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.
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 Manhattanmuseum/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 invadingInjustice 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.
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.