The more things change the more they stay the same.Fan-boys are still arguing about who would prevail in a fight...Batman or Captain America? Of course back in the Silver Age of Comics the argument made a bit more sense.Back then both DC and Marvel described their respective heroes as the "world's greatest athlete" and the "world's greatest human fighting machine". Only back then the super-soldier serum didn't give the Captain the ability to make a fifteen foot standing high jump. Or run a mile in a minute among other things. So a fight between the two seemed a bit more fare. Both Batman and the Captain were just superior physical specimens who were highly skilled in hand-to hand combat. So as a pre-teen I wondered how Charlton Comics' Judo Master would have fared against the Caped Crusader or the Living Legend of WW Two.
Judomaster created by Joe Gill and Frank McLaughlin
Judo Master's origin appeared in Special War Series No.4(Nov.1965) a little over a year after Captain America made his first Silver Age appearance in The Avengers No.4(March 1964). In it Steve Rogers lookalike Sgt.Rip Jagger of the U.S. Army rescues the granddaughter of a Pacific island chief known as "Sensei". The islanders are actually Japanese citizens who left their homeland to escape the nation's war-time policies.Jagger himself is rescued by native guerillas after his unit is wiped out. He is then schooled in the martial arts by the islanders and given a colorful costume to fight a guerilla war against the Japanese. Jagger who had been a collegiate boxing champion in turn,under the tutelage of the islanders, masters jiu jitsu,karate,kendo and of course judo. He eventually also gains a kid sidekick in the form of a Japanese-American named "Tiger".
Like all fan-boys I imagined my favorite comic book features turned into movies. And the casting of Rip Jagger in a Judo Master movie seemed like a no-brainer. American karate legend Joe Lewis had been an avid weight-lifter during his days as a high school wrestler. Upon graduation he joined the Marines where he first studied judo and then karate while stationed in Okinawa. After leaving the service after a stint in Viet Nam he began competing in karate tournaments. He won innumerable point karate championships and then became the U.S. Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion and the World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion.He was twice voted the greatest fighter in karate history. And Bruce Lee regarded him as such. The part of Colt in Return of The Dragon was originally written for him. But after a falling out between Lee and Lewis the role went to fellow karate champion Chuck Norris.Who knows if Lewis had taken the role maybe he would have gone on to B-movie and TV stardom. And we'd be making jokes about "Joe Lewis Facts".
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