1950s “Rocketman” TV Series and Their Fans:
Cadets, Rangers, and Junior Space Men

Televised “rocketman” series of the 1950s had relationships with their fans that affected not only ratings, but also domestic life, consumption, merchandising, print media, and a host of other, sometimes unexpected, aspects of everyday life. Captain Video’s “Ranger Messages” taught good civic behavior, Nestle’s commercials on Tom Corbett offered children advice on how to host successful parties, fan clubs converged on promotional events at supermarkets and department stores, and numerous magazine and newspaper articles offered parents tips on how to satisfy their children’s “space fever.” Intertextual references to “rocketman” series spread across media, and tie-in products, from books to rocket-shaped tree houses generated millions of dollars in sales.

The essays in this collection explore the role of the "rocketman" series in the lives of their fans. What messages were they sending into American living rooms each week? What were fans (and others) doing with those messages? How did the values, ideals, goals, and desires transmitted and created by these series take form in material and social culture? They focus on series such as Captain Z-Ro; Tom Corbett, Space Cadet; Space Patrol; Commando Cody; Rocky Jones; Flash Gordon; Buck Rogers; and Captain Video and his Video Rangers.


Henry Jenkins

A. Bowdoin Van Riper and Cynthia J. Miller

Where It All Began: The Flash Gordon Serials
Roy Kinnard

“A Commotion in the Firmament:” Tom Corbett and the Lost Boys
John C. Tibbetts

Boy’s Wonder: Male Teenage Assistants in 1950s Sci-Fi Serials and Cold WaMasculinity
Robert Jacobs

Girls and “Space Fever”
Amy Foster

Space Fever: From Fantasy to Reality
Howard E. McCurdy

Shooting for the Stars: Captain Video, the Rocket Rangers, and America’s Conquest of Space
Patrick Lucanio and Gary Coville

Space Opera TV: Seeing the World of Tomorrow
J. P. Telotte

The Sky is the Limit: Advertising and Consumer Culture in Rocketman Television Shows of the 1950s
Lawrence R. Samuel

Creating a Sense of Wonder: The Glorious Legacy of Space Opera Toys of the 1950’s
S. Mark Young

Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television
Jean-Noel Bassior

Making the Universe Safe for Democracy: Rocky Jones, Space Ranger
Wheeler Winston Dixon

“Justice Through Strength and Courage:” Captain Midnight and the Military-Industrial Complex
Mick Broderick

“To Learn from the Past ...": Becoming Cold War Citizens with Captain Z-Ro
Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper

Confessions of A Commando Cody Addict (Or, How The Flying Suit Changed My Life)
Gary Hughes

From the Cover

"1950's 'Rocketman' TV Series and their Fans is a loving and bold exploration of a nearly forgotten period of Americana. Accurate, scholarly, full of insight -- and great fun to read!"
-- Greg Bear, Hugo Award-winning author of Blood Music

"Miller and Van Riper have assembled a sterling set of essays on science fiction television of the 1950s and the rise of the 'rocketman' ideal that remains critical to American popular culture. From Captain Video to Commando Cody, from Space Patrol to Space Rangers, this collection of essays, written by a who's who of scholars investigating this topic, analyzes themes of Cold War, conquest, and consumerism in relation to space enthusiasm."
-- Roger Launius, senior curator, National Air and Space Museum and former chief historian, NASA

"Isaac Asimov told me, 'Science fiction writers and readers didn't put a man on the moon all by themselves, but they created a climate of opinion in which the goal of putting a man on the moon became acceptable.' I can't help thinking that space serials and comic books were a big part of that acceptance."
-- James Gunn, recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award


My co-editor, Cindy Miller, discusses 1950s 'Rocketman' TV Series and their Fans on SciFi Pulse