Bazooka Joe is a comic strip character, featured on small comics included inside individually-wrapped pieces of Bazooka bubblegum. He wears a black eyepatch, lending him a distinctive appearance. He is one of the more recognizable American advertising characters of the 20th century, and one of the few identifiable ones associated with a candy.
Bazooka Joe is joined in his various misadventures by a motley crew of characters, including Pesty (formerly Orville), who may be Joe's younger brother, with a 1950s cowboy sombrero; Mort, a gangly boy who always wears his red turtleneck sweater pulled up over his mouth; Joe's tubby pal, Hungry Herman; Joe's girlfriend, Jane; Toughie, a sailor hat-wearing, streetwise type; and Walkie Talkie, a neighborhood mutt.
The comics generally consist of soft, child-friendly jokes, as well as small advertisements for kitschy merchandise one could purchase with enough comics and a few dollars. From the very beginning in 1954, the bottom of the comics included "fortunes", similar to those one would find in a fortune cookie, but with a comedic bent.
The Canadian version of the Bazooka Joe comics featured bilingual (simultaneous English and French) text balloons.
As with almost all advertising characters of the 20th century who had any sort of longevity, the style of the Bazooka Joe comics changed with the times, with Joe eventually adopting a more contemporary look by the 1990s, replete with low-slung, baggy jeans.
Sometime between 1952 and 1954, Woody Gelman, the head of Product Development at Topps, approached the cartoonist Wesley Morse to create "Bazooka Joe and his Gang". Morse, the original artist on Bazooka Joe, was also the artist for many of the so-called "Tijuana bibles", or "eight-pagers", which are considered a precursor to the underground comix of the 1960s and 1970s.
In May 2009 it was announced that Bazooka Joe was to be adapted into a Hollywood movie.