Kids in the early 1950s have Robert A. Heinlein to thank for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, the popular television, radio, comic strip, comic book, and juvenile novel character -- not that Heinlein had nay personal involvement in the series. Creator Joseph Greene was inspired by Heinlein's 1948 novel Space Cadet, to rework an unproduced radio script he had submitted two year before about a character named Tom Ranger and the Space Cadets. Greene adapted his original script for a proposed daily newspaper comic strip in 1949 which also remained unproduced. It remained for television to introduce the character: on October 2, 1950, CBS released Tom Corbett, Space Cadet with Frankie Thomas, Jr., in the title role. The first shows were based on Greene's comic book continuity. Tom's sidekicks were fellow cadets Roger Manning (Jan Merlin) and Astro, a Venusian (Al Markim). Captain Steve Strong, who oversaw the squad of cadets, was played by Michael Harvey for six episodes before the role was taken over by Edward Bryce. Willy Ley served as technical advisor. The television ran for four years, bouncing back and forth among the four networks at the time, ending on June 25, 1955, on NBC.
In September 1951, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet finally became a newspaper comic strip, running until September 1952.
From 1952 to 1956, Grossett & Dunlop published eight Tom Corbett novels under the house pseudonym of Cary Rockwell, again with Willy ley as technical advisor.
Dell Publishing ran three tryout issues of Tom Corbett in their Four Color series, which was used to get feedback on possible standalone series. Tom Corbett, Space Cadet gained its own title, beginning with #4, in 1952. The quarterly book ran until issue #11 in 1954, then was taken up by Prize Comics for three issues.
Dell's issue #4 contains the full-length, 34-page story "Lost Race of Assorians," also known as "The Beggar's Secret." It opens with Captain Steve Strong and his Space Cadet Squad reporting failure to the commander of the Solar Guard base on Mars; they had been the latest in a number of attempts to locate evidence of a rumored lost race of Mars, the Assorians. They also failed to find any trace of the missing Professor Thornton, who has spent his career looking for the mythical Assorians. It's only when a dying beggar tries to pass a message onto Tom that the cadets get a hint of where Professor Thornton might have gone. The hint came from the beggar's pet Martian picpup -- a creature that can project thoughts -- that had adopted the cadets after the beggar's death. Somewhere in the Great Red Desert lies the lost empire of the Assorians and the missing professor. Unfortunately, there also lie the outlaws of Bor Borito!
The story for this issue was written by Paul Newman (no, not that one), with artwork by John Lehti.
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