A while ago I was in my local comic shop and I saw an old comic on the shelf that for some reason immediately caught my attention. It was a simple image of two boxers in the ring and one was knocking the other out. The title read Joe Palooka, America's most famous comic hero, to which, when pointed out, Valhallahan said "What, more famous than Superman?"
This seemed like a fair comment at the time, but I was intrigued so when I got home I did a bit of Internet detective work. Imagine my surprise when I found out that, although he may not be more famous than Supes, he was, at one point, AS famous as everyones favourite Kryptonian do gooder. Now, I know any Americans reading this will be thinking "Is this guy for real?", however, Joe is pretty much forgotten in the U.K. unlike the U.S. where he seems to be forever in the public conscience.
Joe Palooka was created by cartoonist Ham Fisher and after years of trying to sell the strip to different publishers with no success it finally debuted in 1930. Apparently Fisher was, for lack of a better term, a bit shit when it came to writing and drawing (great choice of profession mate) so he relied on assistants to make the book the way he wanted it to be, only drawing the faces of Joe and another character, Knobby.
One such assistant was Li'l Abner creator Al Capp. This partnership did not end well, sparking off a 20 year feud between them. Eventually Fisher committed suicide. The end.
Anyway, back to the hero of the story.
Joe is a lovable oaf boxer who has various adventures, in the field of boxing and elsewhere. In 1940 he enlisted in the army, and being the first comic strip character to sign up, it's thought he may of influenced the decision of other young men to go to war. Although portrayed as slightly dumb and inarticulate, he was well meaning and occasionally spouted some profound words of propaganda, such as "Anybuddy back home who's spreadin' intolerance against any person bucuz of his race, creed or color is spreadin' Nazi principals". You go Joe!
I think Joe Palooka is a pretty cool guy. Eh fights Nazis and doesnt afraid of anything.
Oh yeah and he even has his own statue in a small town named Oolitic in Indiana.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010