by Doc Quantum
In a satellite orbiting a blue-green world, a blond man peered through a porthole at the magnificent view of the planet Earth below. Project X, as the huge satellite was called, was the current headquarters of the Sentinels of Justice. (*) It was a far cry from the Manhattan brownstone they’d used as their headquarters until a year ago.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: Superpowers, Chapter 10: Sentinels Reborn.]
The blond man wore a small, sad smile on his face. In his day he had seen a lot of things, but he truly had never imagined he’d personally watch the Earth from this view before. To think that the Sentinels had even gotten used to the view in the months they’d been here was a startling idea.
The world below looked so beautiful from up here, so peaceful. Rip Jagger, former sergeant of the U.S. Army, knew that wasn’t always true, of course. He’d seen war up close during World War II, but those were different times. There was no world war these days, but there were still conflicts in many parts of the world at all times. The world had become much more complex since the 1940s, that was for sure.
If only he had known what was in store for him the day he stepped foot into that U.S. Army recruiting center.
The day was December 8th, 1941, and it was the day after the sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. Jagger had moved to Hawaii after graduating from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and had already been thinking of joining the army when war broke out. Jagger’s impressive showing in boot camp led to his earning the rank of sergeant, and he was soon sent into the Pacific Theater of Operations to fight the Japanese.
Fate took a turn when Sergeant Ripley Jagger and his squad were sent to a remote island in the South Pacific populated by descendants of Japanese settlers centuries ago but who were not loyal to Imperial Japan. When one of the islanders was threatened by Japanese soldiers, Rip saved the islander’s life, only to be knocked unconscious. When he awoke, he found himself underground in a secret dojo located in a cave, where he met an old man known only as the Sensei. This dojo master explained that the islander Rip had saved was his beautiful granddaughter Suzikawa, and that the Japanese had completely wiped out his squad while he was gone. Now the last American soldier on the island, Rip was offered the chance to learn judo, jiujitsu, and other martial arts taught by the great master named Bushuri, even as he grew close to beautiful Suzikawa.
Although Jagger’s fighting skills lacked finesse, Bushuri recognized in him the sheer talent that would make him the finest of all his students in the martial arts. Bushuri spent the next few weeks training him at an advanced level, and Rip progressed more quickly than any other, gaining his black belt at a rapid pace. But the islanders needed his help to defeat the Japanese invaders, and as he used a combination of his newly acquired martial arts skills and U.S. Army training, he quickly became a symbol of freedom to the oppressed islanders.
The Sensei made Jagger the leader of the guerillas on their raids against the Japanese, not as U.S. Army Sergeant Rip Jagger, but as the symbol of freedom, Judomaster, clad in a sleek fighting uniform designed and created by the islanders. Judomaster’s rebellion against the Japanese commander, Major Yoku, quickly became the stuff of legends. And by the time Jagger was able to call in the U.S. Army Air Force to bomb the Japanese barracks, the invasion had been defeated, and freedom had returned to the island. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Introducing Rip Jagger, Judomaster,” Special War Series #4 (November, 1965).]
Sergeant Rip Jagger was brought back into the fold of the U.S. Army, who quickly connected his time on the island with the appearance of the new mystery-man called Judomaster, but kept it a secret. General Frank Hawkins of Military Intelligence, nicknamed the Hawk, selected Jagger and his costumed identity of Judomaster for Operation Symbol, which was inspired by the appearance of costumed mystery-men like the Blue Beetle and the other members of the Mystery Men of America, who operated stateside. Under the Hawk’s command, Jagger would become a one-man operative as Judomaster, nicknamed the scarlet smasher and the crimson crusher, whose public exploits would inspire the troops and increase morale back home in the United States.
But that morale was broken in July, 1944, when Judomaster was sent on a mission to destroy a new rocket developed and built by Japanese scientists. The mission involved flying into Japan itself and would almost certainly be a suicide mission. After learning of the location of the missile base, Judomaster flew in on a Japanese Zero and bombed it kamikaze-style, escaping at the last minute. On foot, he made it all the way into Tokyo, where he destroyed the plans for the missile before getting captured. The Japanese, determined to make the most of his capture, beat Judomaster and used hypnotism to cause him to turn traitor. Soon he was put on the radio alongside Tokyo Rose herself, where he told enlisted men everywhere to surrender just as he had. But Judomaster slipped in a message to General Hawkins in the broadcast, letting him know that he had successfully destroyed the missiles, allowing U.S. troops to begin a major offensive. Thanks to Judomaster, the U.S. Army and Marines were able to successfully capture the Japanese-held island of Guam. But Judomaster himself was mistakenly believed to be a traitor. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Judomaster, Traitor,” Judomaster #90 (August, 1966).]
In August, 1944, Rip was sent on a mission to a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming to discover the identity of the Japanese spy known only as the Cat, who was a master kendo swordsman. While there, Rip observed a thirteen-year-old Japanese-American orphan boy at the camp who idolized the Cat, and he was determined to break the spell the Cat had over the boy. Thus he challenged the Cat to a one-on-one battle at a remote location, a nearby cliffside. The boy, snooping, soon learned that Rip Jagger was secretly Judomaster and followed him to the battle. Watching, the boy was conflicted when he saw the valiant might of Judomaster against his hero, the Cat. Not wanting his dojo master, the Cat, to lose face by losing the battle, he threw a rock at Judomaster’s head, stunning him. But when the boy saw how the Cat sought to end the battle by striking when the hero was down, he realized how misplaced his hero worship had been. And though he tried to help Judomaster win the fight, the hero managed to do so without any help, and the Cat fell off the cliff, surviving almost certain death thanks only to his martial arts training. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Judomaster, Man Without a Country,” Judomaster #91 (October, 1966).]
The boy, whose nickname was Tiger, wanted to go with Judomaster despite the danger, but the hero refused. General Hawkins next assigned Rip to travel to Europe to follow the international spy ring, for Military Intelligence had learned that the Cat was actually supplying information to the Nazis, not the Japanese. While on the plane to Europe, Rip discovered that young Tiger had stowed away in his duffelbag, so he left the boy behind as he went after the Nazi spy. But Tiger snuck out and managed to get himself captured as a hostage by that spy just as Rip was about to arrest him, allowing him to escape with the boy.
If that were not bad enough, Rip learned that the spy was working for none other than the feared Nazi master spy Rudolf Wolk, better known as the Smiling Skull. Since they knew the Smiling Skull’s location, the U.S. Army was planning on bombing it. But Judomaster had to save the boy before it was too late. Racing against time, he flew to the Smiling Skull’s base and there fought the Nazi agent hand-to-hand, defeating the Smiling Skull even while outnumbered and fighting with a disadvantage, when he was surrounded by blinding spotlights on all sides. Tiger managed to get Judomaster out of the camp just before the U.S. bombers destroyed it, but Rip had been left blinded after the fight under the spotlights. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Judomaster Meets the Smiling Skull,” Judomaster #92 (December, 1966).]
The fact that he was blind and that the world believed him to be a traitor severely demoralized Sergeant Rip Jagger, so much so that he made the mistake of unwittingly destroying the hero worship that young Tiger had in him. Tiger vowed to be strong and carry on in Judomaster’s place if Rip was going to simply give up, but even that wasn’t enough to rouse Rip out of his slump. Tiger, still determined to do his part for America, went with Bushuri and Suzikawa to stay with them and train at the same dojo on the South Pacific island where Rip had learned all his skills.
While Rip was in the hospital, Tiger was rapidly trained by Bushuri in the martial arts. Like his idol Judomaster, Tiger was a prodigy who proved to be a master student in the martial arts before too long, able to beat all in battle except Bushuri himself. After many long days, Tiger was ready, and, as it turned out, so was Judomaster.
It turned out that, after a week’s rest with bandages covering his eyes, Rip’s vision was only temporarily gone. And after a few days of therapy, he was able to get back into action. Returning to the island as Judomaster, he found Tiger in the midst of a battle with Bushuri and was impressed by the boy’s prowess. He was truly ready to become his crime-fighting partner and fellow soldier against the Axis. To that end, Tiger was given a costume designed by the old Sensei to look somewhat like Judomaster’s own, except white and red with a red sun emblazoned on the chest. In their first mission together, Judomaster and Tiger led a group of the guerrilla fighters from the island to destroy a gun on a key channel in the South Pacific. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Meet the Tiger,” Judomaster #93 (February, 1967).]
Together, Judomaster and Tiger became a formidable team feared by the Japanese army brass, so much so that they held a tournament of champions to decide who would be Japan’s answer to Judomaster. The huge sumo wrestler called Mountain Storm participated, as did the Cat, and even the Nazi agent called the Smiling Skull took part in the tournament. But none of them were prepared for the martial arts prowess of a young circus performer who would become known as the Acrobat. He would be the first man to defeat Judomaster in combat. (*) But that wouldn’t be the only surprise surrounding the Acrobat.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Plot to Destroy Judomaster,” Judomaster #95 (June, 1967).]
Judomaster soon learned that there was a Japanese spy on his island base, and after finding that spy and overhearing him radio to the Japanese, he learned that his beloved Suzikawa was the spy’s source of information. It was devastating to him, especially when Suzi confessed that it was true, but she begged him to listen to her reasons for doing so. It was for fear of her brother’s life that she had agreed to be a spy, but she had only supplied non-vital information. A heartbroken Judomaster went into his second battle with the Acrobat and this time managed to overcome him. When they unmasked him, he turned out to be none other than Suzikawa’s own brother. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Final Phase of the Plot to Destroy Judomaster,” Judomaster #96 (August, 1967).]
Over the next year, Judomaster and Tiger had many more adventures, including bizarre ones like the case of Tabuki, the isle of dragons where prehistoric dinosaurs still roamed, and where Japanese invaders led by the strange Japanese Sandman controlled the dinosaurs until the duo defeated him and destroyed the Japanese base. Judomaster and Tiger also met other mystery-men and teamed up with a few of them on some memorable wartime cases.
And then, in June of 1945, everything came to an end. While on a mission with Tiger to rescue several American prisoners of war, Judomaster was suddenly taken by some unknown force from his own time and deposited in the year 1985 during a time when Earth was gripped with terror while under the control of a man called the Psycho-Pirate. He found himself in the midst of several strange people and aliens wearing costumes even stranger than his own. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Three Earths, Three Deaths,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #6 (September, 1985).]
When the great fear finally ended, he learned that some of these people were known as the Sentinels of Justice, the modern-day version of the Mystery Men of his era. The Sentinels were the ones who told him that forty years had passed for him in a blink of an eye. They also vowed to help him in any way they could to adjust to the modern era. Two men in particular, Captain Atom and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, offered their hands in friendship to Rip Jagger, who welcomed it with gratitude. During the Crisis, Judomaster fought alongside the Sentinels of Justice as one of their own and was even captured with the team during the invasion of an army of super-villains from parallel worlds. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War, Chapter 4: Earth-Four Got.]
But even after the Crisis had passed, and time was set back into its proper place, Rip Jagger was still stranded forty years from his own era. He would have to adjust to life in a new world after all. Rip began intensely training once more, even learning several new martial arts styles, but he decided not to resume his life as Judomaster right away, even though the Sentinels offered him a permanent place on their team. Instead, he decided to explore this new world he found himself in and see what had become of the old one. It took him weeks simply to get used to how strange everything felt; if the past was a foreign country, then he truly was a foreigner trying to adjust to living in an alien land.
Over the first few months, Rip looked up people he had known during the war, but so much had changed in their absence while he was gone. Tetsuro “Tiger” Tanaka was now a middle-aged man much older than Rip, whose fighting days were behind him, not the eager young hero-worshipper he had been as a boy. Young Tiger had grown up under the guidance of the Sensei and Bushuri and had long since surpassed his own martial arts prowess to become a hero in the 1950s under his nickname of Tiger. For a time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Tiger even became a second Judomaster and had taken on a student of his own, the second Tiger. In the 1950s he had also taught martial arts to the teenaged Eve Eden, who grew up to become the action-heroine known as Nightshade. And in more recent years he had passed on his legacy to a young Japanese action-heroine called Tyger. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1982: Crisis on Earth-Four, Chapter 7: Free at Last.]
Frank Hawkins was dead of old age, of course, having died shortly after the end of the Korean War. The Mystery Men of America had long since disbanded, and all of its members had either died or retired. The age of the mystery-men was long over; this was the day of the action-heroes. On the island where Judomaster and Tiger were born, old Sensei was dead, and Bushuri was an old man who was the current master of the dojo.
Dear, sweet, beautiful Suzikawa had waited for many years for Rip to return to her, but even she finally realized that he was probably dead. Finally, with some measure of regret, she had married someone else and had a family of her own. That had been the hardest thing of all for him to learn, that some doors closed permanently. Time was indeed the greatest thief of all.
“Ready to go?” said a deep voice from behind.
Rip Jagger turned away from the view of the Earth below and looked at Captain Atom. With his silver-white hair, silvery arms, shiny red and blue costume, and the symbol of the atom emblazoned on his chest, along with a slight glow surrounding his body at all times, he looked like a true citizen of the atomic era. And what would that make me? Rip thought as he looked down at himself. By any measure, he was an antique. He just hoped he wasn’t making a mistake by going back into the field. But he wasn’t about to let anyone else know his doubts.
“No sense wasting any more time, Captain,” said Judomaster, pulling his cowl over his head. “God knows I’ve had enough wasted for me to last a lifetime.”