Red Tornado

Cyclone Kids

Created by Sheldon Mayer
Maxine Hunkel created by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross & Dale Eaglesham

NAME + ALIASES:
Abigail Mathilda "Ma" Hunkel

KNOWN RELATIVES:
"Hunk" Hunkel (husband, first name unknown), Huey Hunkel (son), Amelia "Sisty" Hunkel (daughter), Gus and Herman Hunkel (brothers-in-law), Felix Hunkel (nephew), Mortimer "Dinky" Jibbet (son-in-law), Maxine Hunkel (Cyclone, granddaughter)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Honorary member of the Justice Society of America

FIRST APPEARANCE:
As Ma Hunkel: All-American Comics #3 (June 1939).
As the Red Tornado: All-American Comics #20 (Oct. 1940).
The Cyclone Kids, Sisty and Dinky: All-American #24 (Mar 1941)

History

Sheldon Mayer's "Scribbly" was a part of the inaugural issue of National's All-American Comics for April 1939. Two issues later, his supporting cast began to grow. It included new neighbors, the Hunkels. Not until over a year later that the Hunkels took off in their own costumed adventures...

Left: Ma Hunkel, her son Huey, and title character Scribbly.
Right: Sisty Hunkel makes trouble. From All-American #3 (April 1939).

Scribbly's brother Dinky appeared in All-American #2 (May 1939);
art by Sheldon Mayer.

Ma has enough! From All-American #20 (Nov. 1940); art by Sheldon Mayer.

Abigail "Ma" Hunkel was an ordinary housewife with an inordinate amount of chutzpah. At home in the late 1930s, she was witness to the dawn of super-heroes. One day in 1939, she spied Tex Thompson, a well-known adventurer, brawling in the street below. Hunkel leapt out her window without a thought, and jumped into the fray. Once the crooks were down she admitted to him that she wanted to be an adventurer, too. He was skeptical but gave her props. (Thompson soon became the costumed Mister America.) (JSA 80-Page Giant #1)

In late Summer of 1940, Gus Hunkel hit a 100-to-1 shot at the racetrack. He used his winnings to help his sister-in-law Abigail "Ma" Hunkel to buy Schultz's Grocery. Shortly after, some racketeers make the mistake of trying to collect "protection money" from the burly Mrs. Hunkel. She mussed them up, causing them to flee in their car. The criminals were not aware that Hunkel's young daughter Sisty and her small friend Dinky Jibbet had locked themselves in the rumble seat. The racketeers later discovered the children and held them in the swanky gambling house of their boss, Tubbs Torponi.

Realizing that the kids were gone, the Hunkels and the Jibbets went to police headquarters and asked Chief Gilhooley for help. Ma Hunkel told Gilhooley that she knew it was Torponi's gang that kidnapped the kids. The Chief explained that the police had investigated Torponi and found him to be clean. When Ma insisted that he be arrested, the Chief protested— Torponi was a pretty powerful man in politics and that they would need evidence to arrest him. Ma realized the Chief was afraid to act and the families left.

While driving home in the Jibbet's car, Ma continued to fret about it to her son Huey and his friend "Scribbly" Jibbet. Scribbly said that if the Green Lantern was on the job, they'd have the kids back already. Ma was unfamiliar with this "Green Lantern," so the kids explained how he fought crime wearing a mysterious costume to hide his identity. This started the wheels turning in Ma Hunkel's head.

After arriving at the Jibbet house, Ma asked the kids more questions about Green Lantern. Ma walked off deep in thought, leaving the boys to wonder what had happened to distract her.

Elsewhere, the kidnappers were being terrorized by Sisty and Dinky. The kids ran wild around the gambling house, thwarting the criminals' attempts to grab them. Eventually, Torponi caught them and called for his gang, but he was hit from behind by a bottle. When the gang reached the room, they found an oddly clad "mystery man" standing over their defeated boss. Together the hero and kids finished off the stunned criminals. The mysterious stranger called Chief Gilhooley and told him to come pick up the kidnappers at Tubbs Torponi's place. When the Chief asked who he was speaking to, the mystery man replied "the Red Tornado!" The hero left the kids armed with bottles, then fled before the cops arrived.

Soon after, Mrs. Jibbet received a call from the police that the children had been rescued. Scribbly ran over to the Hunkel house to tell them the good news. Huey told Scribbly that his mother took a walk two hours earlier and hadn't returned. Mrs. Jibbet arrived with the kids, who began telling the story of how they were saved by the Red Tornado. Ma Hunkel entered then, seeing the kids, and inquired about all the excitement. She smiled as they described their adventures with the mystery "man." Mrs. Jibbet told her that the Chief never mentioned a mystery man; he claimed to have rescued the children single-handedly. Ma was furious to learn that the Chief had stolen her credit, and informed the families that she was going for another walk.

The Chief was bragging to the press about his "heroics" and proclaimed that talk of the Red Tornado was nonsense. Suddenly, the Red Tornado smashed through the window and confronted him! The Chief told the vigilante that he was under arrest for breaking in, but the Red Tornado told the Chief to just shut up. Ma introduced herself to the newspaper men as the Red Tornado, the true rescuer of the kids from the Torponi gang. When more police arrived to arrest the Tornado, Ma plowed through them and escaped. The next day, all the local papers headlined the debut of the neighborhood's new protector, the Red Tornado. (All-American Comics #20) The general public remained unaware that the Red Tornado was a woman.

The Red Tornado showed up at the first meeting of the Justice Society, but made a hasty retreat due to an embarrassing "wardrobe malfunction" that caused her to miss her chance at joining the group. (All-Star Comics #3)

The Cyclone Kids

Sisty and Dinky suit up as the Cyclone Kids! From All-American Comics #24 (Nov. 1940); art by Sheldon Mayer.

A few months after the Red Tornado's debut, Sisty and Dinky became her costumed sidekicks, dubbed the Cyclone Kids. (All-American #24)

Over the next few weeks, the Red Tornado became a neighborhood legend, as "he" systematically drove out the local racketeers. Scribbly Jibbet, the teen-aged brother of Dinky who worked as a cartoonist for the Morning Despatch, was told by his editor that the Red Tornado confined his activities to Scribbly's neighborhood, and that Scribbly should stick around his home to get a glimpse of the mysterious character. If he could get a drawing of the Red Tornado, the Despatch would be the only paper in town with a visual of the local hero. Ma Hunkel heard of Scribbly's dilemma, changed into the Red Tornado, and offered to pose for the boy cartoonist. The next morning, the world got its first good look at the oddly-clad hero.

One day, many weeks later, in late Autumn of 1940, the Red Tornado chased off a bully who had been picking on Sisty. The bully then complained to police, and they decided that this Red Tornado business had gone on long enough. Chief Gilhooley still held a grudge from the Torponi affair, and gave orders that the mystery man should be picked up if spotted. A group of cops found the Red Tornado and chased the hero into the zoo. Ma Hunkel eluded them by placing her costume on a gorilla and freeing it, then taking its place in the cage. When the police arrived, she told them that the Red Tornado freed the gorilla and locked her in. After a wild chase around the zoo, the "Red Tornado" was captured and unmasked. Everyone but Scribbly and Huey Hunkel were convinced that the gorilla was the real Red Tornado.

Later that day, Scribbly told his editor that the Red Tornado can't possibly be a gorilla because he had heard "him" talk. Later, Scribbly complained to Ma Hunkel about the article which was about to run. He explained that all the racketeers that the Red Tornado has scared away will read the paper and return. Ma realized he was right and changed into the Red Tornado in order to pay the editor a visit. Soon after, the Red Tornado appeared on his window ledge while he preparing the front page—proclaiming that the Red Tornado was a hoax! Just as she was about to enter the window, the Red Tornado lost her balance and fell many stories until her pants seat became snagged on a seventh floor flagpole. She was stranded there and as feared, the criminal element immediately resurfaced.

Sisty Hunkel read the paper and asked Dinky Jibbet if he had heard about the Red Tornado being a fake. Dinky refused to believe it, but fake or not, Sisty was determined the gangsters needed to be stopped. Dinky agreed, the country needed more mystery men, which gave Sisty an idea. She grabbed her friend and began cutting colorful cloth to fits Dinky and her with costumes. They became the country's newest mystery men ... the Cyclone Kids!

After making herself a matching costume, the Cyclone Kids head out onto the streets. They confront two of the city's toughest racketeers, who are counting their ill-gotten money. Sisty demands that they hand over the money. The crooks chase her around a corner, where Dinky cracks both of them over the head with a board. The kids grab the money and run, but the criminals chase them down. They are cornered at the foot of the Morning Despatch! Just as the gangsters threaten to shoot the kids, the editor of the Despatch tosses his cigar out of his window. Miraculously, it lands on the Red Tornado's snagged pants. The cigar burns through the hero's pants, freeing her. She falls on the two gangsters, saving the kids. The next morning, the Despatch retracts its previous article, stating that there is indeed a real Red Tornado after all ... and "he" now has the help of two small editions.

Postwar

The truth behind Ma Hunkel's "death" is revealed. From JSA #55 (2004); art by Leonard Kirk and Keith Champagne.
An android shows up with Ma Hunkel's memories! (It was the nefarious doings of T.O. Morrow.) From Justice League of America #64 (1968); art by Dick Dillin and George Roussos.

In 1950, Ma testified against the Yellow Mask Mob and entered the witness protection program. The Feds helped her fake her death, and she was separated from her family. The members of the Justice Society visited her every year, though.

As adults, the Cyclone Kids eventually married and participated in Old Justice, but have since retired.

Recently, the last member of the Yellow Mask Mob died and the JSA welcomed Ma back to society and offered her a job as the JSA's museum curator. Presumably, she has also reconnected with Sisty, Dinky and Huey. The time and circumstance of her husband, Hunk's, death have not been revealed. (JSA #55)

Ma's granddaughter, Maxine Hunkel, became a super-powered hero called Cyclone. She was recruited by Power Girl and Mister Terrific and joined a bevy of new heroes in the Justice Society. (Justice Society of America v.3 #1)

+ Powers

Ma Hunkel had no superhuman powers. She relied solely on her large size and the occasional kitchen implement to fight crime.

The Cyclone Kids had no special abilities. They were street-smart, and cunning scrappers in the battle against neighborhood crime.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

  • JSA #55-85

» SERIES:

  • All-American Comics #20-59 (Oct. 1940–July 1944)
  • Justice Society of America v.2 (2007–11)