Judomaster #96 is dated August 1967. This issue again bears only the single credit for Frank McLaughlin so I assume he's the one doing the scripting, art, and lettering as in previous issues.
The story titled "The Final Phase of the Plot to Destroy Judomaster" picks up right where the previous issue left off with The Acrobat getting away in a Japanese submarine while Judomaster and the Acrobat exchange threats. Bushiri and Judomaster talk and they agree that the Acrobat got access to the island too easily and that there must be a spy among them. Bushiri mentions a new man to the island, a fisherman who washed up on the beach some weeks before. They've been keeping an eye on him, but he might be the spy. Judomaster then follows this new man and quickly finds him using a hidden radio to call his Japanese masters. But the spy reveals that his information is from Suzikawa, Rip Jagger's love, which drives Judomaster into a rage and he proceeds to beat up the spy. Then after a thorough drubbing the spy repeats his claim that Suzi is the spy. Judomaster confronts Suzi and she confirms that she is the traitor bit claims she had no choice but assist. The scene shifts to the sub where the Acrobat gets his orders to return to the beach and continue his battle with Judomaster. Suzi tells Judomaster that the Japanese have her brother captive and that the information she's been giving them is useless. Judomaster realizes that what they want is him, so he heads off to face the Acrobat and engages the raft before it lands on the beach, using a specific karate blow to sink the raft. Then Judomaster and the Acrobat continue their battle in the ocean each trying to gain the upper hand. Meanwhile the others who came across with the Acrobat are met by Bushiri and his men and soundly defeated. Then Judomaster and the Acrobat come onto the beach where the Acrobat attempts to use his wire-gun again, but prepared for the weapon Judomaster drags the Acrobat to him and knocks him down for the count. Tearing off his mask Judomaster discovers that the Acrobat is in fact Suzikawa's brother and that his kidnapping was a ruse. He declares his loyalty to Japan and is hauled away while Judomaster takes Suzi in his arms to comfort her.
Sarge Steel returns in Part II of File 112 "Case of the Village Moneyman" written by Steve Skeates, drawn by Dick Giordano with lettering by A.Machine. The installment begins with Sarge dodging a gunshot from the window of Bebe Summin's apartment and returning fire killing the gunman. Steel finds a typed note from Bebe asking him to meet her at the Cafe Long Spoon. Sarge playing a hunch goes to the newspaper morgue and does some research before meeting Bebe at the cafe. He finds her and a brief conversation in which she tries to get him to stop looking for her dad he says he won't give up the search prompting an attack which he fends off but then guns convince Sarge to follow the men to a a printshop where the mastermind of the operation is waiting. The villain is a guy named Jackson who Steel is familiar with and Sarge reveals that Bebe's dad is in fact already dead, which Jackson confirms. Bebe runs from the building in tears while Sarge beats down the thugs with his steel hand. Apparently making Bebe think her dad was alive was an attempt to create confusion among the federal authorities while the counterfeiting was underway. Sarge comforts Bebe as the story closes.
"Flips and Counters with Judomaster" is a two-page offering with a eight letters. This is a lively feature this time. Much is made comparing Charlton's heroes to Marvel's heroes. Judomaster's top-knot comes in for criticism again as does Tiger. Sarge Steel's back-up is criticized but Giordano responds that 2nd-class mail regulations require a back-up feature in the book. The Smiling Skull is compared to The Red Skull, but Giordano indicates that when the Smiling Skull was created in Sarge Steel #3 that he didn't know anything about the Red Skull. And finally, there is the announcement of the arrival of "The Big Red C", Charlton's own distinctive corner design which graces this very issue.
All in all, a very solid issue of entertainment. The character development reaches a high with the revelation that Suzi's brother is now set up as Judomaster's arch-enemy. It's certainly something that would come into play later if the series had run longer. Tiger has very little to do in these issues and it's evident that he's being put on a back burner a bit, perhaps in response to letters, but more likely simply a lack of space and lots of characters to use. The appearance of the Big Red C along with the banner at the top of the cover with Judomaster's head and symbol really gives this comic a distinctive look that will really pop on a spinner rack.
This issue was reprinted in the late 70's under the Modern imprint.
More Judomaster to come.
NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post.