Monday, October 18, 2021

Truly Gone & Forgotten : Tornado Tom


Tornado Tom
Creator unknown
Appears in Cyclone Comics #1-5 (1940)

Emerging unhurt from a spinning cyclone and boasting strange new powers is farmhand Tom Kenny -- Tornado Tom to his friends -- and he’s a fink!

Tornado Tom survives this singular experience in the pages of Cyclone Comics -- a book which gives away a pretty major spoiler right in the title, if you think about it. The fulsome farmhand is described as having been “picked up by a cyclone, whirled about for hours in the air and eventually dropped uninjured in another state,” after which he apparently “has absorbed something of the character of the great wind itself.” 

Tornado Tom moonlights for Lyft.

Tornado Tom moonlights for Lyft.

What the text means by this is that Tom inherits not only an array of powers -- “Physical match for a dozen ordinary men and great speed,” according to one caption -- but also the unpredictable violence of the wind. On more than one occasion, Tom responds to even a minor insult by starting a major league brawl. His hair-trigger temper makes him perfect for a roving hero, however, which is good fortune for the newly-amnesiac hero. Since his high-wind walkabout, Tom has forgotten his previous life entirely. 

It seems that spinning around in a tornado about six billion times might just goof your brain a little. Recalling nothing but his name, Tom often mentions that he may have a mother out there somewhere. We all do, Tom, we all do.

Tom’s adventures keep him in rural communities and modestly-bustling midwestern cities. He’s portrayed as a journeyman laborer in addition to a farmhand. His sobriquet has a bit of a “hobo culture” feel to it. And it’s true, a brawl-happy farmhand named Tornado Tom seems to stumble right out of a Jim Tully book. But lest you start to think of Tom as a Steinbeck-ian hero, let’s rattle off the fella’s opponents across five adventures: He begins by breaking up a crooked milk monopoly run by a racketeer in a small city. Hooray for Tom. Next up, he smashes a labor march. Tom, oh no. He busts that union so darn well that the FBI comes calling, and pretty soon Tom is routing a cell of foreign bolsheviks. To be fair, they were trying to drain him of his blood, which is revealed to have amazing restorative powers. So they were foreign bolshevik vampires

Tom doing what he does best — losing his temper and hurting a bunch of people in the process.

Tom doing what he does best — losing his temper and hurting a bunch of people in the process.

What precisely in a hurricane gives a man restorative blood, I couldn’t tell you -- perhaps it was like being in a big centrifuge. You’d have to ask a scientist. But that question is left unanswered, alongside the provenance of Tom’s amazing abilities. At some point, spurred on by some unknowable instinct, Tom feebly calls upon Boreas, “God of Wind,” to save him during a badly mismatched fight. That apparently works, which implies that there’s more to Tom than a cyclone and a hard-on for capital-a authority. 

Unfortunately we’re denied these answers and others as Tom sputters out after five adventures. A subsequently-promised epic adventure -- “Tornado Tom Saves America!” -- never materialized. For all we know, Tom had a mother -- and she’s still waiting for him at home.

The hell he does.

The hell he does.

Thanks to the Digital Comics Museum for scanning, uploading and making available these comics. Please visit and support Digital Comics Museum.

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