As a long-time member of Justice League of America, Red Tornado is certainly no stranger to readers familiar with the DC Universe. And yet, since his initial introduction in “Justice League of America” #64 more than 40 years ago, this Gardner Fox creation has endured what has evolved into arguably one of the most complex back-stories in the entire Multiverse.
A super-powered android originally created by supervillain T. O. Morrow as an infiltrator into Justice Society of America and now a superhero blessed with near-supernatural control over wind and air, Red Tornado was featured prominently early in Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes’ relaunch of “Justice League of America” in a Solomon Grundy-centric story, and again by Benes with Dwayne McDuffie during the “Injustice League” arc.
Those two high-profile adventures aside, Red Tornado is about to receive the ultimate seal of approval from the DC braintrust, his own solo series with the promise his true origin will be more deeply explored than ever. Beginning in September, the six-issue miniseries “Red Tornado” twists and turns its way into comic book shops, written by Kevin VanHook (“Oracle,” “Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves”) and featuring art by Jose Luis and J.P. Mayer with covers by Ed Benes.
One aspect of the character’s story thrust to the forefront of the miniseries will be the elemental nature of his powers. After “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Red Tornado was retconned from an android merged with the Tornado Champion of Rann to the physical embodiment of Earth’s Air Elemental. An elemental being not unlike Swamp Thing, this updated Red Tornado was empowered by Maya, the spirit of the Earth, to protect the environment.
As Kevin VanHook told CBR in this interview, “Red Tornado” will introduce a wave of new characters to DCU, including the already revealed Red Volcano, which will be used to expand and fortify the legend of John Smith, a hero torn – quite literally – between a human existence and something else entirely different.
CBR: Red Tornado is a notoriously under-utilized and frankly an under-appreciated character in the DCU. Coming into the project, what was your knowledge of the character?
Kevin VanHook: I had a broad-strokes understanding of who he was, the relationship with his wife and kid. I caught up by reading a lot of “Justice League of America” stuff that had come out over the last couple of years.
While plotting and writing this series, you have no doubt become a fan of the character. What makes Red Tornado a compelling enough character to warrant his own solo miniseries?
The Elemental side fascinates me. And I’d have to say the struggle to be human and remain true to himself.
Is he difficult to write, and in turn, relate to, because he is an android?
He’s challenging because of the fact that he’s typically been portrayed as having such an even keel which leads to a Prince Charming problem. The really nice guy can be boring if you’re not careful. It’s fun to see what happens when we see that he’s got an edge to him.
Will your miniseries tie-in to the events that have been unfolding in “Justice League of America”?
There is some tie-in, but other things I’m doing tie into the DCU even more...
Is this considered a reimagining or even a reboot of his origin?
No, I’d say I’m being pretty faithful. The new aspect is the introduction of some other players like Red Volcano, etc. They’re going to change his playing field quite a bit.
We’ve seen Red Tornado teased on DCU’s official blogThe Sourcein some beautiful design work by J.G. Jones. What can you share with us about Red Volcano and the rest of Red Tornado’s “true android family?”
Volcano is an Earth elemental and is just pure power and mean as a rattle-snake. Each of the characters is pretty unique. It’s fun to see their dynamic forming as the issues progress.
What, if any, other JLAers or DCU heroes will be featured in the series?
There’s the possibility of utilizing some other JLAers in the later issues of the mini-series.
What can say about the work of artist Jose Luis and your cover artist Ed Benes?
Great stuff – very powerful and pretty at the same time. I’ve loved Benes’ work for a long time and Jose is definitely in that tradition.
You have worked mainly on stories and projects skewed to the horror genre. Does Red Tornado have its frightening moments?
There are moments between Volcano and well, I guess just about anyone he has interaction with that can be pretty disturbing.
Do you know what project you will be working on next? Maybe a second volume of “Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves?”
We’re talking about doing something for Halloween 2010. I’ve written a pitch for another six issues and we’ll see if it comes to pass. I’m anxious to work [artist] with [Tom] Mandrake and [editor Mike] Siglain again. We had such fun on the last one.
“Red Tornado” #1 is scheduled to arrive in comic book stores September 2 from DC Comics.