Friday, December 16, 2011

JLA HQ FORTNIGHT: A Tornado is a disaster, by the way

So, it’s the Silver Age, and the Justice League of America has a sweet “modernistically outfitted” cavern headquarters, a host of one-shot, ugly, and incompetent foes, and a sidekick so moronic that even Green Lantern and Green Arrow look smart standing beside him. Their stories make absolutely zero sense; in fact, some of them are not merely nonsensical but actively anti-sensical, like a collaboration between Grant Morrison and Willy Wonka, as produced by the Brothers Krofft. But it doesn’t matter because they are the Justice League of America, and if they shat delicious Fruit Pies, readers would eat them up.

I think it's the antennae that really make this panel.

Nothing could possibly touch them….


Many are the world’s natural disasters; fire, flood, pestilence, famine, earthquake, Jean Loring, hurricanes, and slowly advancing glaciation. And the JLA was equal to them all. So it took an un-natural disaster to begin their eventual doom. I speak, of course, of…


Kill it, Barry; kill it NOW, while you can.

The well-schooled among you will already know that the original, Golden Age Red Tornado was a comedy character. Burly grocery owner Abigail “Ma” Hunkel was inspired by her children’s love of Green Lantern comics to cobble together an impromptu costume and clean up her neighborhood as the gender-blurred crimefighter, the Red Tornado. Originally a throwaway concept, the Red Tornado, as one of the earlier superhero parodies, gained immediate popularity and wound up engulfing her home strip/book “Scribbly the Boy Cartoonist”.

In the Golden Age this is what we meant by being a pot-head.

As part of the bizarre meta-miscegenation of publishers in the Golden Age, the Red Tornado migrated from American Publishing to DC Comics just long enough to pop her (potted) head in at the first meeting of the Justice Society of America. It’s odd. Somewhat less odd when you remember that Sheldon Mayer created both the Red Tornado and the JSA. But it’s still odd.

The Red Tornado: A Legacy of Dignity

Oh, but the Red Tornado’s revenge for not being invited to join the JSA would come later. Some 25 years later, the Silver Age decided to do with the Red Tornado what it did best: out-weird the Golden Age.

The Red Tornado was re-imagined as an android weapon designed by T.O. Morrow to kill the Justice Society and the Justice League. Which he did.

Don’t cry, kids; they died, but got better later.

See, Barry? You NEVER listen to me.

Essentially, the Silver Age Red Tornado was designed to f*** things up. He was, as his name implied, a walking disaster. He was a fumbling Frankenstein monster who ruined everything he touched. Don’t believe me? Fine; then believe the JLA members themselves:

Okay, we all know Superman's a dick, but when Wonder Woman tells you you're an incompetent boob, you better believe her. Because Wonder Woman knows boobs.

Anyone wanna guess how this turns out...?

Well, not a walking disaster, exactly; more of a twirling one, really. Speaking of twirling disasters, with the arrival of Red Tornado, the twirl-tastic Mars-halationing Martian Manhunter became even more redundant in the JLA .

I mean, nobody else could do that like J’onn. Except Superman. And the Flash. And Red Tornado. Or Wonder Woman twirling her lasso really fast. Or Green Lantern with a fan-construct. Or Batman using a Bat-bee-fan from his utility belt.

Plus, the devastating Tornado cleared a path for another ex-pat Earth-Two-er, Black Canary, to join the JLA and soften it up with all her tears.

Blah blah tragedy blah blah blah Black Canary blah blah suffering

But Martian Manhunter and Black Canary are the stars of the next two segments of the Demise of the Silver Age Justice League of America, part of what drives them off the Earth into the Bronze Age and the satellite 22,300 miles away. Stay tuned!


King Beauregard said...

This is all Denny O'Neil's doing, isn't it?

I give the guy credit for trying to fix what was wrong with DC, but there were more misses than hits.

Superman: drop his power levels, make him immune to kryptonite (hit but quickly rolled past the foul line)

Wonder Woman: depower her and make her a martial artist (which I contend COULD have worked if writers hadn't treated her like she was "broken") (miss)

Batman: made him awesome (big, big hit)

Green Lantern: troubled social conscience (miss)

Green Arrow: irritatingly hippie-esque (miss)

Scipio said...

Yup. In person, Denny O'Neil has intelligence, wit, and an astonishing amount of personal charm. Unfortunately, on paper, those mostly act as personal bodyguards to protect his horrible heavy-handed writing, with its randomized plots, painfully unnatural dialog, and character mangling.

Ronald said...

I think Red Tornado's appearance in the first JSA story was a smaller part of how the JSA encompassed nearly EVERY non-title-holding DC hero of the time; see, folks, even the "humor" character ALMOST made it in. Later, of course, another "humor" character, Johnny Thunder, would in fact make the cut.

Just as a trivia point, when Prize Publications formed its one-shot nameless golden age super-team in Prize Comics #24 (1942), they actually DID include "humor" characters: The Corporal and The General, who apparently starred in a feature of what I would presume were no doubt at the time relatively amusing military hijinks.

Bryan L said...

I loved that issue where Circe transformed Flash, Tornado, and Zatanna. I bet I read the covers off that thing. And I'm still a sucker for JSA and JSA/JLA team-ups. I don't care how bad they are. There. I admitted it.

Scipio said...

Have a Fruit Pie, Bryan, LOL!

Anonymous said...

Scipio, what are your thoughts on the animated Red Tornado's recent role as den mother for Young Justice? More generally, have you continued following the show lately? I think adding poor Captain Marvel as a wannabee member has worked out brilliantly, in one of those "I can't believe no one thought of this before" ways.

I'm a 25 year old reader, I grew up reading Impulse and the Peter David Young Justice, but even my nostalgia doesn't override my preference for how the animated series is handling almost everything. The recent Tornado/T.O Morrow episode in particular was more emotionally satisfying than the messy 1990s "John Smith" Red Tornado plot arc that I don't think any comic writer was really interested in following through with.

Reading the new 52 Teen Titans makes me wish DC had launched with a Young justice series. If you were writing/designing a YJ series, how would make it awesome?

SallyP said...

Argghh! I hate the robot Red Tornado almost as much as I adore the Ma Hunkel Red Tornado! Thank goodness she finally got to hang out with the Justice Society!

Seriously, she's just the Bee's Knees. "Reddy" on the other hand, is irritating beyond belief. And apparently incompetent to boot.

Bryan L said...

Aw, Sally, don't be so mean. Did you see Reddy in Batman:The Brave and the Bold? Captured him perfectly (as they invariably did with goofy Silver Age concepts). A rather befuddled and odd academic, who doesn't really understand what's going on with these humans, but is trying hard. A Commander Data for the DC Unverse. That's the key -- don't try to make him human. USE his inhumanity.

Ronald said...

The Red Tornado used to say "O Boy!" What was that, a Quantum Leap crossover?

Readers familiar with the story that had the mole/snail scene know that the magical arrows were being shot by Speedy (Roy Harper, Earth-Two), whom Circe had turned into a centaur. See, THAT'S what DC should have done instead of cutting off Roy's arm and killing his cute innocent daughter Lian, they should have turned him into a centaur. That'd have been pretty traumatic, right?

SallyP said...

I have to admit, that Barry as a snail is just a tiny bit hilarious.

Bryan, in the cartoon, Reddy wasn't actually nearly as annoying as he is in the book...but that is simply due to the magnificence that is Batman: The Brave & the Bold. Everytime I READ about Red Tornado, I want to slap him.

Anonymous said...

In case anyone's interested, Red Tornado's more familiar look (with the yellow pinstriping) is not a paint job, it's a COSTUME that Black Canary made for him. That's right, Red Tornado wears a leotard.

Imitorar said...

I'd argue that O'Neil scored a hit with Green Arrow. Yes, he turned him into a sanctimonious jackass, but SOMEBODY has to be The Offical Jackass of the DCU, and it might as well be Green Arrow. It's not like he was doing so well as The Official Low-Rent Batman Rip-Off of the DCU. At least after Hard Traveling Heroes he HAD a personality, even if it was an insufferable one.

Scipio said...

SOMEBODY has to be The Offical Jackass of the DCU"

Do they?


I see no reason any of my heroes need to be jackasses.

King Beauregard said...

I heard that Green Arrow was the mouthpiece for a young sincere Denny O'Neil, who had a lot he wanted to get off his chest. I remember when I was young and sincere too; I could see everything that was wrong with the world, and could explain (in very imprecise terms) what is required to fix it all. It's an unfortunate property of youthful eyes.

But Ollie's more aggravating traits can be moderated, and for the most part they have been over the years. It just so happens that every now and again he says or does something really aggravating and suddenly it's 1972 all over again.

Ever read any early 80s "World's Finest" with Green Arrow backup stories? A staple of those stories was that Ollie Queen, newspaper columnist, would become aware of a human interest injustice, explore the matter, discover the corrupt forces behind it, and bring them to justice. It wasn't a bad formula. It took the best of O'Neil minus Ollie complaining about artifical Christmas trees.

Imitorar said...

Well, okay, I guess "need" might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I think "the Jerk" is a good character type to have around. Not all heroes are necessarily likable people, and even an arrogant blowhard can have an honest desire to help people. I like the idea of each major superhero having a different approach to heroism based on his or her personality, and I think Green Arrow's brand of heroism, such as it is, deserves representation.

Ronald said...

Prior to his "jerk" personality, Green Arrow, like many super-heroes dating back to the golden age, had pretty much no personality at all. So, you know, SOMETHING is better than NOTHING, right?

Nathan Hall said...

PLEASE write more about Red Tornado. So many possibilities for critiques, songs, haiku contests ....

Scipio said...

Ronald: something is NOT better than nothing, when that something is "a crappy and irritating personality".

Nathan: Indeed. But it almost seems like to easy a target. Of course, that's never stopped me before...

Dan said...

Green Arrow was utterly useless and pointless before Denny O'Neil gave him a social conscience.

I am bewildered by critics who complain about Olly's social activism...

What is a superhero if not a social activist???? The complaint makes no sense at all. They're ALL social activists.

And OF COURSE they're going to side with the downtrodden. What kind of hero defends the forces that BENEFIT from social injustice?

Scipio said...

I hear you, Dan. However...

I've never actually heard anyone complain about Ollie's social activism.

I have, however, heard them complain about his being a pompous, self-righteous, intolerant, and condescending jerk.

The two things are not the same. Nor should they be.