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First and Last – Joe Palooka

palooka (n.)

by 1926, “mediocre prizefighter,” of unknown origin, credited to U.S. sportswriter and “Variety” staffer Jack “Con” Conway (1898-1928), who might at least have popularized it. Non-boxing sense of “average person” is from Joe Palooka, hero of Ham Fisher’s boxing-themed comic strip, which debuted in 1930.

No Ham Fisher didn’t coin the term with his comic strip,
but the cartoonist popularized it with his character.

The world first took note of Joe Palooka by Ham Fisher on April 21, 1930.

Above are the first three dailies via Tom Heintjes;
Tom’s Hogan’s Alley Twitter account ran the first two weeks of the strip today.

With the help of assistants Ham Fisher’s Joe Palooka,
“quickly became the most successful sports strip of all time.”

In 1940 Joe crossed over into the Dixie Dugan strip.
Guest starring in other comic strips was not unheard of, it happened on occasion in the early days of newspaper comics. But by this time it was a rarity.

But 1940 was a big year in Joe’s life for another reason, he decided to join the army.

One year before Pearl Harbor Joe was on his way to boot camp!

As HistoryNet tells it:

And so it was that Joe Palooka, the heavyweight champion in one of the country’s most popular comic strips, began blazing a trail for the many thousands of Americans who would soon don uniforms and fight on World War II battlefields. Other comic strip heroes would enlist and fight in the war, but Joe Palooka did it first.

Ghost writers and artists who had been assisting Ham Fisher on the strip continued the strip after Ham’s death in 1955. Low circulation finally kayoed The Champ in 1984.
The last strip ran on November 24, 1984.

Matching Tom’s first two weeks, below are the last two weeks of the strip.


Like the last Joe Palooka story, the first Sunday had Joe fighting for charity.

above: Joe Palooka dated January 10, 1932 (the last Sunday Joe is…somewhere, somewhen)


Joe, who had a successful run in comic books, was revived in 2012 as a Mixed Martial Arts Fighter.

The less said about that, the better.

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