is an adventure series about a modern man (mining engineer in the 1920s, astronaut in The Seventies
) who is put in suspended animation, wakes up in the 25th century, and then spends his time as a hero in space.
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
all stemming from the popular 1928 novel Armageddon 2419 A.D.
about a time-travelling mining engineer named Anthony Rogers by Philip Francis Nowlan. 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, go to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
. Parodied by Daffy Duck
in Duck Dodgers in the 24˝th Century
and subsequent sequels.
Buck Rogers provides examples of the following tropes:
- 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.
- The (unsuccessful) attempt to revive the novel series (publishing rights being held by Ace, which hired Larry Niven to work out a rational universe based on the original novel) was also as faithful to the original novel as they could be without letting it continue to have a lot of plainly stupid errors in it. (Most of the things that are obvious nonsense now were explained away as Rogers being an Unreliable Narrator due to his own limited scientific knowledge, and learning better by the time he was the old man the new novels began with.)
- Always Identical Twins: Even deadlier than Killer Kane is his Mad Scientist brother, Nova Kane, who greets Rogers under the guise of one Dr. Zero (complete with a false beard). When the beard comes off, Rogers instantly assumes that it's Killer Kane again, brewing yet more evil.
- 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. Similar to H. G. Wells' cavorite (or upsydaisium, for that matter).
- 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 1970's 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: Buck, obviously, though not much is made of it
- Made of Phlebotinum: One of the earliest examples.
- Mars: The Tiger Men of Mars.
- Moustache Of Evil: Killer Kane, originally.
- Mythology Gag: The Dynamite Comics version has several references to the TV series, along with other incarnations of the franchise.
- The TV series restores Anthony to Buck's real name by making it "William Anthony".
- Newspaper Comics: one of the iconic examples defining the mid-twentieth century golden age.
- No-One Could Have Survived That: Killer Kane survived a few scrapes.
- Opening Scroll: the serials were early trope codifiers
- Only Known by Their Nickname: depending upon continuity, "Buck" is either a legal name or a nickname.
- 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 Dynamite Comics version uses the same design for them.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Niagara, New York, was made the capital of Earth's government to thank/promote a paper in the area that ran the comic.
- Rival Turned Evil: In the original stories, Killer Kane.
- Scrolling Text: The film serials are the Trope Codifier.
- Slept Through the Apocalypse: in a mine in the book and the comics, in orbit in the TV series
- Space Opera: perhaps the earliest example.
- Space Pirates: Black Barney
- Star Killing: Nova Kane planned to turn off the sun, destroying the solar system and turning Earth into a lifeless snowball, all while Rogers is imprisoned in orbit and helpless to do anything.
- Technobabble - Star Trek has nothing on Buck Rogers in this department.
- 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 Comics.
- Yellow Peril: The first badguys 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'). A massive case of Fair for Its Day (the novels were written well before World War II.)
- 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.
- Zee Rust: the Buck Rogers comics originated, codified or popularized much of the Raygun Gothic aesthetic and practically defines "retro future" to this day; The Planet Express spaceship from Futurama is a prominent modern example of the classic Buck Rogers style.