Another book from the 3-bags of Modern Comics Charlton reprints that I picked up at Two Guys. JUDOMASTER was something of an odd character conception, even by comic book standards. It concerned an American serviceman during World War II who had been taught the fighting skills of judo and who wore a costume emblazoned with the Japanese rising sun symbol to combat the enemy. Seems to me like his outfit was likely to get him shot by friendly fire, but what do I know?

Judomaster was the brainchild of artist Frank McLaughlin, who I knew primarily as a DC inker, mostly working as Dick Giordano’s primary assistant in the mid-1970s. This is no great stretch, as Giordano was Charlton’s editor during the period that many of these reprint comics had been originally produced, including JUDOMASTER, prior to being hired as an editor by DC. The artwork on JUDOMASTER has a sort of “Giordano-lite” flavor to it–not quite as sharp or as punchy as Dick’s work, but with a nice similar surface sensibility.

As Rip Jagger, Judomaster works for Army Intelligence, and in this story he’s summoned to General Hawkings’ office in response to rumors that the Japanese have discovered an uncharted island where enormous dragons still exist, which they intend to bend to the war effort. Judomaster and his team are given the mission of foiling the Japanese plans. Journeying to the island, Judomaster is swiftly contacted by the native chieftain, who despite their island’s secretive nature, has heard of Judomaster’s prowess. The two throw in together to defeat their mutual enemy.

Locating the enemy camp, Judomaster and his crew are attacked by a pair of dinosaurs, which splits their group up. His fighting skills not much use against such monsters, Judomaster takes refuge in a cave, but the entrance is blocked off by the deadly beasts and there seems no other way out. To make matters worse, Judomaster’s sidekick Tiger and ladyfriend Suzie are still out there, possibly being turned into lunch. Ultimately, Judomaster is able to locate a passageway out of the cave, because all caves have such a passageway in fiction like this.

Emerging, Judomaster finds that his two allies have been captured by the enemy, including the costumed character calling himself the Japanese Sandman. The Sandman uses a combination of tranquilizer darts and a mesmerizing gem mounted on his headpiece to control the beasts. He stakes out Tiger and Suzie, intending to provide a meal for his creatures.

Attacking, Judomaster is able to free Tiger and Suzie, and the trio scoops up some of the tranquilizing rifles and retreats. They head back to the cave and knock out the dinosaur blocking up the opening, thus freeing the native forces, who move in to mop up the enemy troops. Judomaster takes on the Japanese Sandman and triumphs easily, and the team destroys the base according to mission parameters–aided by the fact that Tiger switched the ammunition in the enemy guns for regular bullets, which would not stupefy the attacking reptiles. So it’s a solid story, but told in a somewhat clinical and dull fashion. 

The back-up story is an adventure of Giordano’s private eye/secret agent Sarge Steel, whose left hand was amputated and replace with an iron prosthetic. Here, Steel makes his way to an island in Key West, where his secretary has been abducted as bait to lure him to the area by the leaders of the evil organization POW headed by Eric Rinn and Roja.

It’s a by-the-numbers spy caper. Steel and Bess mix it up with Rinn and Roja and their men, fighting their way to freedom–with Bess mowing down a mob of bad guys and then collapsing into Sarge’s arms, horrified by the violence she’s just committed. It’s also got the mechanical lettering that made a number of Charlton’s comics more difficult to read–it just doesn’t look good.

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