The classic comic-strip boxer was resurrected last year by ring announcer Joe Antonacci, who purchased the rights to the character and reimagined him as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter in a six-issue online series by writer Mike Bullock and artists Fernando Peniche and Matt Triano. Adding letterer Josh Aitken and colorist Bob Pedroza into the mix, IDW will release those comics in print.
Created by cartoonist Ham Fisher, the Joe Palooka comic strip appeared in newspapers from 1930 to 1984, following the adventures of a good-natured (if not overly bright) boxing champion. The character proved so popular that he starred in radio serials, feature films, comic books and a syndicated television series.
The new version centers on an MMA fighter who travels the world trying to clear his name while competing to earn a sport in the legendary Legion of Combat fight series.
“This represents a huge moment for me, and is a culmination of a real team effort,” Antonacci said in a statement. “To sign on with a tremendous publisher like IDW and to have the opportunity to bring Joe Palooka to comic book and MMA fans worldwide is a tremendous opportunity. We’re also proud to have sponsored many UFC fighters and plan to expand our relationship with them by having UFC fighters appear in the comic book as well.”
Writer Mike Bullock attracted attention during his run on The Phantom by pitting the Ghost Who Walks against analogues of real-life villains like Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army to raise awareness about the situation in Uganda and its surrounding area. Bullock has carried that mission into his latest jungle-adventure comic Savage Beauty.
As a fan of jungle-adventure stories (in fact, I wrote a text piece for Savage Beauty #1 talking about my fondness for the genre), I was curious about the challenges involved in Bullock’s approach and in writing African-set adventure stories in general without resorting to clichés.
Savage Beauty #1 hits comics shops tomorrow.
Michael May: I want to ask you about some of the challenges in writing about Africa in adventure comics, but first, can you give me a sense of your own experience with the continent? What’s drawn you to it?
Mike Bullock: Prior to working on The Phantom at Moonstone I didn’t know much at all except what I’d seen in movies, TV, and the occasional magazine article. Then, it just so happened that my mother-in-law went to Uganda with Compassion International to visit a child she sponsored. Right after she returned, my father-in-law, wife, and I went out to lunch with another woman who had gone on the trip as well. She spent about an hour detailing the plight of the Night Commuters, the tyranny of Joseph Kony (the man originally credited with using children as soldiers) and the persecution of the Acholi people.
I’ve always had a heart for kids and listening to what Kony was (and still is) doing to the children of an entire culture made my blood boil. As these things go, it turned out one of my close friends had grown up with one of the guys who worked for Invisible Children. Before long I was elbows deep in their mission, doing whatever I could as a comic writer to help them and the Acholi people.