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Scribbly and the Red Tornado (Early Golden Age)

Scribbly‘s series gets all but taken over by the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids for much of the rest of its run in All-American.  Despite this, it never really turned into a hero series, staying firmly in the comedic genre, and though the Red Tornado fought criminals and Nazis, she spent more time dealing with her chaos-prone family.

Throughout 1940 the series continues much as it had begin, the tribulations of young comic writer Scribbly, his crazy boss Macklin, his annoying younger brother Dinky, and the overwhelming Hunkle family.  Dinky meets his counterpart, Sisty Hunkel, in Issue 11, and its true love from the get-go for the toddlers.

After the two are believed to be kidnapped by gangsters, Ma Hunkle goes to the police in All-American 20 to demand they arrest Tubb Tarponi and his gang, but the police lack any solid evidence.  The Red Tornado then appears, in long red underwear with a pot on her head (though everyone thinks it is a man) and takes down the gang.  There is no need to spell out that this is Ma.

I think if the Red Tornado had been male this series would not have worked as well.  Despite it being all played for comedy, we see Ma beat up and strong arm her butcher, her landlord, Scribbly’s editor, and Dinky and Sisty’s teacher at school, all as the Red Tornado.  In issue 28 she roughs up an actor hired to play the Red Tornado on a radio show, only at the end discovering it was her husband in the costume.

With issue 23 the title of the series became “Scribbly and the Red Tornado”, though Tornado’s name was notably smaller.  They were of equal size in issue 25, and with 26 the Red Tornado’s billing vastly overshadowed that of Scribbly, and the stories reflected this.  Similarly, towards the end of the run, as Scribbly returned to prominence in the strip, the Red Tornado’s billing decreased to equal size in issue 57, and smaller than Scribbly’s in issues 58 and 59.

Dinky and Sisty take on the identities of the Cyclone Kids after Ma briefly succeeds at convincing everyone that the Red Tornado was a hoax, in issue 24.  With no idea of each others identities, Tornado and the Cyclone Kids go into action independently when Scribbly gets kidnapped by hoods who want information on Red Tornado,  but work together to rescue him.  In issue 27 Ma unmasks before the Kids, and reveals she has always known who they were.  Scribbly himself suspects Ma and the kids are the “Terrific Trio” in issue 46, but they use a dummy in Red Tornado’s costume to fool him.

In issue 42 Ma rescues a dog from a hood who was using it in his crimes, and names it Runt, the Mystery Dog, providing it with a cape and a mask.  Runt briefly appears again in 43, but is then allowed to live life as a normal dog.

The series reaches its apex with All-American 45, which opens with Ma complaining about the title credits and logo always being the same, and how boring that is.  She seeks out Scribbly, but it’s Sheldon Mayer himself who breaks the panel boundaries and enters to argue with Ma, and complain in turn about how he “made her famous”, and that Green Lantern and Superman have to do far more than she does, and never complain.  Mayer decides to kill himself, jumping out of the top corner panel.  Ma whines and bitches, but changes costume and emerges from the bottom panel border to catch Mayer.  Brilliant.

But after that, the series just seemed to pale.  The joke has been taken as far as it could, and now Scribbly started to take the series back.  In issue 52 Macklin gives up ownership of the paper to enter the army, and Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids run it until Scribbly persuades Ma and the kids to also chip in, and she makes an excuse to get the Trio out of there. In issue 57 Scribbly imagines them all in the Middle Ages, and in 59, the final installment of the series in All-American, they are all shown as barnyard animals.

Scribbly appeared in three issues of Comic Cavalcade, though the first was just a reprint of his debut in All-American.  The second, in Comic Cavalcade 4, is another Red Tornado story, as she protects her brother-in-law Gus from an insurance scam.  The third, issue 7, which came out just as his All-American series ended, has Red Tornado billed, but only appearing as Ma.

In the fall of 1944 Scribbly would appear in the Big All-American one-shot, with the Hunkle family, but the Red Tornado had been left behind, and would not be a part of Scribbly’s solo book, which would run through the late golden age, but which I am not going to cover in my blog.

It would take decades before Ma Hunkle would return to the pages of DC Comics, though her next solo story would be written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer.  In the meantime, a completely different Red Tornado would debut in the Silver Age, and get his own series in the Bronze Age.

Scribbly/Red Tornado:  All-American 10 – 59 (Jan 40 – July 44)

Comic Cavalcade 1 (Winter 42),  4  (Fall 43),   7  (Summer 44)

Big All-American


Scribbly is a humour series, one I am only covering because of the eventual appearances of the Red Tornado in it, but I do have to admit it is a delight to read.  Sheldon Mayer`s semi-autobiographical strip about a 13 year old boy, newly arrived in the city, who gets a job as a newspaper cartoonist.

We meet his struggling and no-nonsense mother, and tormenting younger brother Dinky.  Daphne, the girl at school he likes also debuts in issue 1.  Issue 3 introduces Ma Hunkel, and her children Huey, an aspiring writer and Scribbly`s new best friend, and Sisty, the younger sister.

The Hunkels are behind the `famous midget cartoonist`scam in issues 5 and 6 that first gets Scribbly hired at the newspaper.

One of the things I like best about Scribby is the use of his comic, Why Big Brudders Leave Home.  We occasionally see it in print in the paper in the stories, but each page of Scribbly has a small insert of the comic itself, showing the varied ways Dinky torments Scribby.  As well, the reader was encouraged to send in things from their own experiences, paid $1 if the idea was used, and given credit.

Scribby continues in the Early Golden Age

Scribbly:  All-American  1- 9  (Apr – Dec 39)

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