Welcome back for another Character Spotlight, presenting the robot that isn’t technically a robot but is still a robot, Red Tornado! From a god to an air elemental, the creature that would be Red Tornado is the god in the machine, the ghost in the shell. So how does such an entity get a robot body and become a member of the Justice League? Let’s find out!
Once, on the planet Rann, there was an entity that would fight the hero Adam Strange. After being defeated, the being would find an empty planet so that it could contemplate good and evil. Upon coming to the realization that good was superior, the entity split into two, one good: the Tornado Champion; and one evil: the Tornado Tyrant. They would fight and when the Champion lost, it realized it must flee for the aid of more heroes. Finding Earth to be filled with them, the Champion lured the Tyrant to fight the Justice League and was finally able to defeat it. Realizing this was not as the entity desired, it left Earth-1 for Earth-2. Yeah, it could just do that.
It arrived to find the criminal genius T.O. Morrow (Thomas Oscar, I know you’re wondering) building a robot that was supposed to join the Justice Society and defeat them. The entity thought this was a sweet ride, and so it took possession of the robot. An unforeseen result of this was that it lost its memories and for all intents and purposes was now Red Tornado, the wind-controlling android. In the post-crisis version, the entity is an air elemental but it still ends up this way. You may think, why did you tell us all this if it’s erased? Just remember that a near-god like spirit saw a robot being made and went, “Yeah, I wanna be like that,” and did it. Live your dreams, folks.
Believing himself to be the original Red Tornado (I’ll get to her next time), he’d join the team, but on their first mission he’d accidentally appear to have killed several team members by Morrow’s machinations. This would get all cleared up, and Red Tornado would be welcomed as team member, but his being a robot made him feel alienated from the rest of the team.
When a threat required a trans-dimensional crossover of the JLA and the JSA to stop an orbiting weapon, Red Tornado would take on a suicide mission to help stop the device. The explosion did not kill him, but did shunt him back to Earth-1.
After having had many adventures with the Justice League, including marrying a human woman named Kathy Sutton, Red Tornado would still feel too distant from humanity, and figured the best place for him was to go into deep thought in the old Justice League headquarters in Happy Harbor. He’d remain there, collecting dust, until a chance encounter with the teen heroes Robin, Superboy, and Impulse. These three kids would annoy him so much that he realized some part of him must be human. He’d become their mentor along with the other teen heroes they’d find who would form Young Justice. This renewed vigor brings him back to the Justice League and his wife and their daughter, Traya. Before you ask, she is not a cyborg child, she was adopted. Oh and when Red Tornado masquerades as human he goes by John Smith because he’s creative like that.
During the events of Infinite Crisis, Red Tornado dies. This isn’t that big a deal since they know they can rebuild him and he’ll be fine. It is believed that during this death, though, that he may have seen something from the multiverse which didn’t technically exist anymore. While in pieces he can only keep muttering the number “52” over and over again. During the events of 52, the year that many of the major superheroes were missing, Red Tornado is rebuilt by an Australian mechanic using car parts. He fights Intergang in this form and loses. He is found by Morrow as part of an art sculpture, but Morrow is kidnapped for a supervillain think tank while Rip Hunter the time-traveler uses Tornado’s head to help him navigate through the multiverse and back to Earth-1.
When he is being rebuilt to rejoin the Justice League, he ends up possessing a human body that Felix Faust offered. Now human possessing his air powers, Tornado would learn that not having all those sweet robot abilities like never tiring and not really feeling physical pain are actually totally awesome to have. His new robot body is stolen, and since it’s still an advanced piece of tech, he goes in search of it. It turns out that a very smart resurrected Solomon Grundy who does not wish to die has stolen the body, and wants to live in the robot body and be a supervillain with his new robot self. Tornado is able to defeat Grundy, but is badly wounded during a fight with Amazo shortly afterward. Later, with the help of his wife, Red Tornado is able to return to his new upgraded robot body.
While this body was top of the line tech, Red Tornado was emotionally distant from others. When this body is damaged he is uploaded to the JLA’s supercomputer. While he is able to reconnect with his friends and family, a new body is built to better mimic being like a human so that he can feel more human but maintain all his cool robot powers alongside his air-based ones to help fight off his detachment. Zatanna aids in the movement of his elemental soul to the new body. Amazo attempts to take over, but is undone because he cannot mimic Red Tornado’s soul since he reads this as a power and the error is too much for him.
In the New 52, there are several possible Red Tornados waiting to appear. Earth-2’s is the mind of Lois Lane transplanted into a robot body to aid Superman. Earth-1’s is a weather machine that T.O. Morrow built and is attempting to upgrade.
There you have it, the robot that isn’t a robot but is still very much a robot with a heart of gold. Not a real heart of gold, though the conductivity would be great. Check out his heart-wrenching episode in Batman: Brave and the Bold where they take the Tornado Tyrant and Tornado Champion concept and make it hurt the most.
Mystery in Space #61
Justice League of America #64
Justice League of America
Dr. Alexander Bustos