Flashback 1979: Me, my dad, my uncle and my cousin go to the theater to watch a movie starring some guy named ‘Buck Rogers’. Being 7 years old I had no idea who he was and had no expectations going into it. I ended up loving it of course!
As I got older and more into comics, movies and other nerdy stuff I discovered the 1939 serial starring Buster Crabbe, the original Armageddon 2419 story that started it all and finally Dynamite Comics fantastic take on him.
What got me were the differences between each version. At it’s core, Buck Rogers is the story about a man out of time and how he copes in his new environment. Although each version is recognizable, I always wondered why so many changes to it compared to say, Flash Gordon. Here are some very basic differences.
Armageddon 2419: Anthony Rogers is surveying a mine in Pennsylvania when he notices a pungent smell and glowing rocks. The cave collapses in on him and he awakens 500 years later (2419 AD). After waking up, Anthony comes to the rescue of Wilma Deering who is being chased by Mongul Reds. His name was changed to Buck for the comic strip.
1939 Serial: Buck Rogers is flying a dirigible with his young friend Buddy when they are suddenly caught in blizzard and forced down. Not able to be rescued anytime soon, they activate ‘Nirvano Gas’ that so conveniently happens to be on their ship and are placed in suspended animation for 500 years. They are found by two soldiers who use Ray Guns to free them from the ice.
1979 TV Show: In 1987 Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers is piloting Ranger 3, the last of NASA’s deep space probes. In a freak mishap, he is blown out of his trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support system, returning him to Earth 500 years later (2491 to be specific). He’s thawed out by the Draconians and sent back to Earth with a micro-transmitter attached to his ship.
2009 Dynamite Comic: Anthony ‘Buck’ Rogers, a retired Air Force captain is testing a gravity drive he help invent in hopes of faster than light travel. He is sent on a mission by the government to retrieve a space probe that contains DNA of Earth’s animals. The drive malfunctions and he is slingshot 500 years into the future. He arrives in the year 2519 (The 26th century). He crash lands on Earth and is found by Colonel Wilma Deering. In this version they sort of rescue each other from an intelligent genetically engineered bear.
The Dynamite version stays truer to the original comic strip yet modernizes it for today. They also have Buddy in the book who, like in the original comic strip, is Wilma’s younger brother and a cadet. There’s no Twikki but the Earth Directorates’ Trans-Suits make the ‘Biddi-Biddi-Biddi’ sound and in a later issue you see Twikki’s head in a 20th century earth storage room. One of the neat things about the Dynamite version is how it flashes back to the 20th century throughout the series before and long after Buck has already been lost to the future. The stylistic designs of the trans-suit’s jodhpurs and forcefield ‘bubble helmet’, spaceships and weapons have a distinctly 1930’s look to them and are a great homage to the 1930’s comic strip.
My only complaint about the Dynamite series is that it seemed to try and cram a lot into a few issues. The Air Lords of Han storyline only lasted two issues and really felt like it was anticlimactic. The original Airlord’s of Han was the sequel to Armageddon 2419. My guess is the writer knew the series was being cancelled and felt the need to tell the story.
I picked these up not long ago when ComiXology had a 99¢ and I’m glad I did because I enjoyed Dynamite’s take on him very much. There are two collected trade paperbacks out and they will end up on my bookshelf.