Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

Two parallel universes from two silver age comic book publishers examined ad naseum!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Courageous Carrot-Tops Week: Sidekicks Assemble

When last we considered the colorful crusaders of World War II, the Shield and Judomaster, we briefly touched on their junior sidekicks. Dusty and Tiger had motivated the two senior members of their duets to continue their careers despite some adversities that came along the way. How did these two lads themselves become embroiled in costumed conflicts, and what became of them decades later? Let's briefly review their histories:

As happened surprisingly often in the golden age of comics, a young boy loses his parents due to tragic circumstances, arranged by a criminal, and inevitably run into a superhero! This occurred in Pep Comics #11. And the hero in question was the first patriotic clad hero in comics.

Sweet! Shield quickly stitched up a handy-dandy new costume for his little buddy. In an odd twist, he felt it necessary to saddle the kid with a cape which the Shield himself never bothered to wear. Anyway, in yet another coinkydink, Dusty already had full Olympic-level training in judo and acrobatics. Apparently the physical education program in schools back then was exceptional! Oh, and fear not, the gaudy yellow on red-and-blue suit was quickly swapped out for something more aesthetically pleasing.


Dusty quickly made friends with the Wizard's own sidekick, Roy the Super-Boy (yep that was is name!). Now the Boy Detective could swap notes with a fellow lad taken under the wing of a major hero, in Roy's case the Wizard. They had an eleven issue run in Special/Hangman/Black Hood Comics #1-11. And met the Hangman along the way, at least on covers.


When the Shield's lengthy run of appearances petered out in December 1945, so had Dusty's. He next appeared in Mighty Crusaders #4, in the oft quoted (here) tale "Too Many Super-Heroes", which reintroduced several heroes. Dusty was brought back to the future by Zambini's powers for some unspecified reason (Jerry Siegel's wacky plotting, perhaps).Then...

Bye bye, old chum. The perpetual-pup was zapped back to his own time where, according to the Original Shield #2, he "mysteriously disappeared". The operating theory around here is that he was kidnapped by a master criminal named the Keeper, a foe of Thunder Bunny, who had a propensity to keep just upright nuisances of gangland in suspended animation for decades. Dusty reappeared in Archie's Weird Mysteries #14 in April 2001, unaffected by the ravages of time alongside other World War II mystery men turned Mighty Crusaders who (aside for the Shield) inexplicably retained their youthful vigor. Until anexplanation is provided, we'll take it.


Tiger's first appearance was a bit more...unorthodox. While himself an orphan, he resided in a Japanese internment camp...in Wyoming! Even more bizarre, he was the secret servant of the sword wielding assassin know as the Cat who himself was attempting to cause a revolt within the camp. Cat lived right under the noses of the soldiers, and rather than lock him in solitary confinement the military brass send their star agent, Judomaster, to challenge his Oriental opponent in a definitive duel.

Despite some initial reservation of Judomaster's valor and worthiness, Tiger is soon swayed to the Allied side during these turbulent war years. And as seen in the last panel (originally on a later page), Tiger stowed away on board the plane of Rip Jagger (Judomaster), and ends up donning his costumed! The cat is out of the bag (well actually he was thrown off a cliff, but we digress). What next will become of this curious cub?



In the aforementioned adversity that had struck Rip, a blindness keeping him temporarily disoriented, the General devised as scheme whereby Tiger would assume Judomaster's role as a secret agent with the judo skill set. This motivated Rip to resume his alias, and the two decided to join forces in the last panel  that would give the Japs a one-two-punch.

Judomaster's team of Bushiri, Suzikawa and Tiger continued to assist him on several cases, including the last recorded in Judomaster #89.  The kid quickly earned his street cred using his mind as well as his physical attributes. While his training was extensive he had something more, something intrinsic in his nature that could be harnessed...perhaps..to train others. In fact, he did just that decades later with surprising results...

That lass that a much older Tiger is training is wealthy Senatorial daughter Eve Eden, wishing to train herself with the necessary skills to save her brother from another dimension. She would become Nightshade, and whether or not Tiger later became aware of her own dual identity, he would no doubt have been pleased with the good she accomplished thanks in-part to his own mentoring of her. As would his own mentor.

Two adventurous boys added to the long list of superhero sidekicks, using their wits and abilities, each only standing on the sidelines for a short time before jumping into their own legends.

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