Red Tornado (Ma Hunkel)
"Ma" Hunkel, the Golden Age Red Tornado. Art by Sheldon Mayer.
|First appearance||(As Ma Hunkel):
All-American Comics #3
(As Red Tornado):
All-American Comics #20
|Created by||Sheldon Mayer|
|Alter ego||Abigail Mathilda "Ma" Hunkel|
|Team affiliations||Justice Society of America|
Surprising physical strength
The Red Tornado is a fictional character, a superheroine in the DC Comics Universe, debuting during the Golden Age of Comic Books. Created by Sheldon Mayer, she first appeared in her civilian identity as Abigail Mathilda "Ma" Hunkel in All-American Publications' All-American Comics #3 (June 1939), and became the Red Tornado in All-American Comics #20 (Nov. 1940). As the Red Tornado, she was one of the first superhero parodies, as well as one of the first female superheroes (possibly the very first), and, when occasionally disguised as a man, comics' first cross-dressing heroine. (Madame Fatal, earlier that year, was the first cross-dressing hero.)
Initially as simply Ma Hunkel, the Golden Age Red Tornado originated in Sheldon Mayer's semi-autobiographical humor feature "Scribbly", about a boy cartoonist, in All-American Comics. The feature ran through All-American Comics #59, in 1944, the year DC Comics absorbed All-American Publications.
The character reappeared in a three-page "Scribbly" story by Mayer in DC's Secret Origins #29 (Aug. 1986). She had a one-panel appearance in Animal Man "Deus Ex Machine", in a sort of limbo for characters who at the time weren't written into mainstream continuity.
In Alex Ross's classic 1996 graphic novel Kingdom Come, set in an alternative DC future, the "Original Red Tornado" is identified as Ma Hunkel: she can just be seen at the top-left hand side of the Justice League line-up which includes Superman and Norman McCay. In issue 3, (page 135 of the collected edition), panel 1, she can be seen on a balcony looking down at Superman and McCay and wearing a far more sophisticated, armour-like costume.
She appeared briefly in 1998's DC Universe Holiday Bash II special, in the story "I Left My Heart at the Justice Society Canteen", and in All-Star Comics 80-Page Giant #1 (Sept. 1999), in a story, "Way of the Amazon", in which Ma Hunkel takes valorous center stage amid Liberty Belle, Phantom Lady and Wonder Woman. She has continued to appear through the mid-2000s, mainly as a supporting character in Justice Society of America.
Fictional character biography
In the original comics in the 1940s, Ma Hunkel is a working mother whose costume consists of longjohns and a cooking pot on her head. She adopts the identity of the Red Tornado to fight local criminals in her New York City neighborhood, inspired by her son's admiration for the superhero Green Lantern. The character's popularity was such that she was given a cameo in the first adventure of the Justice Society of America, visiting the JSA's headquarters but being forced by a humorous mishap, her pants splitting, to leave without having the chance to apply for membership. However, later Justice Society stories have declared Ma to be an honorary member of the team.
Ma was later joined by a pair of sidekicks known as the Cyclone Kids, consisting of her daughter Amelia "Sisty" Hunkel and neighbor Mortimer "Dinky" Jibbet (brother of boy cartoonist Scribbly, the star of the comic book feature in which the Red Tornado debuted).
Ma Hunkel returned in JSA #55 (February, 2004). This story reveals that Ma had been in the Witness Protection Program since 1950. Senior JSA members Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman, and Wildcat find Ma to tell her that she can come out of hiding, as the last member of the gang against whom she testified in 1950 has died. Ma subsequently becomes caretaker of the JSA's Manhattan museum/headquarters. She does not, however, resume her crimefighting activities as the Red Tornado.
Her daughter and (now) son-in-law, the former Cyclone Kids, briefly have their own costumed adventures, starting in the title Young Justice. They band together with other Golden Age sidekicks out of concern for the safety of younger superheroes.
Ma's wind-controlling granddaughter, Maxine Hunkel, joins the JSA in Justice Society of America Vol. 3 #1 (February, 2007). In Justice Society of America Vol. 3 #3 (March, 2007), Maxine adopts the alias "Cyclone".
Ma's last name is frequently misspelled as "Hunkle". Due to her bright red longjohns costume and roly-poly build, she is sometimes jokingly referred to as the Red Tomato.
Ma still has some fighting ability, using a mace and gas weaponry to help the younger JSA stun and delay members of the invading Injustice Society. She is taken hostage and frozen by the villain Icicle. She only suffered mild cold as the team's plans was not to kill or injure but steal from the JSA.
Maxine was later responsible for the continuation of the Society as a viable team. When supernatural entities obliterated the brownstone, Jay Garrick believed this was a sign to end the team and move on. Maxine convinced him such an attitude was nonsensical and the Society was more than just a headquarters.
The New 52
Following the Flashpoint event, the DC Universe was rebooted in 2011. Since then, a character resembling Ma Hunkel has appeared in the "Channel 52" back-up feature in a story set on the parallel world of Earth-2. This character is younger and more svelte than the original version and appears to possess wind-based powers. It is unclear if this is a new version of Ma Hunkel.
Powers and abilities
In her prime, Ma Hunkel was a surprisingly strong woman. Many who encountered her often believed that the Red Tornado was, in fact, a man, a notion that helped protect Ma's secret identity on more than one occasion. In the ensuing years, Ma Hunkel's strength level has diminished with age.
Ma Hunkel was also a great cook with an ability to feed a large group of people which included the Justice Society of America.
In other media
- Ma Hunkel appeared in the Smallville two-hour Justice Society of America episode called "Smallville: Absolute Justice", played by Deborah Cole. She gets arrested for supporting the JSA members.
- Ma Hunkel is mentioned by Doctor Mid-Nite in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Crisis 22,300 Miles Above Earth!"
The Red Tornado is one of seven JSA-related heroes whose solo appearances are collected in an anthology entry in the DC Archive Editions series:
|JSA All-Stars Archives Vol. 1 HC (2007)||All-American Comics (1939 series) #20-24|
- Coogan, P. (2006). Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre. Austin, Texas: MonkeyBrain Books
- Ragnell's Written Word (May 11, 2006): "Mama-Thon — The Red Tornado"
- Justice Society Profile: The Red Tornado
- "Young Justice" #16 (Jan. 2000)
- [dead link]
- "JSA Classified" #7 (March 2006)
- "Justice Society of America" #87 (September 2006)
- Kingdom Come #3