Lieutenant Jim Lockhart was a U.S. Navy officer who resigned after his superior, Captain Wells, refused to believe his plans for an advanced torpedo-like submarine would be operational. As a private citizen, Lockhart went on to prove his theory by building the submarine with the help from his girlfriend Peg. When it was finished he christened it the Torpedo. Using the devices onboard the Torpedo, Lockhart became a protector of the seas, the “Robin Hood” of the deep. Calling himself the Red Torpedo, he wore red sailor’s pants, a red sleeveless shirt and red mask.
The Red Torpedo debuted in Crack Comics #1 (published in 1940) for Quality Comics. His self-titled debut story was written and drawn by Henry Carl Kiefer, under the pseudonym “Drew Allen.” Keifer, who made his name working on Classics Illustrated since 1935, started dipping into superhero comics for Harvey Comics and Quality Comics in 1940. Red Torpedo was just one of many costumed heroes that debuted in Crack Comics #1, including Alias the Spider, Black Condor, the Clock, and Madame Fatal.
Red Torpedo starred in Crack Comics for 20 issues before being replaced by secret agent Don Q. Over the course of the run, Keifer also used the pen names “Roy Larken” and “Roy Larkin” While the run started with the Red Torpedo facing traditional World War II threats, like the Nazis, Japanese, and saboteurs, the later issues focused specifically on Red Torpedo's battles with his arch-enemy Black Shark. During the series, there was little focus on continuity: girlfriend Peg was dropped after one issue, Lockhart is alternately referred to as a former lieutenant and a former captain, and the Black Shark's name and motivation change over the course of the run.
Silver Age and the End of Quality Comics
In 1956, Quality Comics, the original publishers of the Red Torpedo, closed shop. In 1957, DC Comics purchased the right to publish the Quality stable of characters, which included characters like the Red Torpedo, Blackhawks, Plastic Man, and a host of others. Unlike Plastic Man or the Blackhawks, Red Torpedo sat on the shelf throughout the silver age.
Bronze Age and a New Origin
As DC Comics entered the Bronze Age, writer Roy Thomas took ownership of DC’s stable of golden age heroes. Thomas sought to revitalize the golden age heroes, and retroactively created a new wartime super-team called the All-Star Squadron. Thomas wanted all of the golden age heroes to be part of this group. With All-Star Squadron issue #31, Thomas brought the Quality characters into Earth-2 continuity. Thomas retconned that Red Torpedo joined an earlier version of the Freedom Fighters (including Miss America and Uncle Sam) that he created prior to their exploits in Justice League of America #107. This version of the Freedom Fighters were actually from Earth-2 with the other heroes of the Justice Society of America, and that they migrated from Earth-2 to Earth-X to aid that Earth’s fight against the Nazis.
In the wake of the multiverse-changing Crisis on Infinite Earths, there was no more Earth-2 or Earth-X. Thomas needed to revamp some of the histories he had just fleshed out. Now, instead of multiple Earths, the exploits of the Red Torpedo, the Freedom Fighters and the All-Star Squadron happened on the same Earth, all during World War II. In addition, Thomas wrote an origin story for retconned Freedom Fighter member Miss America in Secret Origins #26, where he revealed she and her Freedom Fighters (including Red Torpedo) did not die and actually survived World War II.
The Modern Age
James Robinson made mention of the Red Torpedo in his hit series Starman, weaving Torpedo’s history into the history of Starman in the same way he did for other golden age heroes. The Red Torpedo aided the Starman of 1951 to build his ship, the Flying Star. In addition, writers Kurt Busiek and Butch Guise brought a retired Red Torpedo in as a supporting character for their series Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis. Red Torpedo is one of the administrators of Windward Home, along with Elsa Magnusson, widow of Mark Merlin.
Key Story Arcs
Early Adventures of the Red Torpedo
Lockhart used his submarine to defend America from aquatic threats. He defended the North Atlantic Ocean against multiple U-Boat incursions and Nazi spies sneaking into America. During this time, he faced spy X-1, tackled another submariner pirate named the Lone Shark (later called the Black Shark, who would become his arch-enemy), rescued a British Intelligence Officer, discovered a subsea humanoid civilization called Merrezonia led by Queen Klitra, and rescued a German scientist who wanted to defect to the United States.
World War II and the Freedom Fighters
During World War II on Earth-2, the embodiment of America, Uncle Sam, discovered a parallel Earth. On this Earth, later called Earth-X, the Nazi’s were winning World War II. Uncle Sam recruited a group of heroes to traverse the multiverse to Earth-X to stop the Nazis on this world. Uncle Sam invited Hourman, Invisible Hood, Magno the Magnetic Man, Miss America, Neon the Unknown, and the Red Torpedo to join the Freedom Fighters. This team travelled to Earth-X and fought combined Nazi and Japanese forces at Pearl Harbor. They prevented the attack on Pearl Harbor, but, with the exception of Uncle Sam and Hourman, all hands died in the line of duty.
Crisis on Infinite Earths
In the wake of the Crisis, the DC multiverse was condensed into a universe. Because of that, the Red Torpedo’s history changed. With a single Earth, there was no longer an Earth-X or Earth-2. The Red Torpedo’s exploits took place during the unified Earth’s World War II. Also, it was revealed that Red Torpedo and his Freedom Fighters did not die during World War II, but were rescued by the U.S. Navy, after which the Red Torpedo went into retirement.
After his survival during World War II, Lockhart retired the name Red Torpedo. He started a company, Lockhart Navionics, that designed seafaring craft. Lockhart Navionics made Lockhart billions of dollars.
In 1951, Jim Lockhart was approached by the silver age Dr. Mid-Nite, Charles McNider. McNider was concerned about the state of Opal City in the wake of a missing Starman. McNider sought to temporarily fulfill the role of Starman in Opal City, and commissioned Lockhart to create the Star Flyer. Lockhart designed a star-shaped aircraft that McNider, in the guise of the Starman of 1951, used to combat evil in Opal City. The Star Flyer later passed hands to a time-travelling David Knight, who took over the role of the Starman of 1951 from McNider.
At Lockhart Navionics, Lockhart created Windward Home, a mobile seafaring city that he ran with his second-in-command, Elsa Magnusson. Lockhart and Magnusson created Windward Home as a mobile think tank, which brought together scientists and scholars from across the Earth into an environment free from life’s daily trials. Since Windward Home operates in international waters, the inhabitants are subject to no one nation’s laws. Windward Home’s inhabitants come from all the races of Earth, including at least one inhabitant of Feithera. Their research covers all topics, from technology to sorcery.
The Windward Home eventually found itself the home of the Sea Devils. In addition, once the Spectre destroyed Atlantis, some Atlanteans came to Lockhart’s Windward Home, including the ghost of Vulko. A.J. Curry and King Shark joined Vulko at Windward Home to help search for Aquaman, and his protection of the scattered Atlantean people. During this time, Lockhart, Magnusson, and Dane Dorrance became the first surface dwellers to visit the underwater nation of Naos.
Powers and Abilities
The Red Torpedo is a great hand-to-hand combatant with military training. He’s a master of marine life, navigation and subsea diving. Lockhart has a degree of skill as a diplomat as well.
Weapons and Equipment
The Red Torpedo’s primary piece of equipment was the Torpedo, a crimson-hued submarine designed by Lockhart, with yellow fins and two yellow “bubble eye” type windows. The Torpedo had the capability of operating at great depths underwater, with excellent speed and maneuverability. Its primary armaments were twin energy cannons capable of operating underwater. A large spike protruding from the fore of the ship would be used to pierce other ships. The Torpedo also had the capability to traveling through the air like an airship. Inside, the Torpedo had the capacity to carry at least 8 people. The first Torpedo was destroyed by Japanese forces during World War II, but Lockhart rebuilt the ship, and it serves as a vessel operating out of Windward Home.
The Red Torpedo was just one of the hundreds of golden age heroes featured in James Robinson’s four-issue Elseworlds series Golden Age. Red Torpedo is only seen as one of the myriad of heroes that fights Dynaman in the series’ ending.