Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Howard Chaykin In The 25th Century

Hermes Press is publishing a new Buck Rogers In The 25th Century comic series by comics legend Howard Chaykin, the first issue in comics shops now! All I'll say is it's Buck Rogers back to his roots, and it's great fun. Chaykin brings a depth to the character within the context often ignored. And I had no idea it was going to be there! The shop owner was quick to see me gleefully grab a copy off the shelf, "I knew I should have pulled that for you, it's like the original comic-strips, Chaykin takes it back to the roots..."

To be fair, you can go to most online comics sites, and have a 50/50 chance to read much the same, many believe Buck Rogers started in the funnies, one place put it in a way not technically wrong, "Over eighty years after the creation of the newspaper strip that become a household word..."

I'm always amazed at the lack of research done by some comics journalist, particularly given the universal annoyance by comic collectors and comics journalists, when mainstream journalists don't bother to get facts straight. Anything from claiming Tony Stark was modeled after Steve Jobs, or that Stan Lee invented the comic book. It drives us all crazy.

Buck Rogers was born in the pulps! Created by Philip Francis Nowlan. To be clear, he started out as Anthony Rogers and got his nickname, Buck in the funny pages.

There have been many versions of Buck Rogers. Comics strips, radio, movie serials, comic books, books, a video games, Role-Playing Games, TV shows. There were two tv shows, one in the 50's and the one from 1979 to '81, with Gil Gerard, that network execs thought was so good, they released the pilot theatrically. There was was even a recent comic from Dynamite that made everyone look like Tron.

TSR even produced some novels of no real significance, as well as a very cool, very complex, very fun, intergalactic war board game.

There was one RPG that harkened back to Buck's roots, a Buck Rogers role-playing game called High-Adventure Cliffhangers (pictured below), the game didn't go very far, there was only a box set, and one expansion module, called "War Against the Han." 

There is a very nice, set of the comic strip reprints being published by Hermes Press as well, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies" I believe is up to volume eight. So you've already spent over three hundred dollars if you've been getting them. Just wait, I'm sure whole sets of these things will start to show up at used bookstores soon as the guys old enough to appreciate this stuff will need to start to unload this stuff. Maybe sadly, they'll need shelf space as the kids move back in,  or maybe they are getting married again and the future wife thinks the collection is taking up too much space, or more sadly divorced and they need the money, or most sadly dead.

If you want to explore Buck's real roots, you need to go a little deeper.

The seminal character first appeared in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories, in a story titled, "Armageddon 2419 A.D." by Philip Francis Nowlan. A second story, "The Airlords of Han," appeared in the March 1929 issue. The two stories have often been reprinted, combined as one novel, under the original title, "Armageddon 2419 A.D." There seemed to be a few editions readily available used online.

Or you can get FREE audiobook versions from Librivox.org here are links to the individual books...

Armageddon 2419 A.D.

The Airlords of Han 

If you really want to hunt around, in the eighties, right around the time Gil Gerard was cashing in his last few NBC paychecks, there was a series of authorized sequels to Nowlan's stories, published by Ace (pictured above). Luckily having nothing to do with the TV series, despite the white uniform on the cover illustrations. They were written by a variety of authors who worked from an outline written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, which is also in some way connected to their novel, Lucifer's Hammer.

Mordred by John Eric Holmes (Ace, January 1981)
Warrior's Blood by Richard S. McEnroe (Ace, January 1981)
Warrior's World by Richard S. McEnroe (Ace, October 1981)
Rogers' Rangers by John Silbersack (Ace, August 1983)

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard about the Howard Chaykin series. That sounds tempting.

    In high school I read both a reprint of Philip Nowlan's original novel and a big coffee-table book my Art teacher had reprinting the early "Buck Rogers" comic strips. I enjoyed both of TSR's attempts to create Buck Rogers RPGs, both the updated one (using a bizarre system based on 2nd ed AD&D) and the retro version they pushed through while they still had the license.

    I wrote a piece on Buck about a month or so back on another blogsite: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/14/1223209/-Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Club-Buck-Rogers?detail=hide