Introduction On Racism Epigraphs A History of the Pulps A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Palooka, Joe. Joe Palooka was created by Ham Fisher and appeared in the comic strip “Joe Palooka” (1930-1984); he also appeared in an eponymous radio show in 1932. “Joe Palooka” was one of the most successful comic strips of all time.
Joe Palooka is a poor man whose greatest skill is boxing, and he uses that skill to become the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. More than a great boxer, however, Palooka is a genuinely good person. Very much a working class hero, Palooka is humble without being craven, shy without being withdrawn, laid-back without being a slacker, easily embarrassed without being a stiff, and genuinely likable. He embodies the virtues of the Boy Scout code, but he is legitimately tough and is angered when someone–himself or others–is wronged.
When the United States enters World War Two Palooka enlists in the Army as a private and remains at that rank for the duration of the war. Palooka is assisted by Knobby, his small, nervous, twitchy and argumentative fight manager, and by Smoky, an African-American whose vocabulary and appearance is that of a racist stereotype but who is always treated by Joe as an equal and friend.
* I'm including "Joe Palooka" in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of the great enjoyment to be had from the strip. The portrayal of Palooka as a working class hero, a man of many virtues who happens to be a tough boxer and an angry foe of injustice, is tremendously appealing, and Ham Fisher, though on no one's list of the top ten Golden Age comic strip writers or artists lists, got the maximum of emotion, excitement, and even heartwarming sentimentality out of Palooka and his friends and their avengers, who could have been one-note but were brought warmly to life by Fisher. If the strip never reached the heights of the Marcel Dunot stories thanks to Fisher's desire to emphasize boxing rather than High Pulp adventure, "Joe Palooka" did manage a depth of characterization (with the exception of Smoky) which was rare in the comics.
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