Friday, November 7, 2014

What WAS the Comic Battle of the 20th Century? Part 3 - Joe Palooka vs. Humphrey Pennyworth!

Continuing my 12-part series reviewing comic books that claim The Battle/Fight/Bout/Showdown of the Century on their covers. Today's battle---

Joe Palooka vs. Humphrey Pennyworth! First presented in Joe Palooka #77, 1953. Written and drawn by Ham Fisher.

Before I start, I should admit I knew absolutely nothing about Joe Palooka until buying this book. He’s the heavyweight champion of the world! I didn’t know that. It isn't shocking that he's going to have the “Bout of the Century” at some point. But in the context of the Battle of the Century in all comic books, how does he stack up? Let’s find out…

Joe is a boxer. The fact that he ends up in the ring is no biggie. Humphrey, however, is a gentle blacksmith who hates to hit people. The story begins with a quick explanation that Humphrey had recently beat a boxer named Balonki. Why this happened is unclear. It must have happened in a previous issue. I’m sure it was a wonderful story. The trouble this issue begins when two evvvvil boxing agents trick Humphrey into signing a fighting contract. (Side note: I really dig a lot of Ham Fisher’s art.)

Humphrey is a man of honor and reluctantly obeys the contract. As it turns out, nobody can beat Humphrey! He’s built like a mountain and punches like, oh... let’s say, a punching mountain.

Since he's unbeatable, all the people in West Wokkington Falls (the small town where Humphrey lives) decide to mortgage their houses to build a million dollar boxing stadium.

Unfortunately, the stadium doesn’t bring in enough money and the entire town is in danger of losing their houses! I hope things are going better in East Wokkington Falls. Also, the evvvvil agents have written into Humphrey’s contact that they get everything he owns if he ever quits boxing. He would have to give up the blacksmithing that he loves. The only solution is to have Humphrey fight the heavyweight champion, Joe Palooka! It would insure a huge audience and tons of money from ticket sales! These panels explain some of it, after the obligatory shower scene and cursing.

The evvvvil agents somehow get the notion that the more Humphrey eats, the more unstoppable he becomes. In other news, the entire nation wants to come see the fight, but everyone either gets lost or blocked.

All this may sound complex, but believe it or not, I’m leaving out a lot! To sum it up, Humphrey and Joe do not want to fight each other, but if they don’t, the entire town loses everything!  Unfortunately, there’s not going to be a big, paying crowd. On the edge of your seat yet?

The fight is ready to begin and we get this interesting panel—

It doesn’t look good for Joe. He takes one punch and it almost does him in.

The bell saves Joe and they continue into the next round. Their fight takes place in and outside the ring.

After several solid punches, Joe finally knocks Humphrey over.

HA HA. Humphrey’s been eating so much, he gets stuck in the canvas. But, BOO HOO, the town didn’t make any money and everybody loses everything! Wait, Joe says he’ll pay for everything?!

Joe Palooka, you jerk! Why didn’t you just do that in the first place?

The book does a good job of sitting up the events and it feels like the fight is a big deal. However, the fight only lasts two rounds. At this point in the 20th century, I’m going to have to say the Battle of the Century title remains with The Human Torch vs. The Sub-Mariner, in the fight of ’40.

Come back Monday for Part 4. The Thing vs. the Hulk! It's the Marvel Age of Comics!


Will Shetterly said...

This series is swell. I especially love the fact it's not limited to superheroes.

Rien said...

Indeed! I can't (literally CAN'T) wait for the next installment!!

Kerry Callen said...

Thanks, guys. I decided to do something different from my normal posts.

Anonymous said...