The classic space opera hero Buck Rogers is coming back, according to The Wrap. Legendary Entertainment (Godzilla: King of the Monsters) has snagged the movie rights to the 92-year-old character, with producers Don Murphy (Transformers) and Susan Montford set to steer the project through Murphy’s Angry Films production company.
Buck Rogers brought sci-fi elements like ray guns, rocket ships, lasers and jet packs into popular culture, with the property’s vision of the future and emphasis on action and adventure influencing everything from Disney’s Tomorrowland attraction to George Lucas’ original concept for Star Wars.
The movie will bring Buck all the way back to his roots by adapting Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1928 novella in which the character made his debut. Written by Philip Francis Nowlan and published in the iconic pulp fiction magazine Amazing Stories, the tale follows the adventures of Anthony Rogers, a World War I veteran who is investigating strange phenomena in an abandoned Pennsylvania coal mine for his company, the American Radioactive Gas Corporation, when he is trapped by a cave-in.
Exposed to radioactive gas, Rogers falls into suspended animation and reawakens 492 years later in the 25th century. What used to be the United States of America is now ruled by the Hans (i.e. the Chinese), who conquered the U.S. nearly 400 years earlier using fleets of airships armed with disintegration rays. Rogers joins a local “gang” and, using strategies he learned in the Great War, manages to help score a victory against the Hans and pave the way for a future reclamation of America.
A sequel to the original story, The Airlords of Han, appeared in the March 1929 issue of Amazing Stories, but the character, renamed Buck, really took off with the debut in January of that year of a daily syndicated comic strip. The strip ended up in some 287 U.S. newspapers at its peak, along with 160 international outlets.
It wasn’t until a year after the comic strip premiered, in January 1930, that Rogers first made his way into space in a story called “Tiger Men from Mars.” That in turn paved the way for the franchise’s turn toward space opera, even as it branched into radio in 1932 (making it the first sci-fi program to ever air on the radio), a 12-part movie serial in 1939 and, later, more comics, books, toys and video games.
Although there was a short-lived Buck Rogers TV series during the 1950-51 season, it was revived in 1979 by NBC after the pilot was released theatrically to good box office. Starring Gil Gerard as Buck and produced by Glen A. Larson (Battlestar Galactica), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century ran for two seasons and introduced a new generation to the venerable hero, this time as a NASA pilot who flies his ship through an anomaly in space and is left drifting in the void for 500 years until he awakens to defend Earth against the forces of the planet Draconia and other menaces.
Although a movie was announced as far back as 2008 with Frank Miller writing and directing, legal issues kept the franchise in limbo for the better part of the next decade. With Legendary now obtaining the rights, the plan is to launch a film franchise, a TV series and an animated component.