Monday, December 10, 2018

惑星

Hey, look what I found!


Those vanishingly-rare pre-cert Video Brokers tapes of Force Five still keep showing up in the most unlikely places. This one came from Poland, via eBay!

Also, for my own convenience, here's the link to the archive of that Danguard Ace website it always takes me hours to find! Now I can just come here to click it!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Ships in the night

I wish I had some kind of football trivia blog that everybody read and was fascinated by the posts I make about football trivia. Because it's occurred to me that Norwich are top of the Championship and Burnley in danger of relegation from the Premier League, and whenever one of those teams is promoted, the other is relegated. It happened in 2013-14. 2014-15 and 2015-16. They haven't been in the same division since 2010-11, despite all the yo-yoing they do. I suspect they're secretly one and the same team, much like Clark Kent and Superman, or perhaps Prince Adam and He-Man.

But, you see, if I write a blog about that, all my readers will just be thinking "what's he going on about? I come here to read illuminating blog posts about memory or othello or comics or cartoons or the many toilets owned by the wonderful Zoomy, I don't care about football!"

I should cultivate more football-hooligan friends, it's the only solution.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

England!

Vindaloo vindaloo na na, and isn't it great when the national football team do something good? I like the Nations League. I bet we win it now, and then the rest of the world will tremble in fear of our mighty football-playing powers. It's coming home, to Portugal, next summer.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

This guy Pridmore

If you like podcasts, there's apparently one called No Such Thing As A Fish, where QI researchers talk about the interesting things they've recently found out about. And when someone (thanks, Mike!) told me I'm on the latest edition, episode 242, I was particularly pleased to see that I'm actually the first thing they talk about - I was shuddering at the thought of having to sit through 54 minutes of talk about subjects other than me, but you can safely turn the thing off after ten minutes if you don't care about anything other than memory.

They cover all the basics very nicely, mentioning pretty much everything about me that it's possible to find on Google, and correctly point out that memory championship winners aren't especially clever, which is nice (no, really, it is - better than the whole 'natural-born genius savant' thing that most people like to say), although they do buy in wholly to the Daniel Tammet legend without question. But most unforgivably, they say I'm on my fourth lucky hat, after leaving at least one previous one on a train. That comes from some 2014 press release that must have been trying to be nice to me - I lost count a while ago, but I'm actually on the tenth or eleventh, with all of the previous ones having been left on trains. Let's set the record straight about that.

Monday, November 12, 2018

On the way home again

Well, I suppose I have to go back to England now. All this international travel gets tiring, you know. Still, it was a fantastic memory championship! I found myself in close competition with Konsti - I ended up with 14 packs of cards, which is good enough that maybe I'll attempt 18 next time, then a solid 174 words, a decent enough 93 spoken numbers and an acceptable 74 dates, plus 816 in 30-minute numbers, attempting 936. The two of us were neck and neck most of the way, building up to speed cards - my first pack was a surprising disaster when I couldn't remember one of my images (or rather, I remembered it fine, then thought 'no, that's not right... what is that image? Oh, no, hang on, it was right all along, why did I think it wasn't?' and so forth, and so entirely forgot the various other images I'd been supposed to be memorising while that whole thought process was going on), and then the second pack I went very slowly and got 36.36 seconds. Konsti, though, did a 50.78; just enough to retain third place.

So I end up with a medal announcing that I came 4th, instead of a nice little trophy for 3rd, but hey, I've got plenty of trophies already. The two big trophies (one permanent European Championship trophy and one one-off) went to Simon, but he was pushed all the way by Sylvain, who came second with some excellent scores. There was also a very closely-matched struggle for fifth place between Tobiasz, Norbert, Martin and Susanne. It was exciting all round!

Also, for the entertainment of people who insist that my nickname is Big Ben rather than Zoomy, this sweet shop was just outside the door of the venue:

Saturday, November 10, 2018

This is what it's all about

I couldn't help feeling during the recall for 30-minute cards "it really doesn't get any better than this..."

I do like memory competitions. Especially the cards events - the lack of practice doesn't really affect them as much as the other disciplines, for whatever reason. After a day of mediocre performances in everything else, but knowing I've done 12 decks with consummate ease the last couple of times I've tried it, I decided I had to go for 15 this time, and see what would happen. And I finished the recall with a luxurious ten minutes to spare, although I've probably made a couple of mistakes here and there in the order of images.

We've got sixteen competitors from nine European countries, with the usual nice mix of new and old, and a first-rate organising team headed by Idriz and Daniel, using the all-new online recall system (which can also be used by people at home to keep track of the competition scores and/or do some training yourselves). It's mostly working great, I'm sure it's saved the arbiters a lot of hassle, and the fact that the championship ran a couple of hours late as usual really wasn't very much down to the technology so much as the much-loved memory-competition traditions.

Will Simon hold off the fierce challenge of Sylvain to claim a third European Championship? We'll see, tomorrow.

How very European

I'm in the competition room at the IAM European Memory Championship, in a very nice room in the Skovlunde library in Copenhagen. Competitors whose faces I should recognise by now but don't: Sylvain, Norbert, Konsti, Yves, Tobiasz, various others. People who I do recognise without needing to look at the name on their table: Simon. Also, Idriz, who's running the show, and I'll definitely know Lars when he arrives.

I might be a millionaire - I've got one of those "news about your ticket" emails from last night's Euromillions, but the national lottery website won't let you log on from a foreign country, so I'll just have to wait till I get home on Monday to know whether I'm fabulously rich or the lucky winner of £2.70 from my £2.50 ticket. I'll buy a top hat, monocle and cigar, just in case.

I haven't done any training, or particularly thought about memory, since the last competition I went to (which, off the top of my head, I think was in Germany or something). This is probably a good omen, and I'm sure the whole thing will be a great success.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Big numbers

This is, apparently, my 2700th post on this blog! Which, considering I don't post more than once a day, is pretty good going, isn't it? Of course, the really important number to commemorate in some way is 2704, being the number of images in my memory system, so I'll have to write something really spectacular and memorable for that!

Since I'm going to Copenhagen at the weekend, that should provide something memory-related to write about...

Thursday, November 01, 2018

On the subject of catchy tunes

In the office today, someone observed that everyone knows the Jurassic Park music. I said that I don't think I do, upon which everybody chorused "Der der der der der, der der der der der", and I had to admit I did vaguely remember it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Less talk, more whistling

I had to do an unusual amount of talking at work today, and it's given me a sore throat. Do I really talk so little that it does me harm when I do it? I need to talk more.

Also, what is with that Colgate toothpaste advert I just saw on TV that uses the Caillou theme tune as background music? Also, why do I immediately recognise the Caillou theme tune when I hear it on telly? It's an American pre-school cartoon that I've never watched with any kind of regularity, even though I watch a lot more American pre-school cartoons than normal people. It's obviously really catchy.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Fresh air and exercise

Living practically next door to the office is nice, but I can't help thinking that, especially with winter coming up, I'm not really doing any kind of physical activity any more now that I don't cycle to work. I should join a gym, but I really don't want to. On the other hand, I have got stairs now. I climb stairs at least once a day. That counts as exercise.

Friday, October 19, 2018

In case of blockage

This new house of mine is rather strange in some ways. Downstairs there's a big living room, little kitchen and little back room that serves as a spare bedroom, complete with en-suite toilet. Upstairs, there's the main bedroom and two bathrooms. One with a shower, the other with a great big bath. Why would you put two bathrooms in the house?

So now I can buy those blue disinfectant in-cistern block things from the supermarket and make sure to buy the ones that come in packs of three, in the hope that someone will ask "why don't you buy the ones that come in packs of two instead?" so that I can reply "Because I've got three toilets, you see. I'm that posh."

Nobody's asked me that yet, but I live in hope.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Getting regular

I do need to get into a routine of memory training at home again. Once you get out of that kind of habit, it's hard to get back into it, but I'm sure I can find the time to memorise some cards regularly in the evenings. And once you get started, it's easy. I'll start tomorrow. There's Ireland playing Wales in the football tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Come on England!

England's football team are actually doing well! The world is just full of good news, lately!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hey, that wasn't bad!

I haven't watched Doctor Who for a couple of years now - the last several ones I watched were so mind-blowingly bad that I just shrugged and gave up on it as a bad job - but I happened to be channel-hopping last week on my new TV in my new house just as the first episode of the new series was coming on, so I decided that fate obviously wants me to start watching again. And the first episode was all right, more or less, but the second one tonight actually really impressed me!

Now, some would say I'm easily impressed - just today, I said "Wow, that's cool" when I saw that group C2 of the Nations League has countries with names starting with E, F, G and H - but when it comes to Doctor Who I'm generally more difficult to please, and this episode successfully did what I've been saying (to myself) for ages that Doctor Who should be doing; specifically, getting them off modern-day Earth and dumping them into a situation where the Doctor doesn't know what's going on and has to settle things armed only with her superior mind. Keep the season-long story arc to a minimum, and try to do something clever with time travel. They haven't done the last part yet, but otherwise it's all good. Also, the new opening titles are much better than the stupid one with the clocks! That's another thing I've been saying - it should ideally look like it's not just done on a computer, and I think this one manages that.

The Doctor's a woman now, obviously, and Jodie Whittaker maybe isn't particularly great, but it's early days yet. Actually, my main problem is that her accent sounds fake, although the internet says she's from Yorkshire and I can't see why she'd put on a not-quite-right-sounding Yorkshire accent to play the Doctor, so probably it's just me. I don't much like the costume, either, if it comes to that, but you can see why they'd want to keep it relatively simple rather than going for something elaborate - until we've had a few years of female Doctors, that's exactly the kind of thing everybody's going to be scrutinizing. Likewise, the gender balance of stories suddenly becomes an issue people get defensive about, and this episode at least showed that they're taking a sensible kind of approach to it. The two guest stars, one male and one female, are both strong characters, and although the female companion was the one not to contribute very much to the story, there's still some kind of personality there and a sense that they can do something less stereotypical-companion with her in future, maybe.

All that is the superficial detail, of course, which you'd hope to find a story underneath, and maybe what impressed me about this episode was that there actually was one. Not an all-time classic, but only a bit similar to the rut of identical plotlines the series had got mired in the last time I watched it, and it really did keep me entertained. I'm certainly hopeful for the future now.

The new TARDIS isn't great, though. I really don't like the police-box-shaped entry hall. The doors should open straight into an impossibly big room, I've always thought. It makes it more wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Scribbly and the Red Tomato!

Ever since that Hourman blog post "went viral" (got a couple of hundred pageviews in one day, thanks to someone posting the link on a Facebook group which I did find eventually), I've been wondering what other great Golden Age comic hero I could write about. And the greatest one who came to mind is the Red Tornado, briefly the star of Sheldon Mayer's truly wonderful "Scribbly" stories. Of course, to write about the Red Tornado, I'd have to write about the entire history of Scribbly as well...

It's not very well documented that there are three distinct eras of Scribbly - the first made its spectacular debut as a one-page filler in Popular Comics no. 6, July 1936, published by Dell in the days when American comic books consisted almost entirely of reprinted newspaper funnies. The ever-expanding storyline of Scribbly's adventures continued in Popular #7-9 (expanding to two pages), then moved into Dell's other title "The Funnies" from issues #2-29 (by which time he'd moved up to three pages per issue), and then transferred over to All-American Comics (part of the DC group) when it launched its first issue dated April 1939.

The Dell comics, incidentally, are out of copyright and can be read without even the slightest legal qualm here. I hugely recommend that you check out the Scribbly strips, as well as the many other fascinating pieces of comics history to be found there!

The first two issues of All-American contained left-over Scribbly strips from the Dell era, but with no. 3, June 1939 (actually published in late April), the series is entirely rebooted, and launches into its second era, dropping the entire supporting cast and introducing all-new ones. This era lasted until 1944, when Sheldon Mayer (according to what most people say) was too busy with his editorial work to continue the series - actually, judging by the last few stories, he'd run out of ideas and got bored with it, so used the wartime paper rationing as an excuse to drop it... but that's rather a mean thing to say about a genuine genius of comics, so forget I mentioned it, please. In any case, it's this second era that we'll be talking about today - that's the one that responded to the superhero comic mania of the time, and brought us the Red Tornado!

Scribbly returned in his own self-titled comic, now published by DC Comics itself, in 1948, which started out in the same vein as before (with an entirely new supporting cast once again), but soon turned into an Archie-style "teen romance" comic, albeit a brilliant and hilarious take on the genre. All Scribbly is good Scribbly. Sheldon Mayer never drew anything that wasn't first-rate.

Here's a photo of him at around this time - you can see where he got his ideas from...


Scribbly Jibbet is an iconic character design - wild hair, round glasses, pencil behind his ear, tie, tank-top, shirt not tucked in. He's immediately recognisable, not least because he obviously resembles Sheldon Mayer himself, and he's original too, in an age when so many comics were already plagiarising each others' designs, brand new though the whole concept was!

Here he is at the start of that second era, in All-American no. 3. Incidentally, the best way to tell the eras apart is in the name of the hero's little brother. In the first era, he's just referred to as "Scribbly's brother", or "baby", although the "Why Big Brothers Leave Home" mini-strip at the bottom of each page invited readers to suggest nicknames for him, and 'Dinky' appears a whole three times. In the second era, Dinky becomes officially his name - even their mother addresses him as such. But in the third era, his name inexplicably becomes 'Snoony', and he even gets his own "Littul Snoony" backup strip!


A brief Mad digression:

Scribbly readers were first invited to send in their suggestions for "Why Big Brothers Leave Home" in The Funnies no. 4, January 1937. In the next month's issue, before publishing lead times could have allowed Sheldon Mayer to receive any actual suggestions in the post, the very first one was credited to Bill Gaines, of Brooklyn.

Bill Gaines was then the 14-year-old son of M.C. Gaines, the man who had invented the concept of the modern-style American comic book and a partner in Dell's ever-growing list of titles. When Gaines set up his own publishing company, generally known as All-American, in 1939 (part owned and heavily financed by DC Comics), he brought Sheldon Mayer over as editor in chief, and Scribbly came along with him. In 1945, Gaines sold his share of All-American to DC, and set up his own brand new comic publishing company, Educational Comics. Gaines died (in a boating accident) in 1947, and his son Bill inherited the company, changing the name to Entertaining Comics, and launching the famous Mad Magazine in 1952. And that credit at the bottom of a Scribbly comic in 1937 was technically his first published work.

In Mad #44, January 1959, Mort Drucker (or somebody who'd been allowed to draw on Mort Drucker's picture) put a drawing of Scribbly down in the bottom-left corner of an entirely unrelated piece of artwork:


Two readers who remembered Scribbly wrote in to Mad Magazine - one of them was a very pleased Sheldon Mayer himself...
And thus the whole thing comes full circle, and Sheldon Mayer ends up with a letter published in young Bill Gaines's magazine!



But back to Scribbly's days in All-American comics...

The June issue of All-American hit the newsstands 'around April 25th, 1939', according to the advert in the previous issue. We're at the very early dawn of the superhero comic age here. We've already had twelve monthly issues of Action Comics, starring Superman (Sheldon Mayer was apparently the one who persuaded a doubtful Harry Donenfeld that it might be worth publishing this new 'Superman' thing), but it's only now that the publishers of America are responding to his staggering popularity and trying to cash in on it with their own super-types. All-American, though, hadn't caught the superhero bug yet. Their comic still consisted in large part of reprinted newspaper funnies - the ever-popular Mutt and Jeff, Reg'lar Fellas, Toonerville Folks, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, puzzle pages and features are all on display - but with headline features in the new comic-book style of multiple-page adventures for the fearless young aviator Hop Harrigan and the patriotic armed-forces trio Red, White and Blue. You could also see Harry Lampert, soon to be the first artist of superhero The Flash, drawing the rather uninspired adventures of Spot Savage, All-American news hound, and sci-fi excitement from Carl Claudy's Adventures in the Unknown (the Mystery Men of Mars!). And among all this, editor Sheldon Mayer finds room for four pages of his own Scribbly.


At this point, Scribbly is still drawn in the newspaper-comic style; each of the four pages has its own title and "Why Big Brudders Leave Home" mini-strip, as if it's a Sunday page from the newspapers. We start our new era with Scribbly, just moved to a new neighbourhood, meeting Huey Hunkel - who squirts him with a water-pistol and runs away, taking refuge in his apartment. Scribbly gives furious chase, and it falls to Huey's ma to settle things in her own way...

Ma Hunkel is a truly wonderful creation - Scribbly's own mother is just the generic comic-strip mom, but Ma and her family have real personality, and that sense of 'everybody knows someone who's just like her'. She expounds on the importance of peaceable solutions, and then resolves a dispute between Huey's little sister Sisty and a local boy by flinging a flowerpot at the boy's father's head when he tries to interfere.

So now that they've become friends, Huey takes Scribbly to his room to show him his novel in progress (it starts with "It was a dark and stormy night"), with Sisty joining in. Great story though it is, Scribbly's not sure how it can progress from the first five pages, since Huey's already killed off every character. But then the Hunkels insist that Scribbly stay for supper, and he gets an introduction to the chaos of the whole family...


All-American Comics #4 (which includes the slightly dubious claim that the title "is fast becoming America's favorite and best-selling monthly comic magazine!") continues the story of supper at the Hunkels' - Scribbly's too slow to get a bite to eat among the free-for-all at the table. Afterwards, we're introduced to uncles Gus and Herman, always arguing and full of ideas for making money without doing any work. When Scribbly shows off his artistic talent, it gives Gus an idea...
Here's the whole Hunkel horde - Ma, Huey, Pop (who rarely does anything), Herman, Sisty, Gus and the other two (one of whom must be Cousin Felix) who we don't see again after this issue. Gus takes Scribbly into his private office (the bathroom) and ignores the rest of the family heckling outside while he tries to sell Scribbly on his great idea for a comic strip - like Ripley's Believe It Or Not, except that the whole thing's made up.


All-American #5, published in late June, is in summer-holiday spirit and also full of fourth-of-July American patriotism - the inside front cover urges kids to read the first installment of "The American Way", which begins in this issue -- and show it to the grown-up folks in your family - they'll enjoy it too! They probably didn't; it's drivel. Scribbly and Huey, though, are delighted that it's the school holidays! Scribbly mentions that he might try to get a job with a newspaper like he did the summer before.

Uncle Herman overhears, and Scrib explains that he was an office boy who was allowed to draw cartoons for the newspaper occasionally (which just goes to confirm that the 'Scribbly' universe has been rebooted; he became a famous cartoonist in the first era!), getting eight dollars a week and a little extra if they used his cartoons. Huey is hugely impressed, but Herman's convinced he can make Scribbly more money than that! He puts his master plan into action - phoning every newspaper in town, asking if they have contact details for "Scribbly Jibbet, the famous midget cartoonist."

Page three of this month's story has a brilliant fourth-wall-breaking "Why Big Brudders Leave Home" - this is the first time Mayer's characters refer to him as "the boss".

Scribbly goes to a newspaper looking for a job, and when the editor hears his name, he recognises the 'famous midget cartoonist' everybody's been talking about, and (despite not thinking his comics are particularly good) offers him a job at $75 a week! But unfortunately, the cigar he forced on Scribbly has made him so ill he doesn't hear the offer, and leaves in a hurry.

All-American #6 features Scribbly, Dinky and their mother on the front cover! Inside, an opening caption recapping the story so far refers to Uncle Herman as Uncle Gus - the first but not the last time their names are switched. I'm calling the bald one Herman and the other one Gus throughout this thing, but it really is fifty-fifty. Anyway, Scribbly goes to another newspaper, and eventually manages to convince the editor that he doesn't like cigars, isn't a famous midget cartoonist and is just a thirteen-and-a-half-year-old schoolboy who wants a summer job.

The editor, Mike Macklin, does like Scribbly's drawings, though, and decides to give him a job as a boy cartoonist (thirteen and a half dollars a week). He goes home to tell his mother, who assumes he's making it all up, but is delighted when his first cartoon really does appear in the paper!

The whole neighbourhood are talking about it, in fact - the Hunkels are thrilled, Dinky boasts about it to all his friends, and the only one who's unhappy is Scribbly himself. As he tells Huey, "Th' boss gives me a swell desk, an' all the pens and paper I need, and what happens? I can't get an idea for a cartoon if ya KILLED me!"

"And take it from me, folks, that's no joke!!!" writes Sheldon Mayer in the final panel.


All-American #7 is a newspaper adventure - Scribbly hears that the paper has been unable to get a photo of the famous, reclusive English author Sir Cuthbert who's staying in a hotel in town, and volunteers to try to draw a sketch of him. He borrows a uniform from a telegram boy, and when the hotel still won't let him go up to the room, steals a bell-hop's uniform instead. This one gets him in, and he sketches the friendly man who lets him in, only to find that it's the butler rather than the writer. Sir Cuthbert refuses to let Scribbly draw him, but he holds off the butler with a seltzer dispenser, draws a sketch on the wallpaper, rips if off along with a large part of the wall, and takes it back to the editor in triumph!

The editor is a little doubtful, but then Sir Cuthbert comes in, congratulates Scribbly for being the first one to get a picture of him, and tells the editor he's got a good young man working for him. The editor agrees, and asks Scribbly how much he's paying him. When Scrib replies "thirteen-fifty a week", the editor agrees that yes, that's enough.


Starting in this issue (proclaims the cover of All-American #8), Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man! Credited to "Don Shelby", presumably an anagram of "by Sheldon", but drawn by Jon Blummer, it's All-American's first sort-of step into the superhero craze. More than slightly derivative of Buck Rogers (who starred in a popular radio show when this comic came out) with a bit of Superman thrown in, Gary doesn't last long, but it's funny to see his origin story in this issue, just for the fact that his pacifist father was determined to create a weapon so powerful that it would end war forever - a noble goal that had been showing up in fiction since Victorian times, but was replaced only six years after this by "we've created a weapon so powerful that we must now just hope the world won't be destroyed by it".

Anyway, Scribbly is back at school, and gets in trouble straight away by drawing a caricature of his fat, ugly teacher on the blackboard. Then when he goes to the newspaper after writing 500 lines that evening, he's asked to draw 'before and after' pictures for an advertisement, and can't resist drawing Miss Loomis again as the 'before'. He's sent to the principal, but it turns out that the principal has always wanted to be a cartoonist, and wants Scribbly to teach him to draw!


All-American #9, published in late October 1939, has a serious message on its inside front cover. Signed "The Editors", but clearly written by publisher M. C. Gaines rather than Sheldon Mayer (who was born during World War I), it says "the writer of this message served as an officer in the American Expeditionary Forces in France, during the FIRST WORLD WAR, and has seen war at its worst! Now that war is here again in Europe, we hope that all our readers will support in thought and action, our President's Neutrality Proclamations, to the end that American boys (and girls) will not again have to undergo the horrors of war! Remember regardless of our parentage and nationality, we are ALL AMERICANS NOW and we must act, and think as Americans, first, last, and all the time!"

I'm not sure how well that went down with the creators of New York comic books at the time, a surprisingly large proportion of whom were the children of European Jewish immigrants and generally in favour of America joining the war. But anyway, Scribbly won't be bothered by the war for another couple of years - except the war between Miss Loomis and the principal, that is. After some instruction from Scribbly, the principal draws caricatures of Miss Loomis all over the walls, and when she blames Scribbly, he passes on his punishment of 5000 lines. Then the principal draws a comic strip, gets it published in Scribbly's employer's newspaper, starts acting and dressing like an artist, and eventually Miss Loomis gives up and becomes an artist too. And on the final page, Scribbly finds he can't draw in his quiet newspaper office until Dinky comes and starts annoying him, just like at home.

And now, we're definitely in the superhero age of comics, even at All-American! They launched their new title, Flash Comics, at this point - debuting not just the Flash, the fastest man alive, but also the high-flying Hawkman with his beautifully-drawn wings, the Whip (who never really caught on) and Johnny Thunder with his magic thunderbolt!


All-American #10 has another Scribbly cover, and Christmas-themed too, though it went on sale in late November. Scribbly gets a Christmas story too - with the school holidays coming up, he's looking forward to coming in to the newspaper office for the whole day! But the boss thinks Scribbly's been working so hard, he needs some time off. Fearing that the boss doesn't want him any more, Scrib phones him and applies for a job as a cartoonist, and is mightily relieved when the boss says he's already got one who's satisfactory enough!

But then the boss shows his Christmas spirit by arranging a holiday for Scribbly on a farm in the country, claiming he'd already bought a ticket for himself but found he couldn't go. Scribbly is delighted and sets off, followed by Dinky, who didn't want to miss the fun. The people on the farm arrange a special surprise for Dinky - a visit from Santa! And Dinky is really impressed that the grown-ups actually think their friend in costume is the real Santa, and plays along so as not to hurt their feelings...



All-American #11 debuts a new title picture for Scribbly (this one just says "Scribbly" in big colourful letters), but it still appears on all four pages, Sunday-strip style. Scrib and Dinky, still on the farm, get a letter from their mother, who's missing them and feeling lonely. "Gee - maybe we oughta go home and keep her company till we come back!" suggests Dinky. Scribbly has a better idea - he writes to Huey Hunkel and tells him to bring his family round to visit Mrs Jibbet.

And so Ma orders Gus and Herman to put their pants on, and gets to work baking a cake. Sisty wakes up Pop by pouring a bucket of water over him and when that fails telling him Ma says it's his turn to wash the dishes, and they set off in their rickety old car for the visit. And here come the thundering herd!
And once they've explained to Mrs Jibbet who they are, and eaten all the food in the house (not necessarily in that order), they decide to give her a lift up to the farm to bring the boys back. The overloaded jalopy arrives at the farm just in time to celebrate new year 1940! And then we get the important first meeting of Dinky and Sisty...
Those two will be a double-act for the rest of their time in the comics - which will outlast the rest of the Hunkels and go on into the third Scribbly era, the 1948 series!


We've now reached the point in comics history where Hourman makes his first appearance, over in Adventure Comics. And even All-American Comics is expanding its hero line, even if they still haven't introduced a 'real' superhero in this title - the inside front cover of #12 announces that from the next issue Hop Harrigan and Ultra-Man will each be getting an extra two pages (at the expense of some of the newspaper reprints). And with this issue, Scribbly drops the title panel at the top of each page, and becomes a comic-book-style four-page story!

Back home in the city again, Dinky is "recuperating from his experience with Sisty Hunkel", when she comes round to take him to the movies. He tries to barricade himself in his room, but there's no escape.
Sisty forces Dinky to go to a romantic movie with her, and is delighted when he falls into her arms (because he was just knocked unconscious by a passing man's umbrella). And on the way home, when he's taunted by his friends for going out with a girl, she beats them all up single-handed and then says she's glad she's got a man to protect her! Dinky's still trying to escape, until Sisty forces him to walk her home and kiss her goodbye - after the kiss, a dazed Dinky is starting to plan the wedding...


In All-American #13, Dinky begs a dime from Scribbly, and goes out and buys a diamond ring for Sisty. They go in and announce their engagement to the Hunkel family, who are delighted (after Herman wakes up Pop by emptying a fishbowl over his head). Dinky goes home, where Scribbly reminds him that the Hunkels are very nice, but they can be a little strange at times. This gives Dinky a nightmare of coming home from a hard day's work only to find that there's no food in the house, so Ma says they'll have to cook and eat Dinky instead. He wakes from the nightmare and phones them in the middle of the night to say the engagement's off! All in all, it's a little bit sinister, this one...


With All-American #14, we're back at the newspaper. The boss has promised to send a horse expert up to an east-coast dude ranch to prepare for an article, and once he establishes that Scribbly knows about horses, that's who he sends.

The people at the dude ranch, eager to make a good impression for the paper, go to pick Scribbly up from the station on horses and fire their guns to welcome the train in - which scares the horses into running away, so they all have to hitch-hike back to the ranch. Once there, Scribbly changes into the cowboy clothes the newspaper have sent him, and impresses the ranch people by climbing onto a horse backwards and jumping a fence without falling off. They're so thrilled to have a real horse expert there, they decide to enter him into the local rodeo, next week!


All-American #15, on sale in April 1940, includes among its features a full-page ad for the "Children's Crusade for Children", in which all American kids are urged to donate a penny for each year of their age to a charity for war refugee children from "Finland, Poland and the other war-torn countries of Europe". The war is starting to make itself known in the comic, but meanwhile Scribbly is still living it up on the ranch.

He sends a letter to his boss, complaining about everything that's happened so far, but the boss is delighted, and prepares a headline, "Kid Cartoonist Rides Bucking Bronco!" The Hunkels (Ma, Pop, Sisty and Huey) are all thrilled to read about it, but Mrs Jibbet is less overjoyed, and heads straight up to the ranch, dragging Dinky along with her, while Scribbly quickly reads "How to ride a horse, in ten easy lessons". Despite his protests, he's sent out to ride "Ol' Widow-Maker", accidentally sitting backwards again. But every time the horse tries to throw him off, he coincidentally lands with a thump back in the saddle again. While his mother shouts at him through a megaphone to get off that horse this minute, Ol' Widow-Maker eventually gets fed up and decides to just take it easy. For taming the unbeatable horse, Scribbly wins the prize trophy, and five hundred dollars!


All-American #16 is a very important one - the comic joins the superhero revolution at last, with the debut of the Green Lantern! He takes over the cover and the first eight pages of the comic, but comes along too late to make it into All-Star Comics, which launches this month. Ultra-Man and Red, White and Blue are the two features chosen from All-American to make it into the super-anthology. Both were soon dropped in favour of proper superheroes. Scribbly didn't get picked, but since Sheldon Mayer was one of the foremost people in charge of picking, that's not necessarily a bad sign for Scribbly's popularity with the readers. Green Lantern, though, resolves at the end of his first story to disguise himself with "a costume that is so bizarre that once I am seen I will never be forgotten!". A good plan, which will provide the inspiration for another superhero in a few months' time...

This is an interesting episode of Scribbly - it's all about Widow-Maker the horse! While Scrib goes to change his clothes and get rid of the silly cowboy hat, at his mother's insistence, the ranch owners muse that they'll have to get rid of Ol' Widow-Maker now he can't be a bucking bronco any more. The horse is furious at this suggestion - thinking to himself in thought-bubbles throughout this story, he resolves to show everyone he's still a tough guy! But then Scribbly, back in his normal clothes, comes and gives him a carrot to say goodbye, and Widow-Maker is deeply touched. When the men put him up for auction, he escapes and runs away. He sees a passing train with 'that nice kid with the glasses' inside, and follows it all the way to New York, swimming across the Hudson!

At home and at work, Scribbly is missing Widow-Maker, and is delighted to finally find him on the street! He even makes his way into the "Why Big Brudders Leave Home" panel at the end of the story!



Among the features in All-American #17 is the announcement of the winner of the big contest in #13, in which entrants had to write at least 100 words on "Why I'm glad to be an American" - and the rules specified that neatness counted as well as the words themselves! Brilliantly, the editors had to admit that they had mislaid the coupon with the name of the entrant whose (very neatly written and prettily-illustrated) essay had been chosen for the first prize, so they printed the letter and asked the boy or girl who wrote it to get in touch with them and tell them who they were. I really hope no confidence-tricksters tried to write in and claim the colossal $25 dollar first prize!

Meanwhile, Scribbly has brought a horse into the newspaper office, and the boss isn't pleased. He orders him to take Widow-Maker away. And they don't get a better reception back at home either, especially since Mrs Jibbet has just refused to let Dinky keep a dog he's found (it actually looks a lot like the little dog the Hunkels had in earlier stories...) and said Scribbly would never bring a stray animal home like that! So Scrib takes Widow-Maker round to the Hunkels', and although Pop puts his foot down for once and refuses to take the horse in, Gus has another brilliant money-making idea, and sets up a stand on the street offering horse-back rides around the block for only five cents! Scribbly and Widow-Maker leave, but it all works out okay in the end - Widow-Maker kicks an insurance salesman who's been bugging the editor of the newspaper, who gratefully offers to buy the horse his own stable. "Drop around next month for some REAL excitement!" urges the final caption!


Those first fifteen stories were the preamble to the superhero action I came here to tell you about. With All-American #18, Scribbly undergoes a significant change in style. Like so many other comics of the time, he's now in the superhero world, where gangsters and racketeers and fifth-columnists lurk around every corner! But to look on the bright side, they did find the name of the winner of that contest from last issue - congratulations to John Beecher, aged 13½, of Marshalltown.

Ma Hunkel has been refused any more credit from Schulz the grocer (that's the one she threw a flower pot at, a year ago!), since they owe him $96.32 already. But then in comes the character usually known as Herman, but repeatedly called Gus in this one, with five hundred dollars he's just won on the horses! Ma grabs the money and offers to buy the grocery store from Schulz, which he readily accepts. But when Ma opens the store as Hunkel's Groceries, it turns out that there's a protection racket in the neighbourhood. The hoods who try to extort money from Ma are even drawn in a more realistic crime comic style!

That doesn't stop Sheldon Mayer drawing a brilliant sight gag - Ma throws a flowerpot at the bad guys, and Dumpty's hat gets knocked down over his eyes. When we see them reporting to their boss he's still trying to pull it off his head, and then the next time we see him, he's cut eyeholes in it to see! And for the first time, but by no means the last, we see that gangsters and grenades are no match for the likes of Dinky...

The boss sends his thugs back again, in a new car, but while they're nervously trying to persuade Ma to give them the six bucks, Sisty and Dinky investigate the car and find a tommy gun. But when Ma sends the bad guys running away again, they don't notice they've driven away with the kids locked in the back! To be continued!


All-American #19 features the debut of another new super-hero - the mighty Atom! The Green Lantern still keeps the cover and the front pages, though. And meanwhile, in Scribbly, we're starting to be in need of a hero too - Ma and Scribbly realise that the gangsters have driven off with Dinky and Sisty, and must have kidnapped them! Scribbly runs home to tell his mother, who at first refuses to believe him, but is eventually horrified!

Meanwhile, Sisty is holding the gangsters up with the tommy gun, and ordering them around. Rather than getting themselves driven back home like Dinky suggests, Sisty decides she'll capture the whole crooked gang single-handed, and orders the bad guys to take them to the big boss. They do, but a bump in the road knocks the kids back into the rumble seat again, without the gun. When the gangsters arrive back at their headquarters, the boss is furious with them for kidnapping children like that, and even more so when the kids run off upstairs and break up the illegal gambling operation (turning out the lights, smashing light bulbs and shouting "Cheezit, th' cops!" They throw bad guys down the stairs by dropping marbles, and fight the terrified villains off with improvised weapons. To be continued again - we're getting into epic hero storylines here!


In All-American #20, the Hunkels and Jibbets have gone to the police, who are being very unhelpful. Ma insists that Tubbs Torponi is responsible for the kidnappings, but the cops refuse to do anything about it without any evidence. While Pop drives them back home, Scribbly and Huey tell Ma about how a superhero like the Green Lantern would deal with the situation...
I guess they've read all about him in All-American Comics, right? The Green Lantern's only had five adventures so far, including the one on the pages immediately before this Scribbly story, and he's so far only been seen by villains (who almost always die at the end of these early stories, though GL doesn't deliberately try to kill them!), and there's not a single person as yet who knows he's got a secret identity of an ordinary guy (Alan Scott's his name, and you can't get much more ordinary than that), so if we're thinking in an in-universe way, it's very unlikely someone like Scribbly would be talking about him...

But of course, that's thinking in a much too modern way! We're still a couple of months away from the comic that introduces the idea of superheroes existing in a shared universe! And even when we get there, as we'll see, they all still know that they're characters in a comic book!

Anyway, Ma is intrigued by the idea of a secret identity, and when they get home, she wanders off as if in a daze. Meanwhile, Sisty and Dinky are still fighting off the bad guys, hitting them over the heads with bottles and doing no end of damage. Eventually, Tubbs gets hold of the kids, only to be hit over the head from behind by a mysterious costumed figure! Who could it be?


All-American #21 picks up where we left off, with our newest superhero in action...
He beats up the bad guys, with a bit of help from Dinky and Sisty, then calls the police and announces himself as the Red Tornado! No, not Tomato, TORNADO! Then he departs, leaving the kids, armed with bottles, to guard the unconscious thugs. And so Sisty and Dinky are returned happily to their families, telling them all about how they were rescued by a mystery man, about fifteen feet tall, with a head made of iron! Pop Hunkel doesn't believe a word of it, and Mrs Jibbet tells them that the police chief told her he'd captured the villains single-handed. Ma Hunkel isn't terribly impressed to hear this, and goes out for another walk.


The Red Tornado goes round to the police station and teaches them a lesson, too. It's a great costume! Red long underwear, with green shorts, yellow slippers, yellow top with a tornado logo, purple gloves, black cape and helmet made from a cooking pot. It's iconic, and much imitated, over the years. I'm umming and ahhing about writing an article like this about Tex Thomson next - you'll see another fine example of this kind of outfit if I do!

And yes, it's Ma Hunkel all along. Now here's a good trivia question - who was the first female superhero in comics? Fantomah generally gets the nod these days, but come on, she's a jungle goddess, not a superhero! (Gotta love that Fletcher Hanks art and storytelling, though). The Woman In Red? Well, yes, she's got the costume and the mask, but she's not a real baddie-bashing, rock'em sock'em crimefighter. My vote goes to the Red Tomato, excuse me, Red Tornado! What a hero!

And, since she's universally assumed to be a man by all the people she meets, Ma is unanimously agreed to be the first female-to-male cross-dressing hero (yes, there was already a male-to-female, the extremely weird Madam Fatal, who first disguised himself as an old lady to fight crime six months before Ma put the pot on her head). The costume certainly fools her family - Huey and Scribbly are left to read the papers and think this Red Tornado is quite a guy!

In fact, Huey Hunkel never does find out that his mother's a mystery man. He and Pop, and Scribbly's mother, all fade out of the comics after this point - Huey gets a couple more appearances, Mrs Jibbet returns eventually, but Pop is never seen again. I'm sure he dealt with it in his usual way, sleeping on the sofa in his vest, but it's strange that when the Ma becomes the central focus of the Scribbly strip, her husband and son stop appearing in it.


All-American #22 opens with another dramatic scene of the Red Tornado confronting a butcher who's been overcharging his customers, threatening him with a flowerpot. The new hero in Scribbly's neighbourhood is making headlines, and Scribbly's boss gives him the task of finding the hero and drawing his picture! Scrib goes round to Ma Hunkel's, complaining about his boss's unreasonable demands, and Ma decides to do him a favour, changing into costume, climbing out of one window and back into another...

You have to remember, this was November 1940. This kind of joke about the difficulties of being a costumed hero was really quite new and original! It's the kind of thing that really hadn't been done very much before at all - heck, even this month's Green Lantern story (bad guys kidnap a boxer's wife in order to make him take a dive in the big fight, and the hero has to rescue her and bring her to the ringside just in time to call her husband's name and inspire him to win!) must have found an audience of at least some kids who hadn't seen it before! It must have been a great time to be a comic-reader.

Scribbly gets the drawing and takes it to his boss, who rushes it into print ("Quick, Joe, have this blown up and shoot it to cover th' whole front page! Th' HECK with Europe! Kill it, and make room fer THIS!") but doesn't even say thank you to Scribbly. When Ma hears about this, the Red Tornado pays a visit to the boss, and next thing we know, Scribbly's got a raise - his pay goes up to fifteen dollars a week!



And that's not the only comic for fans of the Tornado this month! Advertised as "The most exciting comic book ever published" in that issue of All-American, it's All-Star Comics No. 3 - that famous first meeting of the Justice Society of America! The eight greatest heroes in the world, except the ones who are too popular to need to appear in All-Star comics, get together for dinner, and before the storytelling starts, the Atom spares a thought for absent friends:
It's a little bit strange that the Atom knows the Red Tomato as "Scribbly's Pal". Comic devotees over the years have always had to cover their ears and go la la la I'm not listening at parts of this comic, when the heroes all talk like they're well aware that they're just characters in comic books, but this one is actually quite easy to hand-wave - obviously the Atom reads the Morning Dispatch, is a fan of Scribbly's cartoons, and has just seen his front page picture of the Red Tornado! See, it all makes sense, in-universe!

And of course she's not going to miss the Justice Society meeting, even if they obviously didn't invite her!
Naturally, the Justice Society know she's a woman, and even that her name is Mrs Hunkel - in issue #11, Hawkman explains to Wonder Woman that they already know her secret identity, saying "the Justice Society manages to learn many things!" Which is presumably a polite way of saying "Dr Fate uses his magic powers to spy on you". You don't have to acknowledge that they know they're comic book heroes!

And look, even if they are, it's perfectly plausible that they could appear in monthly comics and still keep their identities a secret from the bad guys! Comics were exclusively read by children in those days! No adult would ever be aware of anything that's been printed in a comic book! Anyway, enough silliness. Let's get back to All-American Comics!



With All-American #23, the title of the strip becomes "Scribbly and the Red Tornado" - at first, Scribbly's name is in the bigger font, but every month it shrinks down, while the words "Red Tornado" get bigger and more prominent. Huey Hunkel shows up for a brief appearance here, reading the newspaper articles about the Red Tornado with Scribbly. Ma, though, claims not to believe a word of it.

Then she changes into costume to stop a big bully hitting Sisty, but is then chased by the police and runs into the zoo to escape them. Seeing a gorilla in a cage, she has an idea - and when the police catch up, they find Ma in the cage, saying the Red Tornado locked her in there and set the gorilla free! The cops see the Tornado swinging from a tree, landing on a camel and riding away. They give chase, but then the zookeeper calls for the missing gorilla, and unmasks the Red Tornado. The police conclude that the Red Tornado was a gorilla all along...


All-American #24 boasts not just a larger namecheck for the Red Tornado, but the debut of two new heroes!
Scribbly's boss insists on making it headline news that the Red Tornado was just a gorilla that someone dressed up as a hoax. Back at the grocery store, Ma doesn't mind, until Scribbly points out that now all the racketeers the Tornado ran out of town will come back. Ma sees the point, gets into costume and goes to pay a visit to the newspaper. But unfortunately, when she's about to climb in the window, she slips and falls, plummeting down towards the ground and getting caught by the pants on  seventh-floor flagpole.

The paper is printed, and sure enough the racketeers immediately come back and start causing trouble. Something clearly needs to be done, and Sisty Hunkel has an idea - grabbing Dinky and quickly getting to work making costumes, the Cyclone Kids are soon ready to go into action!
The kids are soon cornered by the bad guys, but luckily just at that moment the newspaper boss throws a cigar butt out of the window, it falls and burns through Ma's pants, and she falls down, right on top of the gangsters! A new edition of the paper announces that the Red Tornado wasn't a hoax after all!

And this edition of All-American announces that two new heroes are coming - next month will see the debut of Dr Mid-Nite, and the following month we'll meet Sargon the Sorceror! A year ago, there were no superheroes in All-American Comics at all; now there's practically nothing else! And every other comic book in America was like that, too!



All-American #25 opens with Scribbly reading the latest newspaper article about the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids and wishing he could learn their secret identities. The local gangsters are also reading the papers, and deciding that they need to stop all this publicity for the heroes - they decide to start by kidnapping that famous cartoonist, Scribbly! So they grab him and bundle him into a car, witnessed by Sisty and Dinky. She drags him quickly back to her bedroom to change into their costumes, explaining that all but one of the roads around there are closed at the moment, so they know where the car's going and can get there quickly by cutting through the park. Unfortunately, Sisty didn't think to close the door of her room, and Ma sees them changing, and learns that they're the Cyclone Kids!

The kids climb trees and drop a bottle in front of the gangsters' car when it comes along, puncturing a tyre. And when the bad guys get out one by one to see what's going on, they drop bottles on their heads, knocking them out. Scribbly, in the back seat, takes a gun from one baddie's pocket and clubs him over the head with it, and the last villain runs away and bumps into the Red Tornado. Scribbly gets a great scoop for the paper, but is surprised to see that Ma, Sisty and Dinky have already guessed what it is...




The superheroes have totally taken over All-American Comics by now - of the newspaper funnies reprints that made up nearly the whole comic two years ago, all that remains in #26 is a couple of pages of Mutt and Jeff. Even Hop Harrigan has taken to wearing a mask and costume as part of his latest storyline, competing with the Green Lantern, the Atom, Dr Mid-Nite, Sargon the Sorceror and of course the Red Tornado. Throw in the good old-fashioned non-costumed adventures of Red, White and Blue and two pages of the commercially-sponsored Popsicle Pete and you've got a whole lot of bang for your ten cents!

In our Scribbly story, the streets are full of cops, looking for an escaped lunatic. And when Scrib meets a friendly old man who's keen to avoid the police, he realises that's who it must be! He takes him into the grocery store and asks Ma to keep the madman busy while he runs to fetch a cop. But the old man explains that he's quite sane, and enemy spies are trying to have him locked up so that he can't give the new weapon he's invented to the US government! Ma is impressed, and so are Sisty and Dinky - when the cops arrive to take the man away, they all quickly change into costume, and go out to do their bit for Uncle Sam!

Between them, the heroes hijack the police wagon and escape the chasing motorbike squad by driving off the edge of the dock and hiding underneath. There, the man gives his name as Remington P Flutewhistle, and explains that his great invention is to issue a file to soldiers and train them to file down the points of enemy bullets before they hit their target. He's planning to work on a bullet-slower-downer to make it a bit easier for them. The Red Tornado returns him to the asylum.


Maybe all those costumed heroes were making the comic a little bit too serious - the Green Lantern story in All-American #27 features the debut of his sidekick Doiby Dickles, short, fat, funny-looking cabbie with a Bronx accent. The final panel assures us that "Yessir, kids - from now on, human, lovable Doiby Dickles will be a constant companion of the Green Lantern! Read their exploits every month in All-American Comics - you'll get a thrill and a laugh at the same time!"

Much like the comic relief bits in Shakespeare's tragedies, the comedy sidekicks of 1940s comics are very out of fashion with current audiences. Modern readers tend to take the view that the Green Lantern was a lot better before Doiby came along, but you have to remember that back then, comics were expected to be comical, and the 'dark' stories of the early superhero age just went that little bit too far to suit the tastes of the time.

That's not a problem for our hero, the Red Tornado, of course! As we begin this episode, she and the Cyclone Kids are beating up a trio of crooked gamblers, to get back a hundred dollars that Uncle Gus has lost to them (he'd told everyone he got held up by robbers). They return the money, and then Ma decides she might as well let the kids in on her secret identity, seeing as she already knows theirs. When they go back home, they find that Gus has already left, to attend to some more business (going straight back to the gambling den for another game). With a sigh, the heroes get back to work again, Ma figuring that it'd teach him a lesson to be cleaned out, but they could use that hundred bucks around the house. Dinky muses "Y'know, bein' a scourge of evil an' a perteckter of th' weak an' helpless is gettin' t'be a darned nuisance!"

They burst in on the gamblers again (the Tornado falls flat on her face trying to climb through the window) and beat them up again, but can't find any money around the place. It turns out that Gus won all the money off them, since he had the sense to bring his own dice along this time! Ma resolves to just mind her own business from now on.


All-American #28 opens with Scribbly bursting into the Hunkel home to announce that the Red Tornado is on the radio! He turns it on and the hero starts talking, advertising Blinko's Shaving Cream. Scribbly is enthralled, but Ma is decidedly unimpressed, gets her hat and goes out for a walk. Soon, the real Red Tornado bursts into the radio building to find an impostor in full costume talking into the microphone. She beats up the faker, aided by the Cyclone Kids, who had heard the radio show and didn't want to be left out. The fake staggers away, and the real deal gets to talk to the listeners and spell out her philosophy for everyone:
And when they get home, they find Uncle Gus recovering from his injuries on the sofa - guess who was inside the impostor Red Tornado costume?


The title panel of All-American #29 sums up the Red Tornado's raison d'etre perfectly. It introduces a story in which Ma, Sisty, Dinky, Gus and Scribbly go to a fair, and Gus is persuaded to try to win fifty dollars by lasting one round with a boxer. Ma states that Gus is her brother-in-law in this one - the exact relationships of the Hunkel family are never precisely spelt out, but it seems most probable that Pop, Gus and Herman (whose surname is given as Hunkel in another episode) are three brothers.

Anyway, once the audience have all paid their dimes to watch the big fight, the carnival barker trips Gus up, and he's knocked out straight away. The Red Tornado has to get involved, and she takes care of the boxing champ before Sisty and Dinky even manage to get their costumes on. Ma gives Gus the prize money, then takes it back from him to pay his rent.


All-American #30 is a perfect example of what's great about the Red Tornado stories. The landlord comes to collect the rent, and Ma asks him when he's going to paint the place and get her a new stove. But he just tells her she can't expect luxury for $30 a month, and leaves her fuming. Despite Sisty's urging, Ma is strangely reluctant to throw the landlord down the stairs and teach him a lesson, so Sisty decides the Cyclone Kids will have to take matters into their own hands. She calls Dinky away from a game of marbles with his friends, leaving them shaking their heads sadly at another good man gone wrong, and get into costume.

Later, Scribbly comes round to the Hunkels' to look for Dinky, but he's not around. Ma gets a phone call saying the landlord's gone missing, and Scribbly says he was sure he heard Dinky's voice coming from an old deserted house. Ma starts to worry, and ushers Scribbly back to his own place. While Ma's on her way to the house, the Cyclone Kids sneak back to the apartment with the trussed-up captive landlord. There, they put an apron on him and force him to use the faulty stove and water-spraying sink tap, and bring down the ceiling plaster on his head for good measure before letting him go. Ma is left none the wiser, but a few days later she gets a new stove delivered, a reduction in the rent and a promise to get the whole place fixed up. See, this is the kind of thing Superman started out doing before he got mixed up with the Ultra-Humanite and Luthor! Fixing the real problems in life!


With All-American #31, Dinky's developed a lisp. Well, he's a growing boy, he's probably got new front teeth. But that's the least of his problems when he sees that "Thithty" is walking around on the arm of snobby Claude, who talks intelligently about the dimensional properties of the atom and turns his nose up at the thought of Dinky's gumdrops. He goes home, where Scribbly gives him some big brotherly advice.
And so Dinky gets into his Cyclone Kid costume and hides in a dustbin outside the Hunkel place until Claude and Sisty come home. After Claude has said goodnight ("parting is such sweet sorrow"), Dinky jumps out and socks him one, but rather than staying around for a good honest fight, Claude screams with terror and runs back to Ma Hunkel, wailing that a big giant monster attacked him on the street! Ma assumes he's imagining it and takes him home, but Sisty believes Claude's telling the truth, and needs the help of the Cyclone Kids! She phones Dinky, who's delighted to come around the next day for a hero mission, but a little less thrilled when he finds it's to help Claude. Claude is also less than delighted to see two 'monsters' running towards him, and flees to the grocery store, where Ma realises there must be something in it after all. She goes and changes into her Red Tornado costume, only for Claude to believe he's surrounded by costumed attackers and hit them all with a wooden plank before diving through the closed glass door and escaping. When Ma, Sisty and Dinky go round to Claude's house the next day, with clubs hidden behind their backs, they find he's left the country. Too many mystery men around here!

It's back to school time again in All-American #32, and Sisty and Dinky find that their teacher this year is Scribbly's old enemy Miss Loomis! Possibly she's started teaching younger kids than she did before - I've always got the impression that Dinky's more than two years younger than Scribbly (they do seem to be ageing in real time, though - unlike the Atom, who remains a perpetual college sophomore).  But anyway, she recognises the surname Jibbet and immediately unfairly identifies Dinky as a troublemaker. When Sisty passes him a reassuring note, Miss Loomis pounces and orders poor innocent Dinky to stay behind after school! Sisty resolves to get the Cyclone Kids into action, and tries to sneak Dinky's costume to him through the window - he whispers to her to go away, but Miss Loomis hears him say 'Thith-ty' and writes a note to Ma Hunkel.

Ma is appalled to be told her little darling is a possible menace to society (Scribbly also disagrees, mainly with the word 'possible'), and bursts into Miss Loomis's classroom to complain. Ma gives her full name here - Abigail Mathilda Hunkel. When Miss Loomis suggests using psychology, Ma assumes that means some kind of murderous weapon, and the discussion doesn't go well. She storms out, goes home and puts on her Red Tornado costume, but refuses to let Sisty and Dinky come with her ("Ye'll have to get that Cyclone Kids business outta your head until ye learn how to behave yourself in school, young lady!"), leaving them sulking at home. But when they get to school (late) the next morning, they find Miss Loomis sporting a black eye, and being all sweetness and light to the little dears!


Scribbly opens All-American #33 by showing Ma a newspaper article about a baby-faced bandit about to be put on trial. Apparently he swears he's innocent, and could find the real criminal if they let him out of jail for two days. Ma thinks he looks like he's telling the truth, though Scribbly and Dinky are both sceptical. But Ma gets into costume and takes the Cyclone Kids to a roof overlooking the jail, where they see the baby-face breaking out, armed with a machine gun.

Still convinced he's innocent, the Red Tornado tries to persuade him she's on his side, but he just kidnaps her at gunpoint and takes her to his boss, boasting that he's gonna be public enemy number one some day. The Cyclone Kids follow, and launch a rescue, beating up the whole gang. Dinky (probably - they do have identical costumes!) shouts "Keep 'em flying!", the newly coined slogan of the US Army Air Corps - less than six months old at this point, but clearly already taking America by storm. It shows up a LOT in superhero comics during the war! Back home, Ma reads the latest news and tells Scribbly you should never judge someone by their looks.


The introductory caption in All-American #34 tells us that the Red Tornado & co are none other than Ma Hunkel, pres., Sisty Hunkel, vice pres., and Dinky Jibbet, office boy. But of course nobody knows this, and there's an ad in the paper offering $500 dollars for information on the heroes' secret identities. Uncle Gus sees it as a good way to make some money, and decides to go down to the address, make something up, and claim the cash. Scribbly, who's barely made more than a cameo in his own series for many months now, decides to do something this time, and follows Gus in disguise (trenchcoat, big hat and fake beard).

The ad, naturally, was placed by crooks, as part of a plan of their boss, the Professor. He's told them that the Red Tornado himself will probably respond to the ad, since that's the kind of show-off he is, and the crooks will recognise him out of costume if they just look for "a fat sort of a guy with a funny walk". So of course when they see Gus approaching, they know that's who it must be, and fling that universal deadly weapon, a flowerpot, at his head. But it misses, and hits Scribbly, who loses his memory and staggers into the house, where the crooks believe him to be the Professor in disguise to avoid the police.

Interpreting his concussed babbling as instructions, they knock Gus unconscious with another flowerpot, and when the real Professor gets there, knock Scribbly out too. But luckily, by that time the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids have decided to go and sort things out, and do so. When the dust has settled, Scribbly is still very confused about the whole thing, and Gus is happily taking all the credit.

And speaking of credit, the prize of a dollar for suggesting this month's Why Big Brudders Leave Home goes to "little Billy Finger" of Albany. Bill Finger was the writer of Green Lantern (and, uncredited, Batman too). Maybe he needed a little extra pocket money.


All-American Comics #35 came out more or less simultaneously with Pearl Harbor. Obviously, it took a while for the comics to catch up with the reality - December 1941 comics tell Christmas stories without any hint of world war - and Scribbly was doubtless a low priority in the frantic readjustment of the contents over the following month or so to reflect the fact that America was now at war. As an editor, Sheldon Mayer liked to have three issues of each comic ready and waiting to go to print at any one time, and he probably had rather more Scribbly stories than that on the shelf, drawn whenever he had a spare moment. It must have taken a fair bit of re-writing and re-drawing.

But this month, we open at the newspaper office. Wealthy Mrs Van Dander, whose husband's advertising is a main source of income for the paper, tells the editor that she's going to hold a Christmas party for poor children, and expects extensive coverage. She also asks him to find some poor children for her, since she forgot to do that part. The boss naturally passes the task onto Scribbly, who passes it on to Dinky. He and Sisty quickly round up all the kids they can find and descend on the Van Dander estate, followed by Ma, who worries that they're up to no good. At the mansion, Mrs Van Dander gives the children each an ice cream, poses for a picture and delivers a touching speech for Scribbly to write down, then tells the butler to throw the children out again. At this, the Red Tornado bursts in and orders her to have a real party! She bakes a cake herself, since Mrs Van Dander doesn't know how, and sends the Cyclone Kids out with the butler to bring back a car full of toys for the kids. It turns out to be fun for everyone, even Mrs Van Dander!


Wonder Woman is firmly established by now as the latest big thing in comics - her fourth story appears in Sensation Comics #3 this month, complete with heavyweight endorsements in the advertising, in the form of letters from Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. They soon added the genuinely awesome Alice Marble to the list of celebrity athlete supporters, supposedly as associate editor of Wonder Woman's solo comic when it launched six months later. Sheldon Mayer still did the actual editing of the entirely male-produced stories, naturally. And for all WW's continuing popularity, I still do think the Red Tornado is a much better specimen of the female hero, for reasons I'll go into at more length at the end of this epic chronology...

But in All-American #36 (still war-free except for a quick rewriting of the Green Lantern story to say that the rival racing driver poisoning his opponents was in the pay of a foreign power), a big bully is picking on Dinky, and Scribbly steps in to defend his little brother. He thinks he wins the fight too, thanks to Sisty dropping a flowerpot on the bully's head from an upstairs window. When the bully comes back with his whole gang, Scribbly takes off his glasses and challenges them all to a fight, which he wins thanks to the intervention of the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids. But Scribbly's ego is soon deflated again when Dinky shows he can beat him up.


All-American #37 is more in the wartime spirit - not only advertising a 15-cent handbook on air raid preparedness (even in New York, which was clearly too far away for any enemies to want to cross the ocean and bomb it, they were concerned about air raids) but filling Hop Harrigan's All-American Flying Club page with a promise of the same kind of thing. Scribbly, though, is still dealing with everyday affairs - or rather, he's making his usual two panels of background appearance while the Hunkel family get up to their hi-jinks - the title page also re-states the Red Tornado's priorities nicely.

Uncle Herman, who we haven't seen for a year and a half, has qualified as a private detective through a corresponence course, and immediately goes out to try to find a crime to investigate. He heads to the Van Dander estate, since rich people are always having their diamonds stolen, and becomes suspicious when Mrs Van Dander and the butler are obviously worried to see a detective! He snoops around, and thinks he's discovered a murder! Obviously, his first step is to call Ma and gloat that she was wrong to be sceptical earlier, and so the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids come to investigate. It turns out that Mr Van Dander had just got drunk, had smashed up his bedroom and fallen unconscious, and his wife was desperate to keep it out of the newspapers.


Interestingly, All-American #38 doesn't feature the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids, except in the title panel - it's still all about Ma, Sisty and Dinky, but they don't get into costume! A personal ad appears in the newspaper from a maiden lady who invites the Red Tornado to marry her and promises to share all her plentiful money with him. The Tornado herself isn't tempted somehow, but a more unscrupulous villain sees the ad and gets a villainous idea...
I do love the depiction of the moustache-twirling bad guy. When another announcement appears in the paper saying that the Red Tornado is going to marry the wealthy Penelope Picklepuss (society glamour girl of 1910) and will announce his secret identity and give up crimefighting on his wedding day, Ma decides to sort things out. She, Sisty and Dinky turn up on Miss Picklepuss's doorstep, claiming that their car has broken down, and insist on helping with the housework while she gets dressed to greet her fiance. When he arrives, Ma introduces herself as Miss Picklepuss's sister, and it's a classic cartoon-style farce as she and the kids torment him while pretending to try to help. Eventually the wealthy woman sees him threatening the innocent kiddies and throws him out, even if he IS the Red Tornado!


The war finally catches up with Scribbly in All-American #39 (published in April 1942). Well, I say "Scribbly", but for the first time he's entirely absent from this issue's "Scribbly and the Red Tornado" strip - not even his usual brief cameo! Not even a "Why Big Brudders Leave Home" panel at the end, either - its usual space is taken up by Ma encouraging people to buy war bonds and stamps. And that's the theme of the main story, too, just like so many other American comics of the time...

Gus and Herman burst into the Hunkel home with Gus in a raging temper, because they won't let him in the army, even with his proud war record (two days in a training camp before the armistice). Herman pokes fun, but both men get evasive when Ma tells them to buy war bonds and contribute to their country in that way. They scuttle out to the Oddfellows Pool and Poker Club, while Ma and the kids get into their costumes. The Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids burst in on the club and take over the management, hitting anyone who disagrees - they confiscate all the money and use it to buy bonds for the gamblers!


All-American #40 tells us that gangsters and racketeers are avoiding the Red Tornado's neighbourhood now, so for want of anything better to do with their time, Ma, Sisty and Dinky go with Scribbly to the wax museum. They're pleased to see that there are new waxworks of the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids, and boo and hiss appropriately at the models of Napoleon, Caesar and Hitler, before Dinky accidentally knocks Alexander the Great onto Ma's head. When she opens her eyes again, she sees that the would-be world-conquerors have come alive - they shut Scribbly in an iron maiden and threaten to throw the others to the lions. Our heroes naturally fight them off, dressing up in their own waxworks' superhero costumes, but then Ma wakes up and finds she dreamed the whole thing.

And then after the usual four pages, there's a whole extra page proclaiming that the "Why Big Brudders Leave Home" panel will now be replaced by war slogans sent in by readers - you can still win a dollar, but now in the form of a defense stamp! The first slogan appears in this same issue, credited to the presumably psychic Bobby Anderson of Arlington, VA.


In All-American #41, there's a full-page message to the boys and girls of America from Henry Morgenthau, jr, the secretary of the treasury, urging them all to buy one ten-cent savings stamp a week. You'd think that would have made a dent in the sales of comics, but actually those were still going up and up and up - comic books had become the favourite gift to send to young American soldiers away from home for the first time!

This month, they could see Scribbly and his friends refusing to let Dinky and Sisty play baseball with them because they're too young. But when Scribbly immediately hits the ball through a window and the house owner (sporting a bump on the head) refuses to give it back, Sisty says she can get the Cyclone Kids to get the ball, if the big kids will let her and Dinky play! So, sure enough, the Cyclone Kids barge into the house to retrieve the ball, accidentally breaking a vase and causing havoc until Dinky has to phone Ma and ask her to rescue them. When the Red Tornado arrives, the man explains what happened, and she drags the kids away. When Sisty and Dinky come back to the baseball game, they've had a sound spanking and aren't in the mood to play any more.


Another unusual one in All-American #42 - narrated by a puppy, who tells the tale of how he was bought from a pet shop by a crook who trained him to retrieve a sock from behind the stove, then abandoned him outside Ma Hunkel's grocery store. Naturally, he's adopted and named Runt by Ma, Sisty and Dinky, but at night, the criminal comes to the window and encourages him to fetch the sock. Sure enough, there's one behind the stove, and Runt brings it back, only for the crook to take him and it back to his hideout.

It's a brilliant scheme, he boasts, and although Ma's life savings only amount to $103.26, the gang can buy a lot of dogs, train them in the same way, and make a fortune! But Runt knows that he heard Ma wake up and come after him, and sure enough, the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids burst in and clean up the crooks!

But depite the promise of the final panel, sadly Runt the Mystery Dog doesn't go on to become a regular member of the team. He's in the title panel, in costume, for the next two issues, but then only makes a couple of background appearances as a normal dog...


There's a secret message from Superman on the inside front cover of All-American #43, comprehensible only to kids who had paid their ten cents and joined the Supermen of America club, or who could otherwise crack the very simple substitution cipher that was Code Neptune No. 7. The other superheroes soon got into the act, and the non-Superman comics in the DC group started sharing secret messages for members of the Junior Justice Society of America (which cost a whole fifteen cents to join!), in which each hero of the JSA had their own code, involving Greek letters rather than just swapping one letter with another! I can just imagine new members eagerly consulting their secret code wheel to see what their favourite hero was saying, only to find they were being told not to walk in puddles, because shoes are rationed. This Superman message was typical of the kind of thing in comics at the time - it reads "Slap the Japs with stamps and bonds!"

The Scribbly strip, on the other hand, only ever focused on Germany as the enemy, and more often than not its war-themed comics understandably had nothing to do with foreign conflicts at all, concentrating on the importance of doing your bit on the home front. This month's adventure is a typical example. Scribbly's boss is writing editorials denouncing Mr Pillbury, boss of the Sweet-Mint Seltzo-Drink company for hoarding sugar, and Pillbury is sending thugs round to the newspaper to try to intimidate him into changing his tune. So when Scribbly tells Ma about it, the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids give Pillbury a taste of his own medicine, and threaten him ominously until he agrees to turn his sugar hoard over to the government!



Junior Justice Society secret codes start appearing in All-American #44... and the Atom immediately gives the whole secret away to any sharp-minded non-members by sending a secret message saying "Have you joined the Junior Justice Society of America" underneath those same words in non-code. What were you thinking, Atom? This is exactly the kind of blunder that led to the Enigma code being cracked!
There were thirteen JJSA codes, created by rotating the secret code wheel - one for each full-time and honorary member of the Justice Society, so there was no code for Hourman, already on his permanent "leave of absence", and of course none for the Red Tornado, who never showed her face (or cooking pot) at a Justice Society meeting again after the pants incident.

Meanwhile, there's more cross-dressing in this month's Red, White and Blue, when a Nazi spy disguised as a woman is beaten up by our heroes' girlfriend Doris, disguised as a man. The disguise fools Blooey, who punches Doris in the back of the head before he realises his mistake, and meanwhile in the Atom story his girlfriend Mary is hit in the face by the bad guy too. Bad month for hero women, but the Red Tornado story strikes a real blow for gender equality to make up for it!

Sisty is surprised to get a phone call from Dinky saying he's joined up - this is no time for a red-blooded man not to be in uniform! But when he arrives at the Hunkel home, Ma and Sisty are relieved and amused to see that he's only joined the boy scouts. Dinky insists that there's nothing funny about it, and his argument is enough to convince Sisty that she wants to join the scouts too! Dinky raises the obvious objection, but Sisty's having none of it - she goes with him to the scout meeting and demands that they let her join. Dinky, naturally, backs her up when the other scouts object to her!
The scoutmaster decides to gently change her mind by proposing a game of football and telling the boys to be just rough enough to make Sisty realise the boy scouts are no place for a girl. As Scribbly passes the community centre, he hears what sounds like a full-scale war going on, and when he tells this to Ma, she suddenly worries! Knowing Sisty, but also thinking that even she can't stand up to all the boys at once, Ma gets into costume and the Red Tornado goes to rescue her poor daughter! But when she arrives, it turns out that Sisty came out on top after all...



The fourth wall is well and truly demolished in All-American #45. Ma looks at the title panel and complains that it's the same every month, and someone should come up with something different. She's too busy dressing up in a stupid costume and fighting crime herself, of course. Dinky says Scribbly could think of something, but Sisty reminds him that Scribbly doesn't know their secret. "Yeah, that's stupid too - why doesn't somebody tell him?" asks Ma. "Don't ask me," Sisty replies, "I don't write this stuff! Ask Mayer - he's the guy!"

Mayer shouts at them from off-panel to get on with the story, and eventually Ma gets fed up, bends the panel border out of the way and yells for him to come and talk to them. Sure enough, Mayer does, and Ma gives him a piece of her mind...

I do wonder if Sheldon Mayer had been reading "At Swim-Two-Birds", which came out in 1939. The relationship between writer and characters is very similar. But anyway, Mayer goes on a rant about how the Green Lantern and Superman never complain to their creators like this, and eventually decides to commit suicide by jumping off the top of page 4!
But the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids save the day, of course!


In All-American #46, Scribbly is ordered by his boss to produce some more sketches of the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids. He starts to ponder who they could be, and suddenly realises that their outlines exactly match Ma, Sisty and Dinky! He runs out, telling the boss to hold the front page! Later, Ma finds a note on her front door saying that Scribbly has been kidnapped, and demanding five thousand dollars. Confused by who would think she's in a position to pay that much money, Ma glances out the window and sees Scribbly hiding behind a dustbin, waiting to spot Ma emerging as the Red Tornado. So instead, she and the kids fill their costumes with rags, and the kids swing them on ropes from the roof, so it looks to Scribbly like the terrific trio have come in response to Ma's shouts for help. Scribbly apologises to Ma, who goes out to tell the heroes not to bother, and comes back walking with the rag-stuffed Red Tornado, held up by the Cyclone Kids. Scribbly is convinced, and goes back to the office to sheepishly tell his boss that his scoop is that the mystery heroes definitely aren't his little brother, his friend and her mother.


All-American #47 brings us up to the end of 1942 - Hourman is making his last appearance over in Adventure Comics, but the Superman DC Comics Group is at its peak - they now have twenty comics on their list (ten of them produced by the All-American offices of Gaines and Mayer), and it looks like the sky's the limit! The full selection from the inside front page of this month's comics consists of eight monthly anthology comics (Action, Adventure, Detective, More Fun and Star-Spangled from DC, All-American, Flash and Sensation from AA), six bi-monthly titles (solo titles for DC's Superman and Batman, AA's All-Flash, Wonder Woman and good old Mutt & Jeff and their crowning glory All-Star, starring the Justice Society), and six quarterly (DC's solo title for the Boy Commandos, their own super-team the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Leading Comics, and the super-anthology World's Finest, 96 pages of Superman, Batman and a whole host of other popular characters; AA's newly-launched counterpart Comic Cavalcade, with Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern, plus the solo title for GL, and MC Gaines's pet project, Picture Stories From The Bible).

Scribbly in fact appears on the back cover of this month's first issue of Comic Cavalcade. The front depicts the three lead heroes running a race, and the wraparound back cover shows the other characters chasing behind them - Wildcat, Red, White and Blue, the Ghost Patrol, and Scribbly and Dinky. The Scribbly story inside, though, "reprinted by request", is the one from All-American #1.

It all looks rosy for American comics, and the DC group in particular - all of their comics are selling as many copies as they can churn out, more and more each month (except the Picture Stories From The Bible - ads urging readers to buy unsold copies of the earlier issues kept on appearing in the other comics for the next year or two, despite the promotion including the Atom being temporarily replaced in this issue by the thrilling story of Joshua). But a couple of months later in 1943 came the one enemy that no superhero could beat - Paper Rationing.


Meanwhile, though, Scribbly is getting involved in the war itself! After a dramatic opening panel, Scribbly's boss invites Scrib to come with him on his Civilian Air Patrol duty, and they find the survivor of the torpedoed ship. Scribbly volunteers to wait on the raft while the boss flies the sailor back to shore in his two-seater seaplane. But then the raft is spotted by the German submarine that sank the ship, and they take Scribbly prisoner! When the boss returns, there's no trace of him. Later on, Dinky bursts into the Hunkel home, wailing that Scribbly has been lost at sea! More to stop him crying than anything else, Ma suggests getting into costume and going out in a rowing boat to look for him.

And sure enough, they bump into the periscope of the sub. The Red Tornado puts her glove over the end of it to blind them, and when the sub surfaces, hits the Germans over the head with her oar when they come up to look. One of them drops a machine gun back into the sub, where it's caught by Scribbly who accidentally sets it off, and the crew surrender. But when Scribbly gets back to the Hunkels' after telling the newspaper his story, Ma refuses to believe a word of it.


Another Scribbly story without Scribbly in All-American #48. A nefarious Nazi spy ring are running short of members, and have decided to try to recruit German-Americans to their cause. Although realising they need to be careful - last time they tried it, an American called Goebbels turned out to work for the FBI - they send a couple of agents to go and check out Ma Hunkel, and since they see her and the kids trying to swat a moth and mistake it for a Nazi salute, they think they're on to a winner. They invite Ma to a big meeting of their organisation, and she decides to play along. Once they're there, and Ma establishes that "every last Nazi in the city" is present at the meeting, Sisty whispers something in Ma's ear and the head Nazi (who has a bald head, monocle and cigarette holder) chuckles "Of course - children are so cute - Max will show dem to der wash-room..."

Which is, incidentally, a downright shocking thing to say in a 1943 comic! What's next? Jokes about Ma Hunkel's menstrual cycle? Full frontal nudity? We need to stop this filth before it goes any further! Anyway, once the kids are out the door, Ma ducks under the rostrum, changes into the Red Tornado, and comes out fighting! As the Nazis try to escape out the door, they're knocked out with clubs by the Cyclone Kids, and soon New York's entire complement of Nazi spies are taken care of!



All-American #49 completes the trilogy of stories with the Red Tornado battling against Germany - it opens with Adolf Hitler himself, furious about the Nazi bund being broken up last month. He reads an American newspaper article about the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids, and wonders if the writer of the article, boy cartoonist Scribbly Jibbet, could tell them how to find and crush the terrific trio. In America, Dinky answers the door to a beautiful woman, but trips on a roller skate and ends up with a fishbowl on his head. Lovestruck, Dinky assures the woman that he knows all about the Red Tornado, much to the fury of Sisty, who's watching through the window. While Dinky goes to get her a glass of water, the woman phones her fellow German agents and tells them to come round to the Jibbet house quickly. Sisty overhears, and runs to get Ma. The Red Tornado comes to the rescue fast, grabbing Dinky through the window and putting his costume on him, then beating up the Nazis. She puts the woman over her knee and gives her a spanking, while Sisty does the same for Dinky to teach him a lesson.



That was the "April" issue of All-American Comics, on sale in February. But the next month came and went without a new issue hitting the newsstands, and when #50 came out, it was dated June. Hidden away in the indicia at the bottom of the inside front cover (below a message from "fearless Captain Eddie Rickenbacker", urging kids to buy war stamps), we find that All-American is now published only eight times a year. It's the first impact of wartime paper restrictions - comic book publishers in the USA found themselves ordered to use 10% less paper in 1943 than they had in 1942. For a still-rapidly-growing industry, this was really crippling! Reducing the publication frequency of their less popular comics wasn't enough to do it, but the next step didn't take place until next month, and All-American Comics was allowed to enjoy its fiftieth issue without further interference (modern comics make a big deal out of it on the rare occasion that they reach fifty issues - the concept was unheard-of in 1943).

"We've been so busy telling stories about the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids, that we've rarely mentioned Scribbly lately," says the title panel of this month's Scribbly story, but he gets to take over the spotlight for once here. He runs home excitedly to tell his mother (last seen in #21, two and a half years ago) that he's got a promotion - the star cartoonist of the newspaper has been drafted, and Scribbly's inherited his job and his private office! He's delighted, but unfortunately his boss decides to move a filing cabinet and water cooler into the office too, meaning that people keep barging in. When Scribbly suggests reorganising things, the boss progressively adds new doors to Scribbly's office, and a payphone, until it's become a main thoroughfare in the building. Scribbly grumbles to Ma, and the terrific trio go into action - now Scrib has an office with turnstiles and costumed doormen controlling who can go in and out!



All-American #51 (and all the other comics that came out from May 1943 onwards) must have felt a bit lighter than usual in the hands of the kids who bought it. That dratted paper rationing has struck again, and it's been reduced from 64 interior pages to 56. The age of 64-page comics is over, never to return. Sargon the Sorceror is sacrificed from All-American - he moves to the quarterly Comic Cavalcade for a year or so (the big 96-pagers were reduced to 88) and eventually finds a home in Sensation Comics before finally succumbing to cancellation like all the other superheroes in the years after the end of the war.

Scribbly, though, is increased in length this issue! Not only is there an classic title panel picture of Ma, it appears at the start of a six-page adventure! Presumably it was written for Comic Cavalcade (another six-pager appears in #4, a few months down the line) and ended up relocated to All-American as part of Sheldon Mayer's tetris-like editorial rearrangement of all his already-drawn comic stories to fit in the new shorter comics. We can only dream of an alternate reality without paper rationing, where Scribbly and the Red Tornado had adventures monthly in All-American and quarterly in Comic Cavalcade...

Huey Hunkel makes a surprise reappearance in this story - just in one panel, where he's making a model aeroplane with Scribbly and tells him that Uncle Herman and Uncle Gus are fighting again. Their names are switched here, in this and their two other subsequent namechecks - the bald one is called Gus, the other one is called Herman. The uncle formerly known as Gus is trying to persuade Herman to buy a share in a great invention he claims to be acting as an agent for - a mind-reading machine! He gets Scribbly and then Herman to hold the wire attached to a gramophone-like device, and it correctly says they're wondering just how crazy Gus is! Herman is convinced, and hands over all his money ($54) and his watch in return for a 10% share. Gus tells him to keep it a secret, but Herman immediately goes out and tells the newspapers, hoping to increase the profits from his investment. The article attracts the attention of two crooks, who come around to the Hunkel house claiming to be professors interested in the machine. When Gus refuses to let them see it, they get violent, and the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids have to step in! Unfortunately, they also beat up two genuine professors who came to see the machine... and when they end up explaining themselves to the police, Gus has to admit that the whole thing was a scam, intended to trick Herman into giving him money. Ma takes the $54 and the watch to pay their fine.


Back to four pages again for All-American #52, after another two-month wait since the last issue. The newspaper is seriously understaffed - everyone who worked there has joined the army, except Scribbly, his boss and one old man. The boss insists on them working around the clock to keep the paper going, and when Mrs Jibbet phones Ma Hunkel to tell her Scribbly hasn't come home, Ma decides it's time the terrific trio (luckily, Dinky's sleeping over at the Hunkels' that night) taught Mr Macklin another lesson. But they find him too fired up to pay any attention to them, and he just orders them to get to work helping with the paper. So they do, and Ma even finds she enjoys it - so much so, that the boss hands the newspaper over to her and goes to join the army himself!



And so in All-American #53, Scribbly, the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids are running the newspaper. Which is inconvenient for Ma, who has to change costumes and race around the town when Scribbly goes from the newspaper office to visit her. It gets worse when Scrib asks Ma to help out at the paper too! Eventually, the mystery men send a note to the paper saying they've been called away on special duty, leaving Scribbly, Ma, Sisty and Dinky to keep the presses rolling. Unfortunately, Scribbly publishes this news in the next day's paper, which leads two gangsters to come around and cause trouble - but Ma Hunkel just beats them up herself, out of costume!



Comic Cavalcade #4, on sale September 1st 1943, in between two All-American issues, has another six-page "Scribbly and the Red Tornado" story, although Scribbly himself is in only one panel of it. Uncle Herman (or rather, "Uncle Gus"; their names are still swapped), is romancing a rich woman, and when she unexpectedly comes to visit him, he quickly orders Gus and Ma to pretend to be his butler and maid. Strangely, even though they flatly refuse to do so, and tell the woman outright that Herman hasn't got a penny, she continues to go out with him. The Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids decide to investigate.

The lovers go to the Ritz, where she persuades Herman to sign a life insurance policy for fifty thousand dollars. After he's signed, as soon as they set foot out of the door, he would have been killed by a falling flowerpot if Dinky hadn't dived in and saved him. Herman and his fiancee depart in a cab, with Dinky hitching a ride on the back, while the Red Tornado and Sisty sort out the crooks on the roof. Back at her home in the city, the rich lady consults with her gang of thugs in the back room, telling them to quickly wire up the lamp so it'll electrocute Herman when he turns it on. Dinky sneaks in the window and crosses some wires, making a massive explosion - when the other heroes arrive, they find that Ma and Sisty aren't the only cross-dressers in town...



Back in All-American Comics for #54, Ma takes Scribbly, Dinky and Sisty to the zoo, where they see a lion with a ferocious roar. Later, they hear that the lion has escaped and is roaming the streets, much to the terror of Scribbly. When Gus and Herman come home drunk at three o'clock in the morning, they encounter the lion, although it takes them a while to realise that it's not a pink elephant. When they run home, the lion follows them, and invades the Hunkel house. Dinky and Sisty wake up and realise it's time to get into costume and get to work!
Once again, as in #52, Sisty and Dinky are sharing a bed. Not that I'd expect the overcrowded Hunkel apartment to have a spare bedroom for guests, but American cartoons and comics even today are very strict about not showing mixed boy/girl sleepovers, so it's a little strange. Anyway, the entirely non-agressive lion eventually runs for it back to the zoo, dragging the Red Tornado, the Cyclone Kids and Gus and Herman behind them. The zookeeper tells them the lion is entirely harmless - in fact, he's part antelope - so Gus takes the opportunity to give it a kick in the backside.



All-American #55, the last All-American of 1943, features the return of the man who by default must be the Red Tornado's arch-enemy - the "Professor", the head bad guy from #34. Well, he's her only recurring foe, after all. He's escaped from prison, and puts an ad in the paper asking the Red Tornado to contact him, and when she does, he traces the call to the grocer's shop and goes round there with his gang, one of whom has a cello case stuffed full of guns, swords, bombs and all kinds of deadly weapons. However, Ma had also had the call traced and the terrific trio had gone round to the gang's hideout, only to find it empty, so when they return to the store they come up on the gang from behind. They knock out the man with the cello case first, and so when the Red Tornado bursts onto the scene and the Professor runs to get the weapons, he opens the case to find the Cyclone Kids, armed to the teeth! The Professor and his gang are all returned to jail, where nobody's interested in listening to his next escape plan.



Ma is practicing her singing in All-American #56, and finds that her high notes shatter Sisty's glass of water, a vase of flowers and the lenses of Scribbly's glasses. When Sisty and Dinky go out to play ball, they find that their neighbour's windows have also been shattered by Ma's singing, and he assumes the kids are to blame! When they run back inside, the neighbour vows revenge, goes round the corner and puts a brick through the grocery store's window. But back home, when Ma realises she was responsible for the damage, the terrific trio get into costume and replace the neighbour's windows for free. Grateful, he points out the broken window in the store too, and when the Red Tornado finds the brick, she knows who must have done it. Changing back into their civilian identities, Ma, Sisty and Dinky go back home and throw bricks through the neighbour's new windows!



Now we're definitely into the realms of Sheldon Mayer getting bored with the format and wanting to try something new - All-American #57 transplants the characters into King Arthur's time. Scribbly has been drawing caricatures of the Duke, their evil landlord, on the walls, and despite the efforts of fruit-and-veg-stall owner Ma, Sisty and Dinky to hide them, Scribbly is arrested and taken to King Arthur's court in Camelot. The terrific trio get into costume (identical to the modern-day ones, but the Red Tornado carries a wooden shield with tornado logo and a broom as a lance, and they ride into action on a donkey) and go to the rescue, only for it to turn out that King Arthur is knighting Scribbly for giving him a good laugh, much to the Duke's annoyance. Arise, Sir Scribbly, cartoonist laureate of the round table!




All-American #58 has a title panel with Scribbly's name significantly bigger than the Red Tornado's, and technically the Tornado doesn't even appear in this story, in costume. Scribbly gets in a fight with big Butch, and wishes he knew who the Red Tornado is, so he could sic him on the big bully. While he's considering that it must be the person who he'd least suspect, just like Clark Kent and Superman, Butch throws a flowerpot at his head, and Scribbly has a sudden revelation - the person he'd least suspect is... himself! HE must be the Red Tornado! And so, believing himself to be a costumed hero, the concussed cartoonist beats up Butch and his gang, and then when he comes to his senses, he thinks the Red Tornado was the one who did the beating up. When Scribbly tells Ma, Sisty and Dinky about it, they're very confused, and then worried when Scribbly tells them he knows who the Red Tornado is! Or at least, he did, but now he can't recall who it was... just that it was the last person he'd ever suspect.




And now for something completely different, in All-American #59...

Dinky surprised by his tail is just brilliant, isn't it? Funny-animal comics were gaining in popularity as the superhero craze began to wane. After the war, funny animals were one of the main genres the comic publishers of America tried (without much success) to push to keep the sales numbers up. Sheldon Mayer should have drawn more of them, judging by this issue!

Anyway, Scribbly the horse admires a dignified-looking, cigar-smoking ostrich, and when he discards the cigar half-smoked, Scribbly decides to try it himself. Dinky and Sisty see him smoking around the back of the house, and run and tell Ma, who decides the Red Tornado and Cyclone Kids should go into action. But much to Dinky's disappointment, rather than whaling the tar out of Scribbly, Ma thinks they should just wait until the cigar makes Scrib sick, and then step in and point out the error of his ways. But when the clouds of smoke keep coming, the heroes finally step in, only to find that a Doctor Crow had come across Scribbly, passed out in the alley after one puff, and was enjoying the cigar himself. He charges them two dollars for his medical advice, and leaves them all feeling sick together.



And although the final panel of that story promises that Scribbly and the gang will be back in every issue of All-American Comics, it turns out they won't. Because at this point, the comics were all stripped of another eight pages, bringing All-American down to 48, and Scribbly and the Red Tornado never graced its pages again. But the next month, a four-page story probably intended for All-American ended up in the 80-page Comic Cavalcade #7. And although the title is still "Scribbly and the Red Tornado", with Red Tornado in very small letters, the terrific trio don't get into costume, and the tone is entirely comedy rather than superhero parody.

Scribbly and Dinky are spending the night at the Hunkels', and Scribbly teases the kids by saying they've had Mexican jumping beans for supper that'll make them bounce! The next morning, an over-enthusiastic pillow-fight breaks the bed in half, and Scribbly avoids Ma's wrath by falling out the window. To everyone's surprise, he bounces up in the air, coming down on Ma's head and knocking her out. Dinky and Sisty, believing Scribbly's got Mexican jumping beanitis, call for help, and soon Scribbly is bouncing all over town and causing chaos with a mob of doctors, firemen and ambulances chasing after him. When Ma wakes up, she makes a quick lasso out of a clothesline, grabs Scribbly and reveals what's happened - a spring from the bed stuck to his backside.



Once again, the final panel promises "more of Scribbly's laughs and troubles in every issue", but he never appears in Comic Cavalcade again either. That's the last anyone sees of him until one last hurrah, five months later...
The Big All-American Comic Book, which hit the shelves around the start of November 1944, was a one-off special arrangement between All-American and another publisher who had access to that precious resource, paper. Kids by now accustomed to their reduced ration of wartime comics must have eagerly tried to find a mammoth 25 cents to buy this mammoth 128-page collection of all-new stories! Just look at that line-up of heroes on the cover! Sure, they're not particularly well-drawn, and if you bought the comic expecting to see Sargon or Red, White and Blue you would have been disappointed (it does, however, devote a whole six pages to the adventures of anthropomorphic cat Pint Size Pete, unmentioned anywhere on the cover or advertisements), but it was the biggest "group photo" of comic characters ever to grace the newsstands!

Even Scribbly makes the cover (looking understandably a little confused behind Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys), but there's no sign of the Red Tornado or Cyclone Kids. And the four-page story inside, titled "Scribbly and the Hunkel Family" is the same - there's no mention of the heroic alter egos. A customer pays his grocery bill with tickets to the racetrack, so Ma takes Scribbly, Dinky and Sisty along for a day out. She insists she isn't interested in betting on the horses, but when a man in the know gives her a tip that can win $50,000 for a ten dollar stake, she changes her mind. When the horse turns out to be a useless old nag with a lazy jockey, Ma tries to ride it herself, without much success. She's thrown out of the stadium, where they find that the tipster isn't as reliable as he seemed...



And that, sadly, is our last Scribbly story of the classic era. He returns in his own comic in 1948, by which time a lot had changed - All-American had been bought by DC, Sheldon Mayer and his staff had moved into their much nicer offices uptown, and finally Mayer was tired of all that editorial work and wanted to get back into cartooning. But when Scribbly returned, there was no sign of the Red Tornado - by this point, ten years after Superman's sensational debut, superheroes were yesterday's news. At the same time as Scribbly's new series launched, All-American Comics became All-American Western, and Comic Cavalcade turned into a funny-animal anthology. And it was the same across the board - by 1950, all the mystery men were gone and forgotten, unless they were Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. The resurgence of superheroes in the late fifties/early sixties, which is still going on today, really caught everyone by surprise.

There's not even any mention of Ma Hunkel in the third Scribbly era, although Sisty is still there as the renamed Snoony's partner in crime. But thanks to her tenuous Justice Society connection, the Red Tornado continued to be mentioned and even occasionally featured here and there, in other writers' comics over the years. Most of these appearances weren't really worth reading, with the one very notable exception of Secret Origins #29, in 1988, when the septuagenarian Sheldon Mayer came out of retirement to write and draw an all-new three-page adventure for the Red Tornado, also featuring Scribbly. It was his last ever comic. It casts the Red Tornado as a mysterious bad-guy-bashing hero who the police don't believe exists, because he's only ever seen by kids, which would be a great set-up for an ongoing series. Ma Hunkel has an inflatable dummy replica of herself that she uses to help keep her secret identity.


So there you have it - one of the greatest superheroes ever created! I mean, yes, I do know it's a comedy, but since a large part of the humour comes from it being self-evidently silly that a woman would become a costumed hero, modern readers can take it more at face value and appreciate the Red Tornado as a role model which really should be followed for superheroes today! People talk about Wonder Woman as having been a groundbreaking kind of concept, but reading her adventures of the early forties with their "oh do please chain me up and punish me" themes is kind of an uncomfortable experience. The Red Tornado, on the other hand, is exactly how women in comics should always have been portrayed and never have been. Even today, you'll certainly never find a superhero who's a housewife and mother [note - there are quite a few exceptions to this rule, but show me one who's the star of her own series, as opposed to married to another hero who gets more of the spotlight], nor one who's not drawn with a ridiculously proportioned body [rare exceptions, maybe, but I can't think of one without at least a couple of supermodel-shaped co-stars]. I know I'd buy a modern-day Red Tornado comic, and watch the movie, and I'm sure a lot of other fans would too!

I'll leave you with one writer who does get it - All-Star Comics 80-Page Giant, a 1999 anthology of (sometimes vaguely) golden-age themed superhero stories, featured an adventure for Wonder Woman, Liberty Belle and Phantom Lady, in which those three rare specimens of female heroes who actually did appear in wartime comics are well and truly put in their place by a real hero - the Red Tornado! The story was written by Eric Luke, and drawn by Chris Jones and Keith Champagne.