Buck Rogers

Buck Rogers


caption=Poster for Buck Rogers serial, 1939
character_name=Buck Rogers
real_name=Anthony Rogers
publisher=Amazing Stories
debut=August, 1928
creators=Philip Francis Nowlan
alliances=Wilma Deering, Dr. Huer

Buck Rogers is a fictional character who first appeared in 1928 as Anthony Rogers, the hero of two novellas by Philip Francis Nowlan published in the magazine "Amazing Stories". [ [http://www.toyraygun.com/buckrogersrayguns.html] ] Rogers is best known from the long-running syndicated newspaper comic strip. He also appeared in a movie serial, a television series, and in many other formats.

The adventures of Buck Rogers comic strips, movies, radio, and television became an important part of American pop culture. This pop phenomenon paralleled the development of space technology in the twentieth century and introduced Americans to outer space as a familiar environment for swashbuckling adventure.

Buck Rogers has been credited with bringing into popular media the concept of space exploration Patrick Lucanio, Gary Coville, "Smokin' Rockets: The Romance of Technology in American Film, Radio and Television, 1945-1962" (2002). McFarland. ISBN 078641233X] , following in the footsteps of literary pioneers such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars).

Amazing Stories

The character first appeared as Anthony Rogers, the central character of Philip Francis Nowlan's novella "Armageddon 2419 A.D.", in the August 1928 issue of the pulp magazine "Amazing Stories".

While surveying an abandoned mine, Rogers, a former United States Army Air Corps officer, falls into a coma after exposure to a leaking gas, and awakes in the twenty-fifth century. Together with his new comrades, the beautiful Wilma Deering and the intrepid Dr. Huer, he struggles to rid the world of evil warlords and "Mongol" hordes.

"Armageddon 2419 A.D."'s sequel, "The Airlords of Han", appeared in the March 1929 issue of "Amazing Stories". The story's enemy force, the Han, were later renamed Mongols.

In 1933, Nowlan and Dick Calkins co-wrote "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century", a novella that retold the origin of Buck Rogers and also summarized some of his adventures. A reprint of this work was included with the first edition of the 1995 novel "" by Martin Caidin.

In the 1960s, Nowlan's two novellas were combined by editor Donald A. Wollheim into one paperback novel, titled "Armageddon 2419 A.D." [ [http://www.coldfusionvideo.com/book/armageddon2419ad.html] ] The original 40-cent edition featured a cover by Ed Emshwiller.

Comic strip

The story of Anthony Rogers in Amazing Stories caught the attention of John F. Dille, president of the National Newspaper Service syndicate, and he arranged for the author, Philip Francis Nowlan, to turn it into a comic strip for Dille's syndication company. The comic strip was named "Buck Rogers", the name that was used for the character from then on. Dille assigned staff artist Dick Calkins to the project. Some have suggested that Dille coined the nickname "Buck" based on a 1920s cowboy character named Buck Jones [cite web|url=http://matineeatthebijou.blogspot.com/2008/05/oh-buck-wasnt-that-battle.html|title=Oh, Buck! Wasn't that a battle!|work=Matinee at the Bijou|date= May 16, 2008|accessdate=2008-08-14 [http://www.webcitation.org/5a4rYfwgR Archived] 2008-08-14.] [cite web|url=http://www.toonopedia.com/buckrog.htm|title=Buck Rogers|work=Toonopedia|publisher=Don Martin|accessdate=2008-08-14 [http://www.webcitation.org/5a4rimqLN Archived 2008-08-14] ] .

On January 7, 1929 "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D.", the first science fiction comic strip, debuted. Coincidentally, this was also the date that the Tarzan comic strip began.

On 30 March 1930 a Sunday strip joined the Buck Rogers daily. There was, as yet, no established convention for the same character having different adventures in the Sunday strip and the daily strip (many newspapers carried one but not the other) and so the Sunday strip at first followed the adventures of Buck's young friend Buddy Deering, Wilma Deering's younger brother, and Buddy's girlfriend Alura. It was some time before Buck made his first appearance in a Sunday strip. Other prominent characters in the Sunday strip included Dr. Huer, who punctuated his speech with the exclamation "Heh!," the villainous Killer Kane and his paramour Ardala, and Black Barney, who began as a space pirate but later became Buck's friend and ally.

Like many popular comic strips of the day, Buck Rogers was reprinted in Big Little Books, illustrated text adaptations of the daily strip stories, and in a collectible Buck Rogers Pop-Up Book.

Before Buck Rogers, there was no precedent for a serial comic strip, so the genesis of the strip was the creative work of several different people. Phil Nowlan is credited with the idea of serializing Buck Rogers, based on his novel Armageddon 2419 and its Amazing Stories sequels. Nowlan approached John Dille, who saw the opportunity to serialize the stories as a newspaper comic strip. Dick Calkins, an advertising artist, drew the earliest daily strips, and Russell Keaton drew the earliest Sunday strips. Soon, Keaton wanted to switch to drawing another strip written by Calkins-- Skyroads-- so the syndicate advertised for an assistant, and hired Rick Yager in 1932. Yager had formal art training at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and was a talented watercolor artist (all the strips were done in ink and watercolor). Yager also had connections with the Chicago newspaper industry, since his father, Charles Montross Yager, was the publisher of The Modern Miller (Rick Yager was at one time employed to write the "Auntie's Advice" column for the newspaper). Yager quickly moved from inker and writer of the Buck Rogers "sub-strip" (early Sunday strips had a small sub-strip running below) to writer and artist of the Sunday strip and eventually the daily strips.

Authorship of early strips is extremely difficult to ascertain. The signatures at the bottoms of the strips are not accurate indicators of authorship; Calkins' signature appears long after his involvement ended, and few of the other artists signed the artwork, while many pages are unsigned. Yager probably had complete control of Buck Rogers Sunday strips from about 1940 on, with Len Dworkins joining later as assistant. Dick Locher was also an assistant in the 1950s. For all of its reference to modern technology, the strip itself was produced in an old fashioned manner--all strips began as India ink drawings on Strathmore paper, and a smaller duplicate (sometimes redrawn by hand) was hand-colored with watercolors. Miami University, Oxford Ohio, has an extensive collection of original artwork. The strip's artists also worked on a variety of tie-in promotions such as comic books, toys, model rockets, etc..

The relations between the artists of the strip (Yager et al.) and the owners of the strip (the Syndicate) became acrimonious, and in mid-1958, the artists quit (See Time Magazine June 30, 1958). Murphy Anderson was a temporary replacement, but he did not stay long, and final installment of the original comic strip was published on 8 July 1967.

The comic strip was revived in 1979 by Gray Morrow and Jim Lawrence. The strip was retitled "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" in 1980, and longtime comic book writer Cary Bates would sign on from 1981 until the strip's ending in 1983.

Radio show

In 1932, the Buck Rogers radio program, notable as the first science fiction show on radio, hit the airwaves. The radio program aired four times a week for 15 years, from 1932 through 1947.

The radio show again related the story of our hero Buck finding himself in the 25th Century. Actors Matt Crowley, Curtis Arnall, Carl Frank, and John Larkin all voiced him at various times. The beautiful and strong-willed Wilma Dearing was portrayed by Adele Ronson, and the brilliant scientist and inventor Dr. Huer was played by Edgar Stehli.

The radio series was produced and directed by Carlo De Angelo and later by Jack Johnstone.

Johnstone recalled in 1988 how he worked with the sound effects of Ora Nichols to produce the sound of the rockets using an air-conditioning vent. [//www.otr.com/sf.html]

Film and TV adaptations

World's Fair

A 10 minute Buck Rogers film premiered at the 1933-1934 World's Fair in Chicago. John Dille Jr. (son of strip baron John F. Dille) starred in the film, which was called "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: An Interplanetary Battle with the Tiger Men of Mars".

This rare promotional film has recently been shown at the May 2007 Windy City Pulp Convention in Chicago, Illinois, the July 2006 Pulpcon in Dayton, Ohio.

Department store promotion movie

According to Robert Lesser's 1975 book "A celebration of Comic Art and Memorabilia" ISBN 0-8015-1456-8, a special movie short was produced in 1936. This was designed to be shown in department stores to promote Buck Rogers merchandise. This live action short, presented "a series of exciting scenes and is complete with sound effects." "A special cast was employed to produce the picture which was filmed in the studios of the Action Film Company, Chicago, under the personal direction and supervision of Dr. Harlan Tarbell." The characters in the short include Buck, Wilma, Dr. Huer, Killer Kane, Ardala, King Grallo of the Martian Tiger Men and Mechanical Robots. Unfortunately, this film has not been shown since the 1930s. A few stills from the production were included in Lesser's book.

Movie serial

A 12-part Buck Rogers film serial was produced in 1939 by Universal Pictures Company. In this version Buck Rogers and his young friend Buddy Wade are involved in a dirigible accident in a remote place. Immediately afterwards they somehow get into suspended animation waiting for rescue. When they are finally discovered and revived, they learn that 500 years have passed. A tyrannical dictator named “Killer Kane” and his henchmen now run the world. Buck and Buddy must now save the world, and they do so with the help of Lieutenant Wilma Deering and Prince Tallen of Saturn.

The serial had a small budget and saved money on special effects by re-using material from other stories: background shots from the futuristic musical "Just Imagine" (1930), as the city of the future, the garishly stenciled walls from the Azura palace set in "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars", as Kane's penthouse suite, and the "Strato-Sleds" of "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars", as mock-ups of the flying machines. Between 1953 and the mid-1970s, this film serial was edited into three different and distinct feature film versions.

1950-1951 ABC television series

The first version of Buck Rogers to appear on television, debuted on ABC on April 15, 1950 and ran until January 30, 1951. [ [http://www.buck-rogers.com/tv_series/ Buck-Rogers.com - "Buck Rogers" TV Series (1950-51) ] ] Its time slot initially was on Saturdays at 6:00 P.M., and each episode was 30 minutes in length. Later, the program was rescheduled to Tuesday at 7:00 P.M. where it ran against the popular "Texaco Star Theater" hosted by Milton Berle which trounced Buck Rogers in the ratings, and led to the series' cancellation.

There were a number of changes to the cast during the show's short duration. Three actors played Buck Rogers in the series: Earl Hammond, Kem Dibbs and Robert Pastene. Two notable actresses portrayed Wilma Deering in the series, Eva Marie Saint and Lou Prentis. Two actors would also play the role of Dr. Huer: Harry Southern and also Sanford Bickart.

The series was directed by Babette Henry, written by Gene Wyckoff and produced by Joe Cates and Babette Henry.

The series was broadcast live from station WENR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Chicago, Illinois. There are no known surviving kinescopes of the first Buck Rogers television series.

Motion picture and 1979–1981 NBC television series

In 1979, Buck Rogers was revived and updated for a prime-time television series for NBC Television. The pilot film was released to cinemas on March 30, 1979. Good box-office returns led NBC to commission a full series, which started in September 1979.

The series starred Gil Gerard as Capt. William "Buck" Rogers, a US Air Force pilot who commands "Ranger 3", a space shuttle that is launched in 1987. Because of a freak combination of gases, he is frozen in space for 504 years and is revived in the 25th century. There, he learns that the Earth was united following a devastating nuclear war in 1988, and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Forces, headquartered in New Chicago. The latest threat to Earth comes from the spaceborne armies of the planet Draconia, who are planning an invasion.

Co-starring in the series were Erin Gray as crack Starfighter pilot Col. Wilma Deering, and Tim O'Connor as Dr. Elias Huer, head of Earth Defense Forces, and a former star pilot himself. Ardala appeared (played by Pamela Hensley), as a Draconian princess supervising her father's armies, with Kane (played by Henry Silva in the film; by Michael Ansara in the series) as her enforcer, a gender reversal of the original characters where Ardala was Killer Kane's sidekick. Although Black Barney did not appear as a character in the series, there was a character named Barney Smith (played by James Sloyan) who appeared in the two-part episode, "Plot to Kill a City." New characters added for the series included a comical robot named Twiki (embodied by Felix Silla, with voice provided by Mel Blanc), who becomes Buck's personal assistant, and Dr. Theopolis (voice by Eric Server), a computer brain Twiki carries around.

The series ran for two seasons on NBC. Broadcast of the second season was delayed until 1981 due to a writers' strike in 1980. When the series returned it had been retooled in a manner which was strikingly similar to a previous Glen Larson produced series, "Battlestar Galactica". Now rather than defending Earth, Buck and Wilma were on a mission to track down the lost colonies of humanity aboard the deep-space exploration vessel "Searcher." The series was cancelled at the end of the 1980-1981 season, but remains a cult favorite 25 years later.

Two novels based upon the series by Addison E. Steele were published: a novelization of the 1979 feature film, and "That Man on Beta", an adaptation of an unproduced teleplay.

Role-playing games and spinoffs

Buck Rogers XXVC

In 1988, TSR, Inc. created a game setting based on Buck Rogers, called Buck Rogers XXVC (abbreviated XXVC here). Many products were produced that were set in this universe, including comic books, novels, role-playing game material and video games. In the role-playing game, the player characters were allied to Buck Rogers and NEO (the New Earth Organisation) in their fight against RAM (a Russian-American corporation based on Mars). The games also extensively featured "gennies" (genetically enhanced organisms). The gameplay of "Buck Rogers - Battle for the 25th Century" boardgame by TSR dealt with token movement and resource management. There is purported to be a single expansion for the boardgame called the "Martian Wars Expansion", but it is not known if this was ever released.

XXVC books

From 1990 to 1991, ten 'comics modules' set in the XXVC universe were published, entitled "Rude Awakening" #1 - #3, "Black Barney" #1 - #3. and "Martian Wars" #1 -#4. These shared the numbering as a series issues #1 - #10 with issue #10 as a flip-book with Intruder #10. There has been speculation that two more stories were printed but not widely distributed.

Ten paperback novels set in the XXVC universe were published, starting in 1990:"Arrival", "The Martian Wars Trilogy", "Rebellion 2456", "Hammer of Mars", "Armageddon off Vesta", "The Inner Planets Trilogy" consisting of "First Power Play", "Prime Squared" and "Matrix Cubed" and the "Invaders of Charon" trilogy consisting of "The Genesis Web", "Nomads of the Sky" and "Warlords of Jupiter".

XXVC video games

In 1990, Strategic Simulations, Inc. released a video game, "Countdown to Doomsday", for the Commodore 64, IBM PC, Sega Mega Drive, and other platforms. They released a sequel, "Matrix Cubed", in 1992.

High-Adventure Cliffhangers

In 1995, TSR created a new and unrelated Buck Rogers role-playing game called "High-Adventure Cliffhangers". This was a return to the themes of the original Buck Rogers comic strips. This game included biplanes and interracial warfare, as opposed to the space combat of the earlier game. There were only a few expansion modules created for High-Adventure Cliffhangers. Shortly afterward, the game was discontinued, and the production of Buck Rogers RPGs and games came to an end. This game was neither widely advertised nor very popular. There were only two published products: the box set, and "War Against the Han".

Planet of Zoom video game

Sega released the 3D (using a periscope style viewer and LCD shutters to establish the effect) arcade video game "Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom" in 1983. The user controls a spaceship that must destroy enemy ships and avoid obstacles; Buck is never seen, except assumedly in the illustration on the side of the game cabinet, and its only real connections to Buck Rogers are the use of the name and the outer space setting. Home versions were released for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari XE, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, Intellivision, MSX and Sega Master System video game systems, and the Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, and ZX Spectrum computers. A version for IBM PC using CGA graphics was also available. [ [http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0000731] ] [ [http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=7227] ] [ [http://www.atariage.com/software_page.html?SoftwareLabelID=612] [http://www.lemon64.com/?game_id=383] ]

Later novels

Sequels to "Armageddon 2419 A.D." were written in the 1980s by other authors. The novels include:

*"Mordred" by John Eric Holmes ( Ace, January 1981, ISBN 0-441-54220-4 )
*"Warrior's Blood" by Richard S. McEnroe ( Ace, January 1981, ISBN 0-441-87333-2 )
*"Warrior's World" by Richard S. McEnroe ( Ace, October 1981, ISBN 0-441-87338-3 )
*"Rogers' Rangers" by John Silbersack ( Ace, August 1983, ISBN 0-441-73380-8 )

Numerous novelists have "reinvented" the Buck Rogers mythos over the years, including:

*M.S. Murdock, who wrote a trilogy of novels in the early 1990s (See Buck Rogers XXVC, the setting for this work.)
*"" by Martin Caidin, a standalone novel retelling the original story. ISBN 0-7869-0144-6


In the mid-1930s, "ray guns", modelled on the pistol-like weapons used in the Buck Rogers comic strip, were popular toys. The premier such toy was the disintegrator ray, gold in color and flashing sparks, with a scientific discussion of its workings by Dr. Huer printed on the box.

Influence on language and popular culture

Buck Rogers' name has become proverbial in such expressions as "Buck Rogers outfit" for a protective suit that looks like a spacesuit. For many years, all the general American public knew about science fiction was what they read in the funny papers, and their opinion of science fiction was formed accordingly [Thomas D. Clareson, "Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction" (1992). Univ of South Carolina Press. Page 6. ISBN 0872498700] . Another phrase in common use before 1950 was "As crazy as flying to the moon," and serious science fiction fans were often derided about "that crazy Buck Rogers stuff." [ [http://www.jophan.org/mimosa/m28/resnick.htm Mimosa 28, pages 102-107. "Roots and a Few Vines" by Mike Resnick ] ]

In 2001, British rock band Feeder released a single entitled "Buck Rogers". Even though the lyrics had no reference to the show, the title was given to the song as the bands frontman Grant Nicholas created a keyboard piece which he felt sounded "futuristic", and therefore named it after the TV show as a working title due to being set in the future itself. The name stuck when it was used as the basis of the song that followed. It became the band's first top 10 hit.

On the animated series The Boondocks in the episode Thank You For Not Snitching, Gin Rummy makes a reference to Buck Rogers when talking to Ed Wuncler III about why he won't wear a Bluetooth device.

Buck rogers introduced the onomatopoeia ZAP when it was used to describe the sound of Buck's ray gun.

The concept of animated comedy series "Futurama", in which a 20th century man is accidentally frozen only to wake hundreds of years later, could be viewed as a parody of the Buck Rogers concept, with the humour derived from the fact that unlike the athletic, herioc Buck the show's main character Fry is a hapless slob who works as a delivery boy.


Such was the fame of Buck Rogers that it became the basis for one of the most fondly remembered science fiction spoofs in a series of Daffy Duck cartoons. The first of these was "Duck Dodgers in the 24-1/2th Century", which was directed by Chuck Jones in 1953. There were also two sequels to this cartoon, and ultimately a Duck Dodgers television series.

In the film "The Right Stuff", the phrase 'No bucks, no Buck Rogers' is used to describe what makes rockets go up, namely funding.

Southpark episodes Go God Go and Go God Go XII parodied Buck Rogers when Eric Cartman freezes himself so he did not have to wait for the new Nintendo Wii to come out, only to wake up 500 years in the future.


* Strickler, Dave. "Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index." Cambria, CA: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1.

External links

* [http://www.archive.org] Full public domain Buck Rogers + Flash Gordon radio serials + Flash Gordon movie serial for download, search in audio section and moving images section
* [http://www.buckrogersdilletrust.com/ Official website of Dille Family Trust]

ee also

* Flash Gordon
* Brick Bradford
* Dan Dare
* Tom Strong

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  • buck rogers — ¦bək¦räjə(r)z adjective Usage: usually capitalized B&R Etymology: Buck Rogers, science fiction comic strip created by Philip Nowlan died 1940 American writer and Richard Calkins died 1962 American artist : marked by futuristic high tech qualities …   Useful english dictionary

  • Buck Rogers — adjective Etymology: Buck Rogers, hero of a science fiction comic strip created by Phil Nowlan Date: 1941 marked by futuristic and high tech qualities ; suggestive of science fiction …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Buck Rogers XXVC — (sometimes written as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) is a game setting created by TSR, Inc. in the late 1980s. Products based on this setting include novels, graphic novels, a role playing game (RPG), board game, and video games. The setting… …   Wikipedia

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  • Buck rogers au xxve siècle — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Rogers. Buck Rogers au XXVe siècle Titre original Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Autres titres francophones Buck Rogers Genre Série de science fiction …   Wikipédia en Français

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