In 1921 Ham Fisher, a young sports reporter, met a boxer named Pete Latzo outside a poolroom. As he later recalled:
"Here, made to order, was the comic strip character I had been looking for - a big, good-natured prize fighter who didn't like to fight; a defender of little guys; a gentle knight. I ran back to the office, drew a set of strips and rushed to the newspaper syndicates."
Despite his continued efforts, Fisher had to wait nearly ten years before the strip launched. His breakthrough finally came whilst working as a salesman for the McNaught Syndicate hawking the newly launched Dixie Dugan. He managed to sign up over 20 newspapers for his strip, and Charles V. Adams McNaught's general manager agreed to give Joe Palooka trial.
Launching April, 1930 Joe Palooka soon proved to be a sporting success. In 1932 he was the star of a short-lived radio show and in 1934 he starred in a low-budget movie. This was followed by a series of shorts and later a television series. He also appeared in numerous comic books along with his compatriots Little Max and Humphrey Pennyworth.
Ham Fisher, Palooka's creator, committed suicide in December, 1955. Joe however lived on much longer, his final newspaper strip appeared on November 24, 1984.