As skyward space heroes go, the jetpack and raygun of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D." remain some of the most easily recalled details of an era in American fiction when pulp icons ruled radio, film and comics. Although beyond his general look and adventuresome ways, most Americans would be hard pressed differentiate the guy from a space hero who walks around with a certain amount of "Flash" -Â and that's just fine by writer Scott Beatty, who scripts Dynamite's incoming revival of the original jet pack hero in "Buck Rogers," a new series debuting this summer.
"Look, there will always be inevitable and unfair comparisons to that other guy. Outside of sci-fi fans, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find many people on the street who could identify -Â other than the names -Â the specific trappings of either character," Beatty told CBR. "My goal in writing the series is to make readers intimate with Buck's world, including Wilma Deering, Buddy Deering, Dr. Huer, Killer Kane, Ardala, Black Barney, and all the rest. It's also to strike a balance between hardcore fans who know (and love) the core mythology, while introducing it to new readers who come to Buck Rogers with little or no understanding of his place in the sci-fi firmament --ideally, all wrapped within good, fun stories."
If the long-standing cast of characters Beatty mentions don't ring immediate bells for you, the writer promises the draw of he and artist Carlos Rafael's story, which starts in May's 25-cent "Buck Rogers" #0, will remain a focus on the future. "I think our collective fascination with the future -Â Is it good? Is it bad? Will humanity survive? -Â brings us back to stories like Buck's, time and again," Beatty explained. "Buck is our 'window' into that far-flung future. And even with all the advances in technology, it all boils down to a guy from the 20th/21st century saving the day. It's that can-do spirit we cling to. Even in our darkest hours, all it takes is just one person with the will to do the hard task."
Rogers' life in comics constantly came with hard tasks, dastardly villains and cosmic romance ever since he moved from the pulps to the newspaper strips in early 1929. Preserved for 500 years thanks to the bizarre effects of a gas-filled cave in, the 20th Century man awoke in the 25th Century to quickly join the battle for Earth's freedom against a variety of would be conquerors. The character spent the rest of the century bouncing between newspapers, comic books, radio serials and (perhaps more famously to modern audiences) a 1979 TV series.
Throughout, Rogers maintained a gung-ho attitude to blasting villains away leaving an impression on young people everywhere, including Beatty. "I have scattered memories of some old Buck Rogers comics -Â mostly coverless and falling apart -Â that I found at a flea market as a kid. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the television series with Gil Gerard wasn't my first real exposure to Buck. But that led me to more 'traditional' Buck adventures in earlier novels and newspaper strips."
As with its reinvention of icons like the Lone Ranger and the heroes of "Project Superpowers," Dynamite's "Buck Rogers" presents the character in a new light with a redesign from Alex Ross, covers by John Cassaday and an intriguing first story arc ominously titled "The Death of Buck Rogers," which updates the character's background for the 21st Century readership.
"Let me just say this: I'm a fan of Buck's 'classic' origin, but certain aspects of it have been updated for the sake of credibility and to fuel the initial story arc," Beatty revealed. "The 25-cent issue delivers just what it promises: the Death of Buck Rogers. We're not the first to flash-forward in time -Â even further than the 25th century -Â to show aspects of the character that include clues to his status quo in the present. ('Lost,' anyone?) The zero issue is a way of jumping right into the world of Buck Rogers without having to bring readers up to speed on how and why he's in the 25th century. It's Buck's last adventure and it paradoxically plants the seeds for his first new adventures at Dynamite. I wrote a story that (hopefully) encapsulates the basic essence of Buck Rogers. Consider it a space mini-opera, a thrilling self-contained tale that shows Buck doing what he does best."
Along for the ride will be Rogers mainstays including his part-time love interest and gal Friday, Wilma Deering, and the back-to-back villainy of Ardala and her occasional companion Killer Kane, all of whom add up to a far-reaching long term epic, says Beatty. "Wilma, obviously, is the first person Buck meets in the future. As the series begins, we'll see a mix of classic and wholly new characters, but I'll be relying on many of Buck's (future) old friends and new foes. If it ain't broke..."
The series artwork also drives of the bigger arc in unexpected ways. "I couldn't be happier that Alex and John are contributing to the series," Beatty said. "Their initial cover concepts continue to inspire me. Pure and simple, Alex's new character design sparked quite a lot of ideas on how the future works, especially how Buck fights in the 25th century. That suit is crucial to the zero issue, by the way."
Of Rafael's interiors, Beatty remarked, "I think Carlos has a classic design sensibility -Â especially with characters and anatomy -Â not to mention an innovative eye on the futuristic trappings that should please 'retro' fans and new readers. I'm really looking forward to what Carlos is bringing to Buck's world and the entire series."
Overall, Scott Beatty places his real faith in the series at the feet of his leading man. "Buck was born in a different time, but he's more a stranger in a strange land than an anachronistic throwback," the writer said. "He has a well-developed survival instinct, which is put to the test in the 25th century. He's smart. He's capable. And he's a hero, through and through."
Beatty says the #1 way to draw in new readers is with complexity. "The Buck of 1928 brings different baggage with him to the future than the Buck of 2009. The fears of that era are different than the concerns of today. And in many ways they're the same also. The Buck of 1928 was created in a world still healing from its first World War, and barely a year away from the Great Depression. In some respects, given our present world woes, perhaps the two Bucks aren't so contrasting. But what links them is an indefatigable spirit and an inherent optimism. The future has to be better than today, right? Buck believes that. However, he's all about living in the now -Â no matter where he is -Â and meeting a problem head-on because of his inherent hope that the future is worth fighting for."
"Buck Rogers" #0 goes on sale for 25 cents in May from Dynamite Entertainment.