For many years I believed Tom Corbett was based solely on Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet. A letter dated June 9th, 1977 from the Heinleins confirmed that the book was sold as a TV series in the early 1950's. The similarities of the characters in Space Cadet and the Tom Corbett TV show were reinforced by the Grosset and Dunlap juvenile series published from 1952 to 1956. The books were reissued in many editions up to the early 1960's which resulted in the books becoming most available "resource" to fans. Video's of the shows were almost non existent.
My research and observations were published in a Tom Corbett fanzine in the 1970's with an article outlining the similarities of RAH's book and the characters in the TV show. Ted Hake published an expanded version of the Heinlein article in his Collectibles Monthly newsletter (Vol 2 No 11/12 April/May 1979).
Life being what it is, this viewpoint was a simplified answer to the real development of the character and not the complete picture. The development of Tom Corbett evolved from at least TWO major sources, Joseph Greene's early radio, comic and TV scripting and Heinlein's influence on the Grosset and Dunlap juvenile series books.
Research by Geoffrey Tolle and others "uncloaked" Joseph Greene's contribution in the development of Tom Corbett. Many of the scripts and story lines of the early Tom Corbett shows were developed from works written by Mr. Greene. The Tom Corbett Timeline that accompanies this page outlines a lot of the early work.
Joseph Lawrence Greene was a writer of science fiction, mystery, pulp fiction, newspaper strips, comics, radio and TV scripts. He was associated with many of the Golden Age of comic books, starting in the late thirties, when he was a ghost writer for the some of most famous of comic characters of the era (The Green Lama, Spunky, Golden Lad etc.). He was an editor for Grosset in the sixties (possibly the 1950's), where he worked his way up to managing editor and acting editor-in-chief before leaving the company in 1972. In 1959 he began the Juvenile SF series Dig Allen - Space Explorers for Golden Press. While in semi-retirement during the late '70's and 80's, he independently published almanacs, several about astrology and one called the American Elsewhen Almanac.
Much of what we know of Joseph Greene's work is through the files his son Paul Greene has kept. These serve as the basis of the research along with observations from other sources.
The first appearance of Tom Ranger ( future Tom Corbett) was in the form of a January 16, 1946 radio script submitted to Orbit Feature Services Inc. The working title was the Space Cadets whose hero was named Tom Ranger of the Space Cadets. (See Tom Ranger Radio page).
A Tom Ranger and the Space Cadets newspaper strip was developed for syndication in October 1949. The first two week plot is almost identical to the first few weeks of the Tom Corbett newspaper strip published by the Field Enterprise Syndicate in September 1951. Roger's counterpart, Bruce Howard, tricks Tom Ranger into breaking Academy rules and later gloats over his trick. He is also designated as "senior cadet" of the unit. (See Tom Ranger comic strip).
All of these elements were pulled together in the first broadcast of the Tom Corbett Show on October 2, 1950. The first draft of the TV Show stars Chris Colby, aka Tom Ranger - changed at the last minute to Tom Corbett, in an adventure with Men from the Darkside (Mercurian Invasion). The same lead story for the 1951 Tom Corbett Space Cadet Newspaper strip and the same story written by Rockhill Radio using characters named in Joseph Greene's 1949 Newspaper strip and The Men from the Darkside. Both of these events link the early concepts of Tom Ranger developed by Joseph Greene and concepts that developed into the Tom Corbett Space Cadet character we remember.
Joseph Greene's Tom Ranger, Space Academy and the "Space Cadets" ideas are early influences of the Tom Corbett TV show. The Grosset and Dunlap books published two years after the first TV show, would be patterned after Heinlein's Space Cadet. The rest is history. Or is it? What other influences have contributed to Tom Corbett? The Academy stands ready to document more.
Joseph Greene used an interesting naming nomenclature for his spaceships throughout his works. Tom Ranger's first ship was the Space Arrow from the proposed radio series in 1946 , the Golden Arrow in the proposed 1949 newspaper strip and the Silver Arrow in the first Digby Allen novel FORGOTTEN STAR in 1959. The Silver Arrow was found in the Graveyard of Space, a reference to the early Tom Ranger comic strip.
In a discussion on who wrote the Grosset and Dunlap Tom Corbett series, Author Jeff Carver reports that "..Jim Frenkel used to work with Joe Green (Greene} at G&D, and he swears that Joe Green (Greene} was Cary Rockwell".
A website dedicated to Joseph Greene's Dig Allen offers more information on the series and possible future Dig Allen stories. Check out Jonathan Cooper's site at http://www.smart1.net/scooper/indexa.html