drago, before hurrying on to a departing train. He thinks he’s safe, but has been followed by three men, who apparently beat out of him the name of the person he posted the ticket to. The scene cuts to Drago’s Baker Street address where he sends Spencer off to collect the parcel. Once it has been retrieved he discovers a dead rat in it. Being a Sherlock Holmes knock-off, he takes it down to the laboratory, view the rat’s blood through a microscope, sees… something… and then turns to find a hard-faced man in the doorway, pointing a gun at him. The opening is strong, though as with the previous story (which just went on and on before fizzling out) it all depends on where it goes. I’m going to try to look past how this is a text story in a comic – and not even a summer special or annual – it’s the weekly!

Triple T / Tornado True Tales: The Warrior from B. Burrell and Richardson next. I like John Richardson’s later work – Terror of the Cats in Scream! and early Mean Arena, so let’s see how I like his work from the previous decade. Native Americans prefer to be named by their nation, rather than as a homogenous group. I’d love to be able to tell you which nation the hero of this story, Almighty Voice, belongs to, but the narrative only calls him a Red Indian (!) outside of the comic I’ve found out he was a Cree warrior. In the comic his nation is not allowed to hunt the buffalo they depend on and instead have to eat cow. The cow that Almighty Voice kills to feed his family is judged to belong to the government so the warrior is captured and, having only execution and the starvation of his family to look forward to, escapes. The guards (mounties? They’re in red coats and have the distinctive hats) give chase, loosing the dogs

The Mind of Wolfie Smith and Wolfie’s dream/premonition continues with a shadowy figure about to kill Cornelius. As he was sleeping with Benson the chauffeur’s coat to keep him warm, he surmises that he picked up latent signals from the coat. Spotting Chris Kemble (the estate manager that he fancies) in her mini (car, not skirt) he tries to stop her but – believing him to be a murderer – she’s not exactly receptive to anything he has to say. A police officer gives chase, loosing a dog (didn’t that just happen in Triple T?) Wolfie reckons that all animals have got a sort of E.S.P. (not just enhanced senses of smell and hearing then?) and that the dog is homing in on his phsychic (sic) aura…

The back page has a bespectacled person who changes in to costumed superhero to rescue a woman who has been kidnapped. Is it Captain Klep? Nope, it’s a Trebor Chews advert featuring Superman.

Grailpage: there’s some great artists in this issue (I’m specifically thinking Kennedy, Belardinelli, Ezquerra and Richarson) but there’s something about Tornado that just doesn’t seem to bring out their best work. I’m going to vote for the British Tommy page in the Gallery of Heroes, simply because it has a world war one tank (‘land ironclad’) – my favourite type of tank, and also good practice for the Sov tanks that Carlos will be drawing a lot of in the Apocalypse War, in about three years time.

Grailquote: Scott Goodall, police inspector: “For once in your life, you’re going to wind your neck in and isten to me, Sir Gordon!”

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.

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

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!

Continue reading “2000AD and Starlord Prog 96: We’re gonna hit him! That guy’s dead… unless he’s – Superman! Eject into hell with – Angel!”

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.

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

2000AD and Star Lord Prog 86: This is it! The big one! Two sci-fi greats unite in a giant leap for mankind! Join them and smash the thrill barrier!

Dave Gibbons is cover artist for the ‘new’ comic of 2000AD and Starlord, with an ensemble of Big Hungry, Johnny Alpha, Judge Dredd, Hammerstein and Ro-Jaws.

p.s. I couldn’t find a ‘clean’ copy of the original 2000AD and Starlord logo (where both comics got equal billing), so I’m using the interim logo where Starlord starts to dwindle.

We have previously seen Judge Dredd quit the force and on another occassion declared dead, this time he’s under trial in Crime and Punishment. John Wagner’s pseudonym T.B. Grover is busy with Strontium Dog this prog, so John Howard takes over the writing duties while Brian Bolland does the best art of his career at the time this was originally published. The episode/mega-epic starts with a pet hate of mine – a flash-forward. I like an in media res as much as the next person, but not so much a single frame showing a scene from later in the story, then carrying on ab initio as if nothing had happened. Back in the 1980s the collected edition of this story was the first Titan collection I ever got, so I have read this story many, many times (at least the bits collected in Judge Caligula Book One – I didn’t get Book Two for some years afterwards). So what I’m saying is this story has nostalgia on its side for me, as well as great familiarity. If there wasn’t the flash-forward of the trial we could have had an even bigger splash page of Dredd’s return to Mega-City One and the welcome home parade. That’s my moan over – everything else about this episode is fantastic. The MC-1 that Dredd returns to is much more fully-formed than the one he left (either before he went to the moon or before he went on the Cursed Earth mission, seeing as he didn’t spend long in the city between the two). In the first panel of the story proper we’re introduced to Chief Judge Clarence Goodman (we’d met him before, but this was the first time the Chief Judge was actually named – remember, in the early days he was called the Grand Judge, and nothing more). We also meet Judge Cal and hear about the “feared SJS squad”. Dredd goes to sleep the moment he gets home (missing out on a party from Maria and Walter). That night Dredd is seen killing reporters at the Mega-Times for not giving his return to MC-1 enough prominence on the front page. Where a lesser story would fill the front page with lorem ipsum text, this goes into the details of how an A-list film star has married an alien who he met on the set of a remake of The Blob. It is left as an exercise for the reader to guess who the alien plays in the film… The Grand Judge might have been re-named the Chief Judge, but Justice Central is not the Grand Hall of Justice (yet). With Cal offering ‘advice’ to Goodman it isn’t long before Dredd is led on to the shuttle to Titan by SJS Judges Quincy and Schultz.

Continue reading “2000AD and Star Lord Prog 86: This is it! The big one! Two sci-fi greats unite in a giant leap for mankind! Join them and smash the thrill barrier!”

Star Lord No 19: Mek-Quake kill 99% of all known robots!

I suspect the Lipsmackinthirstquenchinacetastinmotivatingood buzzincooltalkinhighwalkinfastlivinevergivincoolfizzin PEPSI advert must have been shown a lot in the 1970s – not only was there an ad for 2000AD a few months ago but this cover has a strapline of Circuitsmashingpiperippingmetalcrunchingdroidddestroying… MEK-QUAKE!!! It isn’t the only modification to a then-current advertising campaign, with ‘Reaches parts of the galaxy other sci-fi mags cannot reach!’ parodying Heineken (warning, the linked 1978 advert features a rather dated blacked-up actor playing an Australian aborigine).

In Mind Wars it takes until the end of a full two pages for Ardeni Lakam to get naked, this time for a decontamination shower along with Tilman. When it comes time to get dressed Kareela la Borzac – an old enemy of Tilman – appears and burns Ardeni’s clothes. If not for a few interjections from Tilman, the conversation between Kareela and Ardeni would have passed the Bechdel-Wallace Test (the conversation was about clothes). Meanwhile the Jugla Empire are on the lookout for humans on conquered worlds who match the general description of the deceased Arlen Lakam, so that, through surgery, he can be made to look exactly like Ardeni’s dead brother. Meanwhile meanwhile, Ardeni, Tilman and their Lenarthian friends are in a Lenarth prison cell though Ardeni has just been knocked unconscious by poisoned food, provided by Kareela.

Continue reading “Star Lord No 19: Mek-Quake kill 99% of all known robots!”

Star Lord No 18: I can invade minds, stop time, warp space… I have the power!

Another cover from the anonymous airbrush-style artist, this time of Ardeni Lakam and Tilman.

Inside, Ardeni’s escape involves something to do with combined energy feedback which threatens to destroy the bridge of the Jugla warship and Ardeni granting powers to Tilman (which go to his head in more ways than one). I’m not too sure what the actual threat of being in an anti-matter field was supposed to be if she can use powers through it anyway. Good Redondo art on this episode but the plot probably doesn’t bear too much thinking about.

Continue reading “Star Lord No 18: I can invade minds, stop time, warp space… I have the power!”