Monday 25 March 2019

Nostalgic For My Childhood - Tornado comic at 40

Forty years ago this week, IPC Magazines launched a new comic called Tornado (that first issue, undated, appeared on March 24th and came complete with a cover mounted spinner).  Coming hot on the heels of The Crunch (which I wrote about here), I picked it up as a happy ten-year-old, pleased to find another new stand-in for the recent demise of the much-loved Bullet the previous December (which I wrote about here).  Unfortunately, Tornado wouldn’t be around for long…
Tornado came from the same stable as 2000AD (which it would eventually join up with) and, following the cancellations of Starlord (which I wrote about here) and Action, was created to use up stories already commissioned for those titles meaning it included a mixture of war, horror, science fiction and detective stories as well as the usual letters page.

Printed on low quality newsprint stock, it was edited by Kelvin Gosnell, who’d taken over the reins at 2000AD from Pat Mills before overseeing the launch of Starlord (until its merger).  The title had five stories per issue which were written and drawn by the regular IPC stable talent and, as such, it had some terrific quality to it.  The main series included:

The Mind Of Wolfie Smith, about a young boy who becomes a runaway when his telepathic and telekinetic powers emerge, was written by Tom Tully and illustrated by Vincente Vaño.

Angry Planet, set in the late 21st century on Mars, was written by Alan Hebden, drawn by the superb Massimo Belardinelli and ran for the life of the comic.  In an interesting touch, the Mars Inc. troopers look very similar to Cylons from the then-recent Battlestar Galactica series (1978).

Wagner’s Walk, set in Siberia in 1948, concerned Major Wagner, an escaped German POV, fleeing the Red Army with his tank crew.  Originally set to feature the character Hellman (from Action), it was written by Pat Mills (credited as R. E. Wright) and featured artwork from Lozano and Mike White.

Blackhawk, written by Gerry Finlay-Day and drawn by Alfonso Azpiri, featured a Nubian galley slave who rescues his ship from pirates, is granted his freedom and earns a commission as a Centurion.
Wolfie Smith (from issue 2), Storm (from issue 3), The Lawless Touch (from issue 11)
The Lawless Touch, about a thief called Jonny Lawless recruited to work for a secret agency, was created by Kelvin Gosnell, Steve MacManus and Barrie Mitchell.

Storm, about a ‘wild-eyed gypsy boy’ in the highlands of Scotland, was written by Scott Goodall and drawn by Musquera

Victor Drago was originally Sexton Blake until a contract dispute forced IPC to make the name change (Blake’s assistant Tinker became Spencer).  Chris Lowder, the original writer, wasn’t pleased and told Judge Dredd Megazine #384, “I complained bitterly, and I was so angry because I'd done all this work and had all these things lined up. I said, ‘No, it's not just a name change, you're missing the point.’ I told them to get someone else to finish it off."  The strip, with great artwork by Mike Dorey, was credited to Bill Henry.

There was also the curious Captain Klep, from Klepton, who had superpowers on Earth due to the environmental differences between Earth and Klepton.  I never found him particularly funny, though one of his tag-lines - faster than a microwave oven - managed to tickle my ten-year-old sense of humour.

Dave Gibbons in the centre, Nick Landau not pictured
As with Tharg (played by Kelvin Gosnell under a Neanderthal man mask), Tornado’s ‘editor’ also appeared in person.  Known as Big E, he was actually comic artist Dave Gibbons and the photo-strips also featured Ken Armstrong as Percy Pilbeam (Big E’s cilivian persona), Beverly Henry, Nick Landau and Kevin O’Neill.

Dave Gibbons worked for D. C. Thomson and IPC but got his big break with 2000AD where he drew the first 24 installments of Harlem Heroes before moving on to the likes of Dan Dare, Ro-Busters, Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd and Tharg's Future Shocks among others.  Going on to a successful career with DC Comics, he co-created Watchmen with Alan Moore.

Ken Armstrong was IPC’s foreign liaison editor and wrote Hook Jaw for Action, The Mind of Wolfie Smith, Flesh and Dan Dare for 2000 AD and Lofty's One Man Luftwaffe for Battle Picture Weekly, among others.

Nick Landau co-edited the fanzine Comics Media and, after interviewing Pat Mills, became a sub-editor on Action and 2000AD, becoming its effective editor when Kelvin Gosnell was tied up with Starlord.  After leaving, he not only set up Titan Distribution (leading to Titan Entertainment Group, including comics and magazines) but also started the Forbidden Planet bookshop in London.

Kevin O’Neill worked on humour comics like Whizzer & Chips and Monster Fun before 2000AD where he drew, amongst others, Ro-Busters, ABC Warriors, Tharg's Terror Tales and Nemesis the Warlock (which he co-created with Pat Mills) as well as Judge Dredd. His short story Shok!, featured in the 1981 Judge Dredd Annual, was found to be the basis for Richard Stanley's Hardware (1990) and O'Neill and co-writer Steve MacManus were given writing credits on the film.  He also co-created The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Alan Moore.
First issue editorial which seems terrified a reader will cause havoc with the free spinner...

Uh oh, "special news", that's not likely to be good...
A childhood bane, as a much-loved comic gets absorbed into another...
Unfortunately, Tornado only lasted 22 issues (the cover of the final one, dated 18th August, carried that typical “Special news inside for all readers!”) and it merged into 2000AD with prog 127 (dated 25th August).  Only Blackhawk, Wolfie Smith and Captain Klep made the jump, with the first two having their storylines adapted to make them fit the required sci-fi tone - all three characters had gone by September 1980.  A Summer Special was published in 1979 (a mixture of new material and reprints from past IPC titles) which featured Victor Drago, Klep and two stories each with Wolfie Smith and Hurricane Jones, among others.  Two Tornado Annuals were published in 1979 and 1980 (dated, as per custom, for the following year), the 1980 one featured Wolfie Smith and Drago from the weekly, the 1981 also included Blackhawk, The Lawless Touch and Storm, with both annuals containing stories unrelated to the weekly comic.  In a nice move, The Lawless Touch was re-issued free with Judge Dredd Megazine in 2017 and we can only hope something like that happens again soon.

I have fond memories of Tornado and, having picked up a few on ebay over the years, it's still a great read so it seems a shame the comic is sadly all but forgotten now.

Happy 40th, Tornado!

British Comics wiki
Great News For All Reader
Bronze Age Of Blogs


  1. Thanks for that, Mark. I was aware of Tornado but I'm quite keen to read it now. Looks like you've done your research — for example I was already curious as to why Sexton Blake became Victor Drago, but now I don't need to look it up. :) Great choice of covers too, rounding up the main strips and a representative selection of those writing competition covers. You're right about comic mergers being "a childhood bane", it was never good news.

    You might already be aware of a Facebook group called Hibernia Comics. It's a good way of keeping up with news about reprint editions of classic papers like Tornado.

    1. Thanks Jason, I appreciate that. I hadn't heard of Hibernia Comics, but I'm now following them on FB! Cheers!