IN THE 25th CENTURY
First, some history. Buck Rogers was created by Philip Francis Nowlan and his first appearance (as Anthony Rogers) was in the short story "Armageddon-2419 A.D" which was published in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories. The president of National Newspaper Service Syndicate, John Flint Dille, had read and enjoyed the original story. He eventually approached Nowlan to do a science fiction comic strip based on the concept, the first such strip in the world. Richard Calkins was commissioned to do the art and it debuted on the January 7, 1929 as "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century". Three years later Buck also made the jump to radio, in a four times weekly broadcast starting on the 7th November 1932.
With his success in other mediums it was only a matter of time before Buck transferred to the big screen. In RKO's version of the story, several changes were made. Buck's aircraft is forced down by a blizzard over the Arctic, and in order to survive until rescue comes, he and his friend Buddy are forced to use the newly discovered Nirvano gas to place themselves into suspended animation. They are awakened in 2040 (500 years from the date of the serial). Killer Kane is now an evil gangster who rules the world with an iron fist, and the resistance is led from a secret laboratory by Dr. Huer.
The most recent screen version of Buck Rogers began in 1979, with Gil Gerard playing the lead role. This time round Buck was an astronaut piloting a space shuttle, which goes off course. Frozen by the cold of space, Buck thaws out in 2479, after the Earth has undergone the trauma of a nuclear war. The series ran three seasons and has left us with many great memories.
Thus, from all of this, the imagination of kids everywhere had to have toys to portray this great science fiction hero. The following is basically a chronology of the more popular Buck Rogers toys. Although this web site is dedicated mainly to toys from the 60s to 80s, people often ask about the tin Buck Rogers pistols, so I thought I would add some information for them as well.
Buck Rogers Tin Pistols Ideal Captain Action Buck Rogers Mego 3 3/4" Action Figures
Mego 12" Action Figures
Buck Rogers Utility Belt Corgi Starfighters Space Communicator Did You Know?
Buck Rogers Tin Pistols
The Buck Rogers toy craze began with the popular Daisy pistols of the 1930s. There were several versions of these and I have tried to describe them as best as possible here to help differentiate them. They are worth quite a bit of money now and really great pieces for a collection!
Thought to be the 1st ray gun ever made, the top one is the Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol XZ-31 which was first sold in 1934. The smaller one is the Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol XZ-35 which was released in 1934 as well. This one has been nicknamed "The Wilma Pistol".
Following up on the success of the Rocket Pistol and the surging popularity of Buck Rogers, in 1935 Daisy produced a new Buck Rogers gun, the XZ-38 Disintegrator Pistol. A masterpiece of art deco design, this gun featured a fluted barrel and flamboyant fins. Produced in both nickel and copper finishes, the gun was both sold in stores as well as merchandised as a Cream of Wheat premium in 1935 and a Popsicle premium in 1939.
Liquid Helium Water Pistols
Soon after the Disintegrator Pistols hit the market, Daisy unleashed water shooting power on the world with the Buck Rogers Liquid Helium Water Pistol XZ-44 in 1935. Talk about a great paint job, the Liquid Helium water pistol was fantastic. Very hard to find in this condition.
After World War II, Daisy used the existing tools and dies from the Disintegrator Pistol to create their last Buck Rogers gun. Called the U-235 Atomic Pistol, this gun reflected the then current fascination with atomic energy. This gun was available with a gun-metal finish, in unfinished steel, or painted gold.
Ideal Captain Action Buck Rogers Figure
In 1965 Ideal released one of the coolest action figure lines ever, Captain Action. This line is discussed in more detail in my Captain Action page. One of the figures released in this line was Buck Rogers. This set is probably the hardest to find complete and almost impossible to find boxed. Ideal's Captain Action line basically featured outfits sold without a figure, so you could dress your Captain Action as your favorite comic hero.
This set included: face mask with gray looking hair, black boots (angle cut at the tops), black gloves (rubber) with white lines at the top, black belt/harness with a microphone built in, two blue rocket packs with yellow tips, blue space helmet with silver trim, silver canteen, ray gun and flashlight.
Mego 3 3/4" Action Figures
The Buck Rogers toy market pretty much vanished after the 1950s. There were a number of plastic pistols of various designs, but none were especially popular. Then came the release of the 1979 television series. A whole new market opened up and Mego, who had dropped the ball and passed on the Star Wars line, decided they would take charge and market a line of Buck Rogers figures, vehicles and play sets. They succeeded, as their figures were great and some of my favorite toys growing up!
Top Row - Draco, Draconian Guard, Killer Kane and Tiger Man
Bottom Row - Ardella, Dr. Huer, Buck Rogers, Twiki and Wilma
Definitely my favorite piece from this line...and I think a lot of kids agreed with me! It took me a long time to find a minty boxed one. It turns out the gray nose and tail cones get lost quite often.
Ok, this was a nice idea that just did not work out. This ship looks more like a strange chamber than a spaceship. It takes batteries and lights up and makes laser sounds but thanks to the poor ship design, it just never sold well.
The last toy Mego made for the 3 3/4" line, this was released in early 1980 in limited numbers. This is definitely the most uncommon vehicle from the line.
Star Fighter Command Center
Many people do not even know Mego made a playset for their 3 3/4" line. I never knew about this as a kid myself. Basically it is a mat with some plastic console pieces.
Mego 12" Action Figures
Developed along with their smaller figures, Mego expanded their existing 12" action figure line (World's Greatest Super-Heroes) to include a 12" line of Buck Rogers figures. These figures have a great likeness to the TV characters, except when they "zombie" - a term used to refer to the tendency of the rubber used to mold their heads to turn gray over time. Unfortunately, Mego would release the very spare Illia action figure from the Star Trek the Motion Picture line, but they failed to release the 2nd most popular character from the show, Wilma.
Buck Rogers, Walking Wind-Up Twiki and Dr. Huer
Draconian Guard and Tiger Man
Killer Kane and Draco
Buck Rogers Utility Belt
Buck Rogers Official Utility Belt by Remco 1979. Yet another in the line of basic, but inexpensive utility belts by Remco. Came with : Buck Rogers decoder glasses to make secret messages on this package visible, Buck Rogers Wrist watch with adjustable strap, Buck Rogers Ray gun with clicking action, Intruder detection badge that changes when viewed with the decoder glasses, City Decoder map visible through Decoder glasses, Secret Message also visible through glasses.
Corgi jumped in on the Buck Rogers craze and received the rights to a number of Buck Rogers toys. The most popular of these were the die-cast Starfighters. The line was quite small and only included a standard Corgi Starfighter (which came with plastic Buck Rogers and Twiki figures) and the Starfighter Jr. (basically just a smaller version which came without figures).
1979 was the height of the walkie-talkie craze and Corgi released a Buck Rogers set called the Space Communicator. Bad news is, the were not actually walkie-talkies, they were connected by a long wire.
Did You Know?
Many people wondered why Mego never made a Hawk action figure. He would have made a great figure, no doubt about it, but Hawk first appeared in the series in late 1980, about the same time that Mego was beginning to close up shop and sell off it's operations.
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