Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, October 16, 2020


 If you were a kid in the 50s it was hard to avoid Tom Corbett, the fresh-faced space cadet of television, books, radio, comic books, and comics.  Not to mention the gazillion tie-in merchandise foisted on the youth of that decade -- coloring books, costumes, lunch boxes, records, play sets, a Viewmaster, and the cardboard cutouts on boxes of Pep cereal.

The character was created by Joseph Green, who was inspired by Robert A. Heinlein's book Space Cadet.  Green had written a radio script in 1946 which was never produced.  After Heinlein's book came out, Green took the old script, polished it, and worked the script into a daily comic strip, which also was never produced.  The third time, though, was the charm, and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet in 1949 with adventures adapted from Green's unpublished comic strip.   Frankie Thomas, Jr., played Tom Corbett, Al Markim was cast as the Venusian cadet Astro, and Jan Merlin was the smug and sometimes overbearing Roger Manning.  Eye candy was provided by Joan Garland as Dr. Joan Dale.  Willy Ley served as technical advisor.  The series ran from October 2, 1950 to June 25, 1955, bouncing back and forth from CBS to ABC to NBC to Dumont and Back again to NBC.

From 1952 to 1956, Grosset & Dunlap produced a series of eight juvenile novels under the house name of "Cary Rockwell."  Once again, Willy Ley was the technical advisor.  Tom Corbett finally made it as a newspaper comic strip from 1953 to 1955, drawn by Ray Bailey.  For six months in 1952 Corbett also appeared as a twice-weekly half hour radio program with a two-part story arc appearing each week.  Tom Corbett also appeared in 26 comic books from four different publishers in the 1950s -- Dell Comics, K.K. Publications, World Distributors, and Prize Comics.  Reprints of the comic books and comic strip have been published more recently, possibly with some new material.

Tom Corbett's one excursion into the Wonder Books of short, heavily illustrated juveniles came in 1953 with Tom Corbett's Wonder Book of Space.  Here, siblings Johnny and Jamie are staring out their window at the moon, wondering what it would be like there.  Of course there was no way to do that:  they didn't have wings and airplanes could not fly that high.  But one  night as they were getting ready for bed, a tall young man with black curly hair appeared before them.  (Remember this is 1953 and creepiness had not been invented yet.)  It's Tom Corbett and he was about to take his rocket Polaris to the moon and would Johnny and Janie like to come along?  (Remember this is 1953 and accepting a ride from a stranger in a nice car wa a level of creepiness that had not been invented yet.)  Boy, o boy!  Would they!  Tom then outfits the two children in space suits, complete with communicators for their belts.  (Remember this is 1953, and having space suits handy that would fit little kids perfectly was just not creepy.)  So off they go to the moon, see many marvelous sights, and jump around in the low gravity.  Then they return to Earth and their bedroom.  It is still night and there is nothing creepy about a stranger removing two young children from their bedroom and then returning them later without their parents' knowledge.  It is, after all, 1953.

The story was written by Marcia Martin and illustrated by Frank Vaughan.

Enjoy this little dollop of juvenilia and try not to think creepy thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I remember watching TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET on TV as a kid. And, I later discovered the TOM CORBETT books and enjoyed them, too. Sadly, Tom and his friends are nearly forgotten.