TOM CORBETT SPACE "STRIP"
The newspapers of America have been a source of many exciting
stories, but there have been many unnoticed, and usually ignored, stories as
exciting as any front page news copy.Stories of adventure of ordinary people
in the vast void of space occurring in fantastic settings. Instead of being reported
on the front page they were found near the back of the weekday paper
and in the middle of the Sunday paper and were known as the "Funnies".
The 1930s followed
the exploits of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the 1940s would document the
adventures of Flash Gordon on a newly discovered planet and on Sunday, September
9th 1951, a new chapter would be added to the annuals of the 4 color
space heroes -Tom Corbett Space Cadet. The newcomer to the
science fiction scene opened with three young men traveling on a "sliding" sidewalk.
The marvels of the future West Point of Space (SPACE ACADEMY) are passing before
them. The young men of this future epic are just beginning their adventure at
the Academy and are the famed members of the Polaris unit: Tom Corbett, Roger
Manning, and Astro.
The first six months of the Sunday page did not follow the daily strip. Instead,
the Sunday pages followed the cadets as they are tested at the Academy. The
panels portrayed the cadets going through their paces with a comic punch line
at the end, usually at the cadets expense. The first Sunday adventure,
would set the pattern for the "punch
lines" of the Tom Corbett Sunday comic pages.
While the boys are drinking in the marvels of the Academy another marvel brings
them down to earth .... a STUDY MACHINE for class work!!!!
Art by Ray Bailey
Story by Paul S. Newman
The Artist- Ray Bailey
This new series was translated from the Tom Corbett television
series to the comic section by the veteran strip artist Ray Bailey. Mr Bailey
had a popular aviation series in the 1940s, BRUCE GENTRY, developed VESTA
WEST for a Chicago paper, assisted with the GUMPS Strip and worked as Milton
Caniff's assistant on STEVE CANYON. His distinctive artwork can be seen in a
number of the 1950s DELL comics including the Dell Steve Canyon comics and a
number of the Dell TV Show adaptations of TV Boots & Saddles, The Gray Ghost,
Ripcord and others.
comic book series which bore the strongest resemblance to the TOM CORBETT
strip were the UNDERSEA AGENTS published by Tower Comics. Lt Davy Jones of the
UNDERSEA AGENTS (click on cover for full graphic of the #1 Undersea Agent) is
a dead ringer for TOM CORBETT SPACE CADET. The scenery and equipment in the UNDERSEA
AGENTS comic book have a strong resemblance to the "outer space" look of TOM
CORBETT. Both settings had an "out of this world" feeling along with "unknown" quality
of unexplored space- either underwater or outer space. Other comic book
work by Ray Bailey included the 1960 issues of Mandrake published by King and
Charlton's Jungle Comics.
His work on the TOM CORBETT strip was a mixed style of cartoon and realistic
styles. The spaceships, land crafts and equipment were drawn with clean,
crisp, functional lines while having a used look with wear marks and general
maintenance repairs visible on the equipment. This was in direct contrast
to some of the illustrations of the Polaris crew.
Tom, Roger, and Astro would be illustrated in a cartoon style which
didn't seem to match the detailed backgrounds. Many of the full face panels of
Tom exhibit a Noel Sickles influence while the aerial views were well balanced
for perspective and depth. Rather than a background for a comic strip, the landscapes
of Earth mountains, distant vistas Venus, Mars and Titan had an almost fine art
quality to them.
Lt Davy Jones: note Noel Sickles influence.
Ray Bailey's art did vary in quality from some excellent
spaceship panels to average panels with little or no background. A matt board
was utilized to give the strip a textured lined effect similar to some of the
Roy Crane art of the late 1940s. His space stations were uninspired round balls
in the blackness of space with panels of large areas of darkness with nondescript
action scenes. The dark art technique was probably used to save time at the expense
of the strips action.
A 1952 Sunday Supplement article in the Baltimore Sun stated that he had dropped
another adventure strip in favor of Tom Corbett, which he felt would be one of
the most interesting projects he had ever done. Ray Bailey had grown up in a
newspaper environment with his dad, Ray W. Bailey, who was a reporter for a New
and his wife Dorothy Behrens, a well known fashion illustration, proved to be
a working team. Mrs. Bailey did most of the lettering for Tom Corbett while the
Bailey's three children Richard, Carol and Bonnie served as critics, Carol was
one of the "Whiz Kids"on early TV. A major tension release from
the artist work was building model railroad cars and running them on his train
sets he designed and kept in the basement.
The Tom Corbett strip ran from September 9, 1951 to
September 12, 1953, covering 12 different adventures ranging from a short
run of 5 1/2 weeks to the longest run of 14 weeks. Several of the characters
would be used as crossovers in other stories but only the mainstays of the
Academy (Tom, Roger ,Astro) would appear in all of the adventures. The first
two weeks of the daily strip (9/9/51 - 9/22/51) introduced the main characters,
Space Academy training, and some background information on the history of
space flight in the Tom Corbett universe. The introduction strips demonstrated
the friction between the Polaris unit members and only hinted at the friendship
Roger and Astro later developed. Roger is the senior cadet during the first
week of the strip but by the second week Roger was replaced by Tom as unit
cadets receive their first mission in the 10/21/51 daily strip, a mission to
Mars which becomes the first newspaper strip adventure"The Mercurian Invasion".
The newspaper strip storyline differs from the first Tom Corbett television
show (The Mercurian Invasion) that was broadcast the previous year ( 10/02/50
- 10/27/50). The newspaper adventure began with the rescue of a pretty girl,
which resulted in a series of misadventures for the cadets. The television
adventure (10/2/50) opens with a crashed rocket and a sinister warning (10/06/50).
When the newspaper strip author, Paul S. Newman, was asked in an unpublished
1998 interview, if there were any outlines or plot summaries given to him for
writing, he didn't remember any but he did have a set of notes relating to
the plot lines.
The strip is pure 1950s Space Opera with many plot
cliche,situations, and gags at the expense of the cadets. The strip did
make a fairly accurate prediction in the 6/25/53 daily strip when Roger
tries to remember the date that man landed on the moon in 1968!!! There
is a problem with the moon landing date because the 9/20/50 strip is
about the spaceship "Pioneer",
the first rocket to land and return from the moon on March 7, 2077. Maybe
in the Tom Corbett Universe the first man landing in 1968 didn't return.
in the strip had some behaviors that differed from the
television show, such as an abundance of smoking pipes that were drawn
with Captain Strong. The pipes seemed to have a life of their own,
appearing in the character's mouth without his knowledge!! The strip villains
were heavy smokers as well, something that wasn't part of the television show,
a possible art technique carried over from the aviation strips Mr. Bailey drew
in the 1940s. Dr Dale is drawn wearing glasses throughout most of the strips
adventures and exhibits a more '"feminine" side,
a contrast to her no nonsense approach on the television show.
The artwork ranged from average to excellent with many of Ray Bailey's influences
newspaper illustration work appearing in the strip. The obvious Steve Canyon
/ Terry & the
Pirates look-a-likes with flight jackets (2/12/53) to Alex Raymond like costumes
and Capes (3/21/53). Even a few "Dragon Lady" villains appeared in
full "vamp" gear
complete with a sneer. Spacecraft was a strong point for Ray Bailey's artwork
with a lot of rivets and steel plates. Landscapes also came alive, even thou
we know Venus is not a jungle and Mars has no navigation canals. Overall
the art set the stage for high flying space adventures for the cadets and left
a great impression on many Corbett fans.
The Sunday pages did not follow the daily strip for the
first six months. The storyline of the daily strip and the Sunday page were finally
synchronized on March 30th 1952, a week after the start of the third Tom Corbett
strip adventure," Revolt of the Marsian Divisionists" (03/23/52 -
5/20/52). During the un synced first six months, the Sunday page would dramatize
a science fact the cadets were learning at the Academy. A special panel at
the end of the strip called SPACE
in detail how the science fact worked. Many times this section would be cut
in order to make a quarter page strip rather than a half page comic.
early article from Colliers magazine stated that Willy Ley, the technical advisor
to the TV series and Grosset & Dunlap books, was the author of the science
SPACE DUST articles. Many of the SPACE DUST stories reflect Mr Ley's science
background and thinking. He had participated in the Collier's Space Symposium
that was later published as a series of articles in Collier's
Magazine between 1951 and 1955. This early work in space research is considered
the foundation of many of today's space projects. Ideas from the Collier's
Symposium such as a Space Station ( 11/11/51),movable gantry and rocket firing
platform (6/22/52), the use of gyro's in space flight (4/26/53) and other
topics from the Collier's articles were
discussed in the SPACE DUST five years BEFORE
Russia's sputnik and a full 7 years before the United States put their space
program into gear. Facts about our Solar System, science concepts, jet and
space flight information, possible "space maneuvers"
and other interesting topics were part of the SPACE DUST subjects.
The "single" Sunday
adventures documented the practical jokes the cadets played on oneanother
as well as the "Punch line" worked into the strip. The October 7th 1951
page, which deals with weightlessness, is a good example. While on a routine
flight in space, Astro turns the artificial gravity off on the Polaris while
Roger is sleeping, causing him to float away from his bunk into open space.
The joke backfires on Astro when the gravity is turned back on and Roger falls
on top of Astro. Captain Strong delivers the "punch line" by saying Astro
didn't understand the gravity of
his joke. If you survive the pun, the SPACE DUST section explained weightlessness
effect in an elevator as it drops to what Free Fall would feel like.
When the Sunday page was synchronized
with the daily strip, the first three panels provided a re-cap
of the prior 6 days of action with some new scenes. The pattern for the daily
strip involved a synopsis of Monday thru Wednesday's adventure on Thursday
and a cliff hanger situation on Friday or Saturday.
Ray Bailey's art brought a special "space opera" feel to the Tom Corbett strip
the Tom Corbett Saga as an excellent example of the Space Opera genre. Unfortunately
Mr. Bailey passed away in 1976 and efforts to contact his family have not been
successful. If you have any information about Ray Bailey please pass it along
to the Academy for
a future update.
A quick reference to the 12 story lines with a summary of
each adventure with observations and points of interest pertaining to the adventures
are linked from the table below. The first
two weeks of the strip served as an introduction
to the Space Academy with
two years of comic strip adventures to follow.
So stay tuned for the further adventures of T..O..M ... ...C..O..R..B..R..E..T..T >>>>>>>>..S
P A C E .. C A D E T !!!!! in the newspaper. The following titles were made
from the action suggested in the story lines. Keep checking back as adventure
pages are updated and linked from the list below
TOM CORBETT NEWSPAPER STRIP ADVENTURES
Introduction - 09/09/51 - 09/20/51
|1-"The Mercurian Invasion"
||09/21/51 -01/05/52 - 14 weeks
|2-"Titan Colonist"||01/06/52 -03/22/52 - 11 weeks |
|3-"Revolt of the Marsian Divisionists"||03/23/52 - 5/20/52 - 8 1/2 weeks|
|4-"Slave Plantation of Venus"||05/21/52 - 08/01/52 - 10 1/2 weeks|
|5-"Ship wreckers of the Asteroids"||08/02/52 - 09/07/52 - 5 weeks|
|6-"First Women to Alpha Centuri"|| 09/08/52 - 11/01/52 - 7 1/2 weeks|
|7-"Epidemic on Colony F-6"||11/02/52 - 12/21/52 - 7 weeks|
|8-"Interplanetary Con artist in Flaxville"||12/22/52 - 02/08/53 -7 weeks|
|9-"Billie Buck-Undercover Agent And
the Marsian Rebellion"||02/09/53 - 05/11/53 - 13 1/2 weeks|
|10-"Titan Mission"||05/13/53 - 06/23/53 - 6 weeks |
|11-"Race to Alpha Centuri"||06/24/53 - 08/05/53 - 6 weeks|
|12-"Search for Lost Star Chart"||08/06/53 - 09/12/53 - 5 1/2 weeks|
Comments & suggestions may be sent to the Solar Guard Academy
Article "Tom Corbett Space Strip" copyright 1996 - 2013 by Ed Pippin