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BUCK ROGERS
Anthony Rogers was a fictional character that originated in two short stories by Philip Francis Nowlan, "Armageddon 2419 A.D." and "The Airlords of Han" published in Amazing Stories (August 1928, March 1929).

The character was renamed Buck Rogers and reinvented by John Flint Dille as a comic strip, making its first newspaper appearance January 7, 1929. Buck was the name of the Dille Family's dog. Rogers also appeared in a movie serial, a television series (where his first name was changed from Anthony to William) as well and other formats.

The idea for the comic strip originated with Dille, president of the National Newspaper Syndicate of America, who convinced a somewhat reluctant Nowlan to undertake the strip. As an inducement to Nowlan, who doubted his ability with the comic strip medium, Dille suggested that Nowlan take the first episode from "Armageddon 2419, A.D." and change the hero's name from Anthony Rogers to Buck Rogers. Dille then enlisted editorial cartoonist Dick Calkins to co-author and illustrate. Buck Rogers and other works are now owned exclusively by the Dille Family Trust, as successor to National Newspaper Syndicate of America.

The adventures of Buck Rogers in 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 20th 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, following in the footsteps of literary pioneers such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars).

The Cawley Entertainment Company is currently producing a web series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, scheduled for webcasting on the Internet in 2010 with Bobby Quinn Rice in the title role.

Amazing Stories

"Buck Rogers" first appeared in this issue of Amazing Stories, August 1928. The cover illustrates The Skylark of Space, not Buck Rogers.The character first appeared as Anthony Rogers, the central character of Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D. 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 awakens in the 25th 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.

The 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 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 Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future by Martin Caidin.

In the 1960s, Nowlan's two novellas were combined by editor Donald A. Wollheim into one paperback novel, Armageddon 2419 A.D. 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 Nowlan to turn it into a strip for syndication. The character was given the nickname Buck, and some have suggested that Dille coined that name based on the 1920s cowboy actor, Buck Jones.

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 March 30, 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.

"Buck Rogers" operating the controls of a remotely piloted "air ball". Amazing Stories, March 1929.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. 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.

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 his father's 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 in 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 and model rockets.

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, June 30, 1958.) Murphy Anderson was a temporary replacement, but he did not stay long, and the final installment of the original comic strip was published on 8 July 1967.

Revived in 1979 by Gray Morrow and Jim Lawrence, the strip was retitled Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in 1980. Long-time comic book writer Cary Bates signed on in 1981, continuing until the strip's 1983 finale.

Radio
In 1932, the Buck Rogers radio program, notable as the first science fiction program on radio, hit the airwaves. It was broadcast 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 Deering was portrayed by Adele Ronson, and the brilliant scientist-inventor Dr. Huer was played by Edgar Stehli.

The radio series was produced and directed by Carlo De Angelo and later by Jack Johnstone. In 1988, Johnstone recalled how he worked with the sound effects of Ora Nichols to produce the sound of the rockets by using an air-conditioning vent.

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