You may think that the phenomenon of American comics appropriating Japanese culture is some kind of relatively new thing that probably got started by robot toys or those damn video games those kids can't stop playing even when it's time for dinner or homework. But no! Even back in the 50s enterprising Yankees were using Asian folkways to sell comics to kids.
Yes, it's Judo Joe, using the authentic Japanese martial art of "judo" - and his snappy crew cut and bow tie - to battle muggers and thugs right on the streets of Anytown U.S.A.! The star of a short-lived 1950s comic, Joe would find himself brought back to life during the black-and-white comics explosion of the 1980s, when hundreds of publishers were flooding the comic book stores with darn near everything. The B&W glut became a real problem, as discussed in an editorial published here in "Judo Joe".
So too many B&W comics, that's a problem. You know what's not helping? Publishing these comments in - yes - yet another rack-clogging B&W comic! That's like putting your high-cholesterol medication inside a cheeseburger! But enough poking fun at cognitive dissonance, as amusing as this might be. Let's get to some judo!
You know what would really spice up this reprint of a 50s comic about a crew-cut judo teen? Some new stories starring our crew-cut judo teen! That's (not) what comic readers in 1987 wanted; not mutants or ninjas or elves or ninja elf mutants, but crew-cut judo teen stories with snappy lettering by "Chic Chumley", whom we would come to know later as Daniel "Eightball" Clowes. Here we see Judo Joe visiting his family in 'the city' which is overrun by muggers and teen motorcycle gang The Satans.
Judo Joe's plan involves dressing up in women's clothes. Oh, and I think he's going to battle some muggers. But women's clothes, that's the important part.
He's aided in his judo-vs-mugger battle by one of The Satans, and they join forces to wipe out the mugger menace - by learning judo!
Soon the Satans are working out in the gym, learning how to take falls and judo techniques like the complicated "uchi mata sukashi" or "inner thigh void throw" which is probably pretty difficult but has an amusing ring to it, doesn't it? Not that this comic book will actually mention any actual judo holds or throws.
And having spread the wisdom of judo to a gang of street toughs, serene in the knowledge that if everyone helped the police there would be less crime, moving on to spread bow-tied martial arts mastery to another town, we bid farewell to Judo Joe. But wait! Who is Judo Joe? How did he come by his amazing judo power? Inquiring minds want to know!
AAA! Blazing with judo power it's Judo Joe, here to explain this wonderful art of self defense! Turn it down, Joe! It hurts my eyes!
You see, in the 1930s Joe's family went to Japan to minister to the depression-era Japanese who apparently had no doctors at all, and his father saved the life of Japan's greatest judo expert, whose name was "Wan Tung", because whoever wrote this comic didn't know any Japanese names and couldn't be bothered to take two minutes to look one up or talk to anybody who knew anybody who knew anybody who knew anything about Japan.
In appreciation, Wan Tung made everybody dress in weird shorty robes and no pants and wrestle with each other. For judo, I think. We hope.
Then one day WWII started and the Smith family went into hiding thanks to Wan Tung. What I wanna know is, who's hiding Wan Tung? Joe spent the entire war learning judo in an undisclosed location somewhere in the three or four spots in Japan that weren't getting the crap bombed out of them on a daily basis. One of those spots turned out to be Hiroshima, so I guess Joe wasn't there.
By this time Joe had learned all the secrets of Judo, many of which no white man had ever known, particularly the white man shown here returning to check up on the millions in gold he stashed away in the Philippines. Joe's prowess at judo amazed the Japanese and he's given the greatest respect because in Japan a judo champion is a great man. But living like an oriental potentate isn't everything and soon it was time for Joe to return to the land of his fathers and enter the greatest battle arena known to man - high school!!
At school Joe became a great favorite because he was always reciting lines from old Charlie Chan radio shows. In later years this kind of super Asian fanboy behavior would be clinically defined as "weeaboo" or "weeb", the warning signs of which are Dragonball Z club shirts and Naruto headbands, and if seen, contact your doctor immediately.
But of course there's always a big school bully who needs to take this weeb down a peg, and of course the weeb uses his mysterious Oriental fistic artistry to defeat the bully, earning the admiration of his schoolmates.
Even the dreaded "schoolyard stick" is no match for the power of Judo!
I love how schoolyard fights end in these 50s stories, with the two parties shaking hands and becoming friends. Did this EVER HAPPEN, EVER?
Soon Judo Joe is romancing the girls and teaching everybody how to get sweaty and handsy with each other after class! All in the name of judo. Judo, right.
But what I'm sure you're all here to read about is the time Judo Joe smashed the teen-age dope ring! Well here it is.
Ripped right from the headlines, smashing the dope peddlers, causing little hearts to fly in the air, Judo Joe cannot be stopped.
But let's be honest. I know what you REALLY want out of this 1950s judo comic. You want men in little short judo robes, and you want casual racial slurs. Well, Judo Joe is here to deliver.
This was from a time in which "Jap" was still used as a perfectly common term, perhaps by people who had been engaged in a life or death, banzai charge, take no prisoners, flaming kamikaze explosion struggle with the Japanese for years, so I'll go ahead and cut them some slack on the usage of the term. But if you weren't getting shot at, you probably should stick with "Japanese". Also: slow news days abound for the Daily Blade. Maybe hire some new reporters, guys.
And here you go, tightly muscled 1950s men grappling with each other in their little robes and tiny shorts. You're welcome.
But how could this white man defeat me, a Japanese judo master? The only Caucasian I know of with this mastery of Judo was the son of... why, it's you, Judo Joe! Forgive me for not recognizing you sooner. You see, to Orientals, all white men look alike.
And thus ends the saga of Judo Joe! But we still wonder - who created Judo Joe? Perhaps the editor of this reprint edition can tell us.
Or perhaps the editor of this reprint edition will just not even try, and assume "Dr. Barney Cosneck" and "Paul W. Stoddard" are "undoubtedly pseudonyms". Well, sorry to inject facts into this little discussion here, but Bernard J. Cosneck was a Big Ten championship college wrestler and actual hand-to-hand fighting expert who taught unarmed combat in the Coast Guard during WWII and published a few books on self-defense and martial arts, including one with heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey. The "Judo Joe" comic he published with Stoddard lasted three issues, while the 1987 version only managed to squeak out one issue before everybody figured America still didn't want stiff, crew-cut judo comics, even with Dan Clowes lettering. Will Judo Joe ever return? Will cheap comic producers once again pounce upon public-domain properties in an attempt to wring a few cents out of this tired old concept? Will the crew-cut bowtie look ever return? We may never know.
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