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Red Tornado
Red Tornado Ma Hunkel

"Ma" Hunkel as the Red Tornado

Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance as Ma Hunkel:All-American Comics #3 (June 1939)as Red Tornado:All-American Comics #20 (November 1940)
Created by Sheldon Mayer
In-story information
Alter ego Abigail Mathilda "Ma" Hunkel
Team affiliations Justice Society of America

The Red Tornado is a superhero 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. (Madam Fatal, earlier that year, was the first cross-dressing hero.)

Publication historyEdit

Initially as simply Ma Hunkel, the Golden Age Red Tornado originated in Sheldon Meyer'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 where characters who at the time weren't written into mainstream continuity.

In Alex Ross' 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, armor-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 biographyEdit

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 split, 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 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 children 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.

Powers and abilitiesEdit

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 mediaEdit

TelevisionEdit

  • Ma Hunkel appeared in the Smallville two-hour Justice Society of America movie episode called Smallville: Absolute Justice. She gets arrested for supporting the JSA members. She is played by actress Deborah Cole.
  • Ma Hunkel is mentioned by Doctor Mod-Nite in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Crisis 22,300 Miles Above Earth!"

Collected editionsEdit

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:

Title Material collected
JSA All-Stars Archives Vol. 1 HC (2007) All-American Comics (1939 series) #20-24

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