In the 1930’s, an artist by the name of Ham Fisher created a comic character Joe Palooka. The comic strip ran in nearly 1,000 newspapers and lasted until the mid 1980s. Then the comic ceased production, and was no more, but not without creating lasting memories for many fans.
One such fan was Joe Antonacci. Growing up Antonacci watched all kinds of sports with his father, but the primary focus for the two of them were boxing and bull fighting. The two sports seem like they are unrelated, but then as Antonacci explains it, it was about the respect and the beauty of the competition that enthralled him.
With a love of the sport of boxing, it was no surprise that Antonacci would be drawn to the Joe Palooka comic strip. He recalls rushing home to read what was next for his favorite character. “We got an afternoon newspaper. I would open the paper and skip over the sports section and go straight to the comic page because I loved Joe Palooka. Every day you would get another little segment, a little piece of the story. I remember him being in Turkey, fighting the big bad Turkish heavyweight champion. Joe of course was the world Champion.” Just listening to Antonacci reminisce about his childhood reading the comic you can hear his enthusiasm exude and you know that he is smiling from ear to ear.
While many adults have fond childhood memories, few are able to capitalize on them like Antonacci was able to. Even as few as four years ago, Palooka was just a fond memory for him. It wasn’t until a trip home that he ran into a friend of his Ed Catto that the light bulb went off. “I saw a friend of mine, Ed Catto, and he was signing books and autographing Captain Action comic books. I didn’t know who Captain Action was, so I asked him to fill me in. He said that he had a Captain Action doll as a kid, while others had GI Joe, and it was his favorite character. He then found out that the rights to the character were expired and he bought them.”
Antonacci knew that this was something he was interested in so he talked to Catto about the process of how he acquired the rights to his favorite character growing up. It turns out, it was both easier and harder than anticipated. The first step was to find the trademark and see if it was expired. That’s the easy part, anyone can go to uspto.gov and look up trademarks. They are a use it or lose it sort of thing, so if one owns a trademark and fails to produce material with it, they lose the rights to it.
The question then for Antonacci became what to do? He quickly went to work making a comic, t-shirts, hats, other goods with the Joe Palooka name and then applied for the trademark. He was granted it. Many will be quick to ask why with his love of boxing growing up, even being a boxing announcer, did he decide to change the character Joe Palooka to a mixed martial artist.
“I have a trademark to produce a comic book or merchandise. I don’t have a copyright. I don’t own the original drawings or stories. All those are owned by the creators or the creators’ heirs. I knew I had to re-invent this guy, not just his look, but the way he acted. Then it occurred to me to make him an mma fighter. I wanted him to travel the world as a fighter.”
Mixed martial arts fans who are worried that the comic is just going to be a re-hashing of fights inside a cage or a ring are sadly mistaken. The new Joe Palooka comic is a mix of the action, spy, and fighting all rolled into one. The story is captivating from the first frame of comic.
For those that are still on the fence about it, there are several options that one has. By visiting www.palooka.com one can receive at no charge the first thirteen pages of the comic, or for just $1.99 (until it is removed), one can purchase digital copies of the first and second issue. But to those that are true collectors and fans, the first printed version of the comic is available starting today (December 19th) at comic book stores across the nation.