Resurrected ‘Joe Palooka’ Comic Finds New Home in MMA Cage


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Since its humble beginnings, the sport of mixed martial arts has gradually become a part of the mainstream consciousness, appearing in everything from reality shows to video games to ESPN’s ticker of newsworthy events. Now, the sport can add another notch to its belt with the revival of the comic strip “Joe Palooka.”

Originally published in 1930, the comic about the adventures of the titular boxer has been revived for the MMA crowd.

“Originally, ‘Joe Palooka’ was a comic strip and comic book, and I loved it when I was growing up,” said Joe Antonacci (Pictured), who is responsible for the resurrection of the series. “A friend of mine resurrected ‘Captain Action’ from the 1960s and ‘70s, and I asked how he did it. He told me that he found out the trademark had been abandoned and nobody was producing anything with it. I went home and thought about how ‘Joe Palooka’ was my favorite comic. I checked, and the trademark had been abandoned. I hired a trademark attorney and did what I needed to do to get the trademark.”

With the trademark in hand, Antonacci -- a prominent ring announcer in the boxing world -- had the right to re-imagine his beloved childhood comic strip and produce his own series of stories using the character.

“I saw how MMA fans love combat and combat sports, so I decided to bring back ‘Joe Palooka,’” said Antonacci. “We’ve hired the best writers, colorists, artists and staff [we] could. We’ve produced a line of merchandise and are an approved sponsor with the UFC. We’ve had fighters wearing Palooka.com on gear in the Octagon. The UFC has been great to us.”

That feeling appears to be mutual, as fans can expect to see some top-level fighters gracing the pages of the strip. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, Gesias Cavalcante, Brendan Schaub, Jim Miller and Dan Miller all are slated to be featured.

“Having these kinds of fighters in the comic book gives fans someone they can recognize,” said Antonacci. “Plus, it allows them to see a different side of the fighters.”

Antonacci described the plot of the comic as an action-adventure story that is somewhat reminiscent of “The Fugitive,” following the main character after being accused of a crime he did not commit. According to Antonacci, feedback from fans in both the MMA and comic book communities has been positive thus far.

“We went to [popular comic book convention] Comic-Con for four days and had big lines,” said Antonacci. “It shows there’s a crossover between MMA fans and comic book fans. It made me feel good and made me feel like I made the right choice.”

“Joe Palooka” will be available both online and in paper editions; the online version is currently available at Palooka.com, where fans can read 15 pages for free. Antonacci said his next goals involve distribution and publishing deals.

“We’re working on setting up a distribution deal,” said Antonacci. “I don’t want the comic to be hard to find. I don’t just want the comic to be in comic book stores or Walmarts, but both. I want people to be telling each other about it.

“When it comes to a publisher, we’re down to three, but if we can’t find out who will do things the right way, we’ll self-publish,” added Antonacci. “We’re putting a lot of work and effort into this and the positive feedback we’ve gotten so far makes it all worthwhile.”

While fans can currently preview the publication online, they will have to wait until early next year to find it on the shelves.

“We’re looking to have physical copies in stores in January or February 2012,” said Antonacci. “It’s more important to get it out there right the first time than to get it out fast. I want to get things right the first time when we do this.”

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