JSA Legacies: No. 9.5 – The Red Tornado


If it hadn’t been for Gardner Fox’s last Justice League/Justice Society story, I wouldn’t be writing this. It’s very debatable as to whether I should be anyway, but the old Reynard’s final contribution to DC opens a door that must at least be considered before being slammed firmly shut.
The story, in which the Justice Society and Justice League operated independently, without meeting, featured the former Flash 2/Green Lantern 2 villain, T. O. Morrow, a scientific genius who based his crimes on his initials and future science. He had apparently died in the coils of some great machinery a couple of years earlier, only to have used these as a cover for vibrating into Earth-2.
Morrow’s futuristic computer told him that the only way he could succeed in his plans was to create a new/old member to infiltrate the JSA. Morrow therefore created the new Red Tornado, an initially faceless android with the power of transforming his body, or any part of it, into a high speed tornado. In order to get him into the JSA, Morrow programmed him to believe that he was the original Red Tornado, a difficult task, given that there was not a single point of correspondence between the two.
Red Tornado 2 would, indeed, bring the JSA down, his whirling tornados being so disruptive, that he inadvertently ‘killed off’ the whole team. However, with the assistance of the Justice League, the Tornado restored them and was elected a member (on exceedingly slim grounds, I have to say).

The new Red Tornado was the second post-Forties member to join the JSA, following the adult Robin the previous year. He did not have a good time of it.
In 1969, he summoned the Justice League to save the Justice Society, but was warned to stay out of the battle because of the danger he posed. The following year, anxious to impress, he actually made himself into the cause of the danger to Earths 1 and 2.
Then, in 1972, when heroes all around were arguing over who should sacrifice themselves by using the Nebula Rod to destroy the Hand squeezing Earth-2 to death, it was the Red Tornado who sneaked away quietly and actually ended the menace, but killed himself in the process.
Except that, six months later, and with eyes, nose and mouth carved in by T. O . Morrow again, the Red Tornado reappeared, having only been blown across the dimensional barrier into Earth-1, from where he was unable to return. So he joined the Justice League instead. Well, if you had a potentially interesting and successful character, would you leave him in the Justice Society, to be seen only once a year among a crowd of others seen only once a year?
I don’t propose to go into Red Tornado 2’s career in anything approaching the depth I’ve done earlier in this series. His origin has been rebooted at least twice – once to reintroduce the obscure JLA ally/enemy The Tornado Champion/Tyrant as the motive force in the android, and once to make him into an Air Elemental. He’s also spent one period in a human body, before it got damaged beyond repair.
But any such description is predicated on whether or not the original Red Tornado, The Red Tornado 1, was ever actually a member of the Justice Society.
I will present the facts. The Red Tornado 1 attended the JSA’s début meeting in All-Star 3, coming and going in a single page, drawn (and probably written) by All-Star editor Sheldon Mayer. The Tornado climbed in through the window, shuffled around nervously, refused the courteous offer to take ‘his’ cape, then left hurriedly, revealing that ‘he’ had had his longjohns ripped off by a nail on the windowsill.
And this was the career of the JSA member that the android Red Tornado believed constituted Justice Society membership.
But who was the Red Tornado? The Tornado 1 was a supporting character in Shelly Mayer’s own series in All-American Comics, Scribbly, the Adventures of a Boy Cartoonist, a purely comic series based to some extent on Mayer’s own experiences, who went on to virtually take the show over. Scribbly Jibbet and his younger brother Dinky were always at Ma Hunkel’s, a brawny New York housewife and grocery store owner, whose daughter, Sisty, was the same age as Dinky. At one point, Dinky and Sisty were kidnapped by crooks. Scribbly mentioned how Green Lantern could get them, and Ma quizzed him as to who and what the Lantern was. Next thing you know, the kids are being rescued by this costumed brawler, wearing red longjohns and long-sleeves, green shorts, a yellow top, a curtain for a cape, big gloves and a helmet made out of a saucepan with eyeholes cut into it.
The Red Tornado turned out to be a very active local figure. Oh, and of course, the Tornado was Ma Hunkel. Often mistakenly referred to as the Red Tomato, incidentally. All Brawn and No Brains.
To be serious for a moment, the original Red Tornado was a genuinely historical figure in comics. Not only was she the first ever superhero spoof but, predating Wonder Woman by several months, Ma Hunkel was the very first female superhero.
Just to round the Red Tornado 1’s story off, she and her connection with the JSA has been taken more seriously in the modern era. Geoff Johns revealed that Martha Hunkel had, long ago, revealed her identity to testify against gangsters and, as a result, had been hidden in Witness Protection for decades, unable to contact her family (over whom the JSA had watched), until at last the final member of the gang that had sworn revenge on her died. Ma came out of hiding to become a motherly figure to the JSA, and their caretaker, and after Infinite Crisis, her granddaughter, Maxine Hunkel, was found to have natural wind controlling powers, and joined the Justice Society as Cyclone, to train.
And that’s the story of the Red Tornado(s). But I still don’t think she was ever a member of the Justice Society in the Forties.

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