In March 1979, 2000AD‘s then-publisher IPC launched a sister title to the science fiction comic whose success so baffled them. Tornado was a traditional British-style boy’s adventure anthology, weekly, printed on the same low-grade newsprint as 2000AD, and featured a mix of genre strips. Easily the best feature in Tornado was Blackhawk, written by the great Gerry Finlay-Day, later to co-create Rogue Trooper with Dave Gibbons. Just as Finlay-Day’s earlier strip Rat Pack in Battle Picture Weekly was heavily inspired by the storytelling engine of The Dirty Dozen, and so was Blackhawk. A Nubian slave leading a Spartacus-like rebellion is noted for his bravery by the Roman military, commissioned as a centurion, and forced to lead a rag-tag unit of other former slaves and gladiators in a series of suicide missions. Tornado was canceled after just a few months, and folded into the more successful 2000AD, as was always the way back then. Blackhawk was one of only two strips that made the jump (well, three if you count Kev O’Neill’s occasional Captain Klep one-page gags, his first satire of the superhero genre, eight years before Marshall Law).
To fit with the sci-fi ethos of 2000AD, Blackhawk had a radical change of direction, with the character abducted by aliens and forced to fight in intergalactic, and interspecies, gladiatorial combat. One noteworthy occurance was the strip was one of the first 2000AD strips to have U.S. talent working on it, with Joe Staton drawing an episode. The series ended in early 1980, and was never revived, bar Joe Staton’s second gig drawing the character, in 1982′s 2000AD Sci-Fi Special.
Until now. Sort of. The series has been reinvented, reminiscent of the job Ronald D. Moore did on Battlestar Galactica — it’s been stripped of all corn and cheese, roughed up, and sexed up. It now has its fantasy elements built in, rather than bolted on at a halfway stage. The strip-down and total rebuild has included a new name, Aquila. It’s one of the best new character launches for 2000AD in recent years, and we spoke to its creators, writer Gordon Rennie and artist Leigh Gallagher about the strip’s birth, and its future. Continue Reading »