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First and Last – Buck Rogers Comic Strip

 

90 years ago, on January 7, 1929, there debuted two important comic strips.
The Tarzan comic strip was covered here, so let’s go back to the future with Buck Rogers.

Anthony Rogers first appeared in the science fiction story Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan in the August 1928 cover dated issue of Amazing Stories. Syndicate head John F. Dille must have been fascinated with it, he quickly signed Nowlan to write a comic strip based on the concept. Dille’s Chicgo-based syndicate hired Chicago cartoonist Dick Calkins to illustrate the new feature. Inside of six months the idea went from published story to syndicated comic strip.
Along the way Anthony Rogers became Buck Rogers.


above: the January 7(first) and January 8(second), 1929 Buck Rogers comic strips

Officially titled Buck Rogers, 2429 A.D. at the beginning the title date changed with the current date staying exactly 500 years in the future.


The first four years of the daily strip can be read here.

The quirky science fiction strip became very popular very quickly.
So a Sunday page was added on March 30, 1930.


above: the first Sunday Buck Rogers of March 30, 1930.

Buck’s popularity also led to doppelgangers. Soon every syndicate needed a science fiction comic strip. Jack Swift (1930), Brick Bradford (1933), Don Dixon (1935), and Buck’s biggest competitor – Flash Gordon. Flash, incidentally, appeared exactly five years after Buck Rogers on January 7, 1934. Mark Cole takes a brief look at the many simulacra here.

Flash soon eclipsed Buck as THE science fiction strip, thanks to the incredible art of Alex Raymond. But the plots and stories of the 25th Century Man were better, and Dick Calkins old school style had a certain charm. Buck’s art would improve (get slicker) as success provided the means for Calkins to hire assistants. Russell Keaton, Len Dworkins, Rick Yager, and Murphy Anderson would either assist or take over the strip in the ensuing decades.

By the late 1950s George Tuska was the artist and would remain so until the strip ended in the 1960s. The Sunday version ended first – on June 13, 1965.


above: the final Buck Rogers Sunday (June 13, 1965) of the first run.

It would continue as a daily only for two more years, until July 8, 1967.


above: the last Monday of the first run – July 3, 1967.

I failed to find the very last daily of the first run,
as compensation here’s a George Tuska specialty drawing:

 

Buck Rogers’ comic strip may have ended but he was ingrained in American culture. Futuristic equipment are “Buck Rogers Rayguns” and “Buck Rogers Spaceships” and all kinds of other “Buck Rogers stuff.”

With the 1977 beginning of a serial of movies about “a galaxy far, far away” interest in science fiction was reawakened, that included comic strips. By the late 1970s Star Wars and Star Trek and Star Hawks began running on newspaper funny pages, and so did Buck Rogers.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century returned to comic strips on September 9, 1979 by Jim Lawrence and Gray Morrow. It was preceded by a nine page story in the September 1979 dated issue of Heavy Metal, also by Lawrence and Morrow.

The new Buck lasted four years, ending on Christmas Day 1983 by Cary Bates and Jack Sparling.


above: the last strip of the revival from December 25, 1983.

 

 


above: my first and still my favorite Buck Rogers comic book.

 

 

 

 

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