Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Cartoonist Ham Fisher created the immortal Joe Palooka (then called Joe the Dumbbell) in 1920 [Some sources say 1921] but was unable to get anyone interested in the character.  It took a decade to get the McNaught Syndicate to carry the strip beginning on April 19, 1930.  It son became a major hit,   In 1948 it was one of the five most popular newspaper strips.

Joe was a good-natured, clean cut galoot.  He had a strong moral code and really did not like to fight, making him a natural for comicbookdom's heavyweight champion.  Joe's looks changed as often as the real-life heavyweight championship did -- Fisher would use the features of whoever was the champion at the time for his character, a tradition that hit a brick wall when Joe Louis became champ.  From that point on, Joe Palooka remained a blond, strong-jawed character with a massive upper body.

Regular characters in the comic strip included Joe's manager Knobby Walsh, his girlfriend Ann Howe (shortly after this issue appeared, Joe and Ann were married in a highly publicized comic strip wedding),  the massive blacksmith Humphrey Pennyweather, Joe's black valet/future sparring partner Smokey ( stereotype of the times), and Joe's World War II buddy Jerry Leemy.  (Despite having the honored and dignified name of Jerry, this character was portrayed as a dumb and over-confident comic foil.)

Joe Palooka spawned a short-lived radio series, twelve feature length films, nine film shorts, a television series, and a slew of comic books and merchandising items.  Near to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania -- Ham Fisher's hometown -- is Joe Palooka Mountain, named in 1980 after the creation of a local boy who made good.

Fisher, who had a troubled life, committing suicide in 1955. Nearly thirty years later, Joe Palooka, the comic strip was cancelled on November 14, 1984, after its circulation dropped to 182 papers (at one time, the strip appeared in 790 papers worldwide).   Fisher's character live on, though, as a symbol of the American character.

The Harvey Comics Joe Palooka would run a continuous story (of sorts) from issue to issue, with the concluding pages of the main story setting up the first pages of the story in the next issue.

In this issue, Knobby has been framed for murder and is on the run from a night club racketeer and his hoodlums.  As this is resolved, Joe goes searching for Ann, who is missing.  To be continued in the next issue.

This issues also has a number of sports fillers.


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