IDW Publishing brings <i>Joe Palooka</i> back to comic-book ring

Joe Palooka will return to the ring later this year in what IDW Publishing bills as the first-ever full-length MMA comic book.

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.”

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