Buck Rogers

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Buckrogersserial.jpg

An adventure series about a modern man (mining engineer in the 1920s, astronaut in The Seventies) who is accidentally put into suspended animation, wakes up in the 25th century, and then spends his time as a hero in space.

Over the years it has been seen in various media -- Pulp Magazine, Comic Book and comic strips, film serials, role-playing games, video games, radio, movie and TV series (mmmm, Erin Gray in spandex). Ultimately, these all stem from the popular 1928 novel Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan, about a time-travelling mining engineer named Anthony Rogers. John F. Dille, the head of National Newspaper Service, convinced Nowlan to turn his novel into a daily newspaper comic strip (changing the lead character's name to "Buck" in the process) and the rest, as they say, is history.

For the 1970s TV series, see Buck Rogers in The 25th Century.


Tropes used in Buck Rogers include:
  • Action Girl: Wilma Deering
  • Alternate Continuity: Unlike his comic page contemporary Flash Gordon, who tends to stay visually recognizable in most incarnations, Buck and his world have undergone major overhauls in almost every updated version, starting with the Disco-era aesthetic in the 1970s TV series, through TSR's hard s.f. "XXVc" role-playing game setting, to the Tron Lines outfits in the current comic book by Dynamite Entertainment. TSR averted this with the "Cliffhangers" version of the RPG, which was very faithful to the original comic -- perhaps to a fault, since it started at the mostly forgotten, politically incorrect beginning of the comic's timeline, before the iconic space opera elements had even been introduced.
  • Angst: Goes with being a Fish Out of Temporal Water. Everyone Buck ever knew or loved from his old life is dead.
  • Anti Gravity: In the comic and novel, much of the technology is based around the other-dimensional substance called inertron, which reacts negatively to gravity. Strapping a weighted chunk of it to a vehicle makes it light enough to fly easily, and strapping some on your back (a "jumping belt") allows you to make giant leaps across the landscape or fly with a low-powered jet pack. Of course, if you let go of a piece, it will zip up into the sky and you'll never see it again.
  • Braids, Beads, and Buckskins: the comic strip featured an enclave of Native Americans (identified as Navajo but depicted more as generic Indians common to the media at the time). The 'Navajo' fight as part of the resistance against the Han, resulting in such bizarre imagery in the strip as characters wearing buckskins and having feathers in their hair firing rayguns at the invading airships. Fair for Its Day in that the Native American characters are considered full and equal partners in the resistance, have all the advanced technology of their white counterparts, and (at least at the beginning) are empowered to arrest Buck and Wilma when they go AWOL.
  • Casanova Wannabe: In the short-lived 1970s revival of the newspaper comic, Kane came off kind of like an evil version of Larry from Three's Company. And the funny thing is, it kinda worked.
  • Chosen One
  • Cold Sleep, Cold Future
  • Cool Airship: The comic's steel airships, supported by magnetic force beams.
  • Cool Gate: The stargates (No relation).
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Kane, in the comics.
  • Darker and Edgier: TSR's XXVc role-playing setting, a "Harder" Sci-Fi version of the story.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The Trope Namer.
  • Domed Hometown: In the comic strip, the germ-free "aeseptic cities" in Asia. The inhabitants all have enormous lifespans because of the lack of contagions.
  • Face Heel Turn: In the comics, Kane started out on the good guys' side, but he turned traitor very early on.
  • Femme Fatale: Ardala Valmar
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water
  • Follow the Leader: Flash Gordon was conceived as a result of Buck popularizing Space Opera on the comics page. For that matter, Buck and Flash were George Lucas's primary inspiration for Star Wars, right down to the iconic Scrolling Text.
  • The Future
  • Human Aliens
  • In a Single Bound: Jumping belts.
  • Last of His Kind
  • Made of Phlebotinum: One of the earliest examples.
  • Moustache Of Evil: Killer Kane, originally.
  • Mythology Gag: The Dynamite Entertainment version has several references to the TV series, along with other incarnations of the franchise.
  • Newspaper Comics
  • Opening Scroll
  • Print Long Runners: The newspaper comic ran for many years, although it's long gone now.
  • Ray Gun: Has probably the most instantly recognizable ray pistols in all space opera, because tin versions were a popular toy back in the comic's heyday. The comic book uses the same design for them.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Niagara, New York, was made the capital of Earth's government to thank and promote a newspaper in the area that ran the comic.
  • Recycled in Space: Space mummies and space vampires, among others.
  • The Red Planet: The Tiger Men of Mars.
  • Rival Turned Evil: In the original stories, Killer Kane.
  • Scrolling Text: The film serials are the Trope Codifier.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse
  • Space Fighter: The 1970s starfighters are some of the most gorgeous ships of this type ever designed.
  • Space Opera
  • Space Pirates: Black Barney
  • Techno Babble: Star Trek has nothing on Buck Rogers in this department, trust me.
  • The Vamp: Ardala -- yes, she does predate the TV show. Though she wasn't a princess in the comics.
  • Tron Lines: The outfits in the comic book from Dynamite Entertainment.
  • Yellow Peril: The first bad guys Buck fights in the early novels are the Han Airlords, Chinese who invaded America with zeppelins and ruled it for a couple of centuries until Buck shows up and leads La Résistance against them.
    • One of the novels does note that the Han Airlords were probably the result of a meteor or probe that crashed in Mongolia. The alien object apparently took possession of the inland Chinese and Mongolians and turned them toward conquest. The Airlords of Han specifically mentions (in a throwaway paragraph at the end) that the Japanese and coastal Chinese were unaffected, although the 'gangs' of North America approached them cautiously (it also notes that the 'blacks of Africa' are now 'one of the leading races of the world'). This was a massive case of Fair for Its Day. (Note also that the novels were written well before World War Two.)
    • And it doesn't end there. Later comics took the Martians, who had usually been considered native to Mars, and changed them so they were the Japanese who had fled into space at the end of World War II. Then they did it again with the Monkeymen of Planet X.
  • Zeerust