Ma Hunkel was initially only a supporting character in the series about Scribbly the Boy Cartoonist. She first appeared in All-American Comics #3 (June, 1939). She was a middle-aged mother of two and owner of a grocery store. In All-American Comics #20 (November, 1940), Hunkel and her entire neighborhood were threatened by a protection racket. Overhearing her children speaking of superhero Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Hunkel decides that vigilantism is the only way of defeating the gang. She made her costume by cutting two holes in a sauce pan and using it as a mask, her uniform consisting of red long-johns, a cape and a T-shirt. She proved an extraordinarily good brawler and took the entire gang out by herself. Her strength-level was apparently higher than the average human.
Hunkel shares the distinctions of starring in the first series parodying the superhero genre and being the earliest known superheroine in comics. More serious superheroines would appear in American and Canadian Comics in 1941. She was also mistaken for a male vigilante and is considered the second cross-dressing superhero. (The first was Madame Fatal (Richard Stanton), a male cross-dressing to a female vigilante. He appeared in May, 1940). Replacing Scribbly as the star of their series, she had many comical adventures. Her series ended with All-American Comics #59 (July 1944). In the process her children Huey and Amelia "Sisty" Hunkel joined her as her sidekicks, the Cyclone Kids.
In All-Star Comics #3 (Winter, 1940), Hunkel attended the founding meeting of the Justice Society of America. Only for her Johns to be accidentally torn and the heroine having to make a hasty retreat. Such was the nature of comedy. The Justice Society would gain its first female member a year later, Wonder Woman. The relation of the Red Tornado to the Society was ignored for the rest of the 1940s. However Roy Thomas later retconned her to an honorary member and depicted Hunkel sharing adventures with other female members of the Society. Tying her closely to its history. She had yet however to appear in stories occurring after the end of World War II.
In Young Justice #16 (January, 2000), the former Cyclone Kids appeared as middle-aged individuals. They claimed their mother had died of old age. However Hunkel herself did return in "Justice Society" #16 (January, 2004). According to her retconned history she had joined the Witness Protection System in 1950, evading underworld figures that held a grudge against her. She resurfaced in the 2000s, having outlived all her enemies. She was physically aged and her strength mostly gone but rejoined the Society as a curator to their headquarters. Her extreme longevity, being a generation older than the other founders, has not been addressed. In Justice Society of America #1 (December, 2006), her granddaughter Cyclone (Maxine Hunkel) joined the Society.