Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Judomaster Reports #11

Judomaster #98 is dated December 1967. The single credit is the name "McLaughlin" hidden along a rockface on the splash page which features Judomaster holding a flying reptile at bay with a spear while Suzi turns in fear. It's another angle on the cover image by Frank McLaughlin who did this and all the Judomaster covers as far as I can tell.

"The Isle of Dragons" begins with Rip Jagger being called into the office of General Hawkins where he learns that the Japanese are using some remote and possibly uncharted islands as potential bases. On one island named Tabuki which the natives call "The Isle of Dragons". An airplane photo shows a skeptical Rip that indeed there do seem to be giant reptiles on the island. Judomaster, Tiger, Bushiri, Suzikawa, and other warriors go by submarine to the island and attempt to get on land. They are almost immediately waylaid by natives who tell that the Japanese are indeed contstructing a base and they are making use of the ancient dragons too. The natives guide the group to an ancient city and then leave. Judomaster's team is then assaulted by a giant flying reptile and all seek shelter in a cave when a second dinosaur resembling a Tyrannosaurus Rex appears. But it turns out that in the mad dash for safety that Tiger and Suzi are missing. Judomaster goes out to find them. He goes to the city and finds a costumed figure calling himself the "Japanese Sandman" who tells one of his comrades about using his powers to put creatures to sleep to capture both Suzi and Tiger. About that time a giant lizard appears and Sandman uses his hypnotic power along with tranquiler bullets the Japanese troops fire to subdue and develop a control of the beast. He then makes ready to ready to make Suzi and Tiger the creatures next meal when it awakes. Having seen enough Judomaster attacks, frees his associates and taking guns they head back to the cave. But the encounter the Tyrannosaur again but use their rifles to put it down. Then they gather Bushiri's men and the whole group attack the Japanese troops in the city. Judomaster tracks down the Sandman and avoiding his hypnotic powers eventually defeats the villain. When the Sandman is put out of the way, the monsters which have been in his thrall are released and they demolish the city and the Japanese troops are stunned that their tranquilizers no longer are effective. Using dynamite they brought Judomaster and Tiger blow up the whole shebang and escape. The last scene shows them rafting to the submarine and Tiger reveals that he had substituted regular ammunition for the special tranquilizers the Japanese used thus making the monsters uncontrollable. That scamp.

Sarge Steel turns up one more time in a story with no credits but clearly drawn by Dick Giordano and scripitng attributed at GCD to Steve Skeates. The tale titled "Key West Caper" is File 115. It begins with Sarge coming out of the ocean in full scuba gear onto a deserted beach at night. He thinks back to finding his office ransacked and a note saying that Bessie his secretary had been kidnapped and taken to a location off the Florida Keys. He then gets transportation and gets to the Keys as quickly as he can and arrived at that spot. He is attacked by a guard but subdues him and then recognizes the machine gun the thug used. There is another shot and Sarge kills the sniper but others get the drop on him and take him to a house where Bessie is unconscious on a table. The villains turn out to be Eric Rinn and Roja a man and woman team of baddies who had battled Sarge a few times in his own book and had run an operation named POW. They gloat that they at last have Sarge in this power when Bessie awakes and a fight breaks out. Rinn tries to shoot Sarge who shoots him first making his shot go astray and kill Roja. Bessie grabs up a machine gun and after quick tutelage from Sarge levels the other thugs. Sarge then cradles the overwrought woman in his arms as the story closes.

"The Power of the Bow" is the text piece in this issue and talks about the impact of the bow and arrow as a weapon in Europe, China and the Americas.

This is the last issue in the Charlton Judomaster run.

But in Captain Atom #89 dated December 1967, Tiger shows up in the Nightshade back-up feature by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo and in this story set in the modern day he is grown up and had trained Eve Eden the Nightshade some years before when she was a girl of fourteen.

This issue of Judomater was reprinted in the late 70's under the Modern imprint.

The Judomaster series showed a remarkable amount of skill and talent on the part of Frank McLaughlin who went on to become one of the great inkers at both Marvel and DC. Dick Giordano who headed up the Sarge Steel back-up feature of course went over to DC and became a major player in comics for many decades to come. Judomaster disappeared.

Even when DC picked up the Charlton Action-Heroes including Judomaster he was barely used. Captain Atom and Blue Beetle got ongoing series as well as stints in the Justice League. The Question had an ongoing of his own for many years. The Peacemaker got a limited series. Even Thunderbolt had a run, though his rights have reverted to the Morisi estate today. Though DC mucked with the heroes they at least used them. That is all of them save Judomaster. He did make cameos here and there and other Judomasters have shown up over the decades, including one who is in the JSA today. Rip Jagger and Tiger were the core of the L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons)limited series by Bob Layton and Dick Giordano along with other Charlton heroes. But likely because of his WWII setting Judomaster never got the push the others did. It's too bad. Rip Jagger is a dandy character.

Judomaster battled against the Japanese but alongside other Asians so that the racism that clouded many WWII efforts was undermined. He wore the colors of the Japanese for goshsakes, an image that has always been a bit confusing. But in the end Rip Jagger, the Judomaster was truly an action-hero, a man fighting in what we naively dub the last "good war".

No more to come. It's been a blast doing this detailed read for one of my all-time favorite series. I'll have to do another one soon.

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