The evolution of Buck Rogers from World War I veteran to seminal Science Fiction space hero is nothing short of astounding.
When Philip Francis Nowlan wrote the Buck Rogers stories he never called his hero Buck Rogers. In fact you won’t find the word “buck” or the name “Buck” once in either Armageddon – 2419 A.D. or The Airlords of Han.
Caught in a mining accident in 1927, Anthony “Tony” Rogers fell into a state of suspended animation and only came back to consciousness 492 years later. He awakens in 2419, in a world where Americans are mere back woods gangs “not worth the trouble of subduing” by the ruling Han Airlords, the Supreme Overlords of the earth. The stage is set for the “Second War of Independence.” From the opening scene where Rogers saves Wilma Deering from ambush by rogue bandits through to the final overthrow of the arrogant Hans the stories are a rip roaring tale of American ingenuity and determination to live free from tyranny.
When Philip Francis Nowlan (1888-1940) penned Armageddon – 2419 A.D. in 1928, he could not have had any idea that Buck Rogers would become the first Science Fiction space hero. Nowlan’s hero, Rogers, caught the attention of John F. Dille, a publisher, who teamed Nowlan up with the cartoonist Richard Calkins to create a new syndicated comic strip with a now renamed Buck Rogers and set in 2429. The comic strip was first published on January 7, 1929 and ran for an amazing 38 years in newspapers all across the country. The success of the Buck Rogers comic strip inspired both the Flash Gordon and Captain Midnight comic strips, also long running and quite successful.
In 1932, Buck Rogers made the leap to radio, airing on the CBS radio network under the title The World in 2432. In 1939, Rogers debuted on the silver screen in a 12 episode film serial starring the actor Larry “Buster” Crabbe, best known previously for his role as Flash Gordon. The serial was compiled together in 1953 as a full length theatrical release called Planet Outlaws and was renamed Destination Saturn for television in 1965. Another TV series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century aired from 1979 to 1981.
Over the years, Buck Rogers became the inspiration for space heroes from Flash Gordon to Captain Kirk. Star Trek and Star Wars were both influenced by the Buck Rogers comic strip. The movie Independence Day has some very striking parallels to the original Buck Rogers stories. And who can forget the spoofing of Buck Rogers carried out by Warner Brothers / Looney Tunes with Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 century?
Armageddon – 2419 A.D. was published in Amazing Stories in August, 1928.
The Airlords of Han was published in Amazing Stories in March, 1929.
Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords of Han by Philip Francis Nowlan is available HERE in both the .epub and .mobi versions for all eReaders.
It’s also available on Amazon.com:
Armageddon – 2419 A.D. -and- The Airlords of Han (Illustrated): The Original Buck Rogers Stories (Pulp Fiction Masters Book 0)
The Buck Rogers serial starring Larry Crabbe can be found on Amazon.com: