On this day, 28 July 1979: Tornado
On this day, 28 July 1979 … If the great Massimo Belardinelli had never produced artwork for IPC, the cultural memories of those of us who read comics in the late 1970s and early 1980s would be impoverished to no small degree. What a unique and fascinating artist he was. This crackpot Tornado cover was the final in the comic’s ‘It’s Your Turn’ six-week feature, in which readers were invited to submit a 350-word story inspired by each week’s cover. Only 350 words? I could have written a book, a song, a movie and several journals full of love poetry inspired by this or any single panel of the hundreds of fantastical images produced by Belardinelli for Tornado, 2000AD and, a few years later, Wildcat.
This week’s Tornado is as entertaining a read as ever, especially notable for the: concluding episode of Wagner’s Walk, the continents-spanning tale of German POW Major Kurt Wagner’s escape from Russia in the years following the war; a two-page potted biography of Hitler as part of Victor Drago’s Black Museum of Villains; and an odd photo-story featuring Tornado’s superhero editor Big E – aka unassuming ‘human’ editor Percy Pilbeam, although also aka 2000AD art droid (now UK comics laureate) Dave Gibbons – tackling a crazed gunman who, for reasons unknown (although I think we can all safely presume that he was an unhinged Corbynista cultist), had broken into Kings Reach Tower and was ‘threatening the staff and causing general mayhem’. Big E was unperturbed: ‘He fired at me several times but the bullets bounced harmlessly off my special breast plate. “Keep away!” he screamed. I had no intention of doing that.’ Stirring stuff.
As an afterthought, it was only on my second readthrough of this issue of Tornado that I noticed how much political sermonising it contains. Not all bad – it’s nice to see the Hitler bio pulling no punches (‘Adolf Hitler was a mediocre individual with no true beliefs, loyalties or ideas, and only one interest – power … His failure as the leader of an entire nation brought misery, death and destruction to tens of millions – and that should never be forgotten.’), and Black Hawk contemplating the ugly side of Roman imperialism (‘There can be no honour in this!) – but not completely impartial either – ‘If somebody has to occupy us, better it is the British than anyone else,’ reflects Major Wagner upon reaching Cologne in 1949. Good perspectives or bad, it’s interesting to note the clear desire to comment ideologically in a children’s comic, although I suppose if this blog has taught me anything it’s that that’s what they all did, if not always so overtly.