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Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe, The

Entry updated 7 November 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

US Comic (1953-1954). 4 issues. Lev Gleason Publications. Artists include Mort Leav, Ed Martinott, Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio and Alex Toth. Three strips per issue, plus miscellaneous short non-fiction pieces – usually on science or history, though #1 has "Buster Crabbe: One Terrific Swell Guy".

Buster Crabbe (1908-1983), real name Clarence Linden Crabbe II, was a US Olympic swimming gold medallist (1932, 400 metres freestyle) who became an actor and played the lead in the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers film serials, as well as in Tarzan the Fearless (1933) (see Tarzan and Tarzan Films) and other Tarzan-like roles. He also starred in several Westerns, including a series of Billy the Kid movies. Each issue of The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe featured three stories, one from each of the above genres, all starring Buster; though in the Jungle tales he plays a guide or similar, rather than a Tarzan character.

The Western strips contain no genre elements, nor do most of the Jungle ones, though #3 has "The Strange Case of the Radioactive Tiger": here Buster is guiding a party of Scientists through the South American jungle, when they are surprised to see a tiger which their Geiger counters indicate is radioactive. They discover a secret atomic research laboratory (see Nuclear Energy) that is testing "radioactive isotopes on living creatures", part of a scheme by "foreign scientists ... to seize power by Atomic Weapons".

#1's sf story is "I Cover Mars", where two Martians – optimistic and brave Astros, pessimistic and cowardly Feros – return from Earth. The pair had first explored the ocean, assuming it would be the most likely place for life, with Feros kidnapping Professor of Ichthyology Buster then radioing ahead to accuse Astros of attempting to abort the expedition (in fact, Feros had tried to do this). On their arrival Astros is arrested, whilst the King of Mars abdicates in favour of the now lauded Feros, who attempts to frame Buster for murder – this to convince his new subjects that Earthlings are evil, so justifying an Invasion. #2's "Dark of the Moon" has a professor's daughter asking Buster – here playing his actor self – to stop her father flying his untested Rocket to the Moon – but the three of them end up landing on the dark side, to find a City beneath a plastic dome. The inhabitants are Aliens whose Spaceship was destroyed when they crashlanded long ago; now they have the professor's rocket, they plan to use a Ray to kill all life on Earth, then invade. The weapon will be fired through a tunnel they are currently digging through the Moon: Buster and the others are Hypnotized and forced to help. Fortunately the hypnosis wears off and – taking advantage of the low Gravity – the three reach the rocket, which breaks through the dome, killing the city's inhabitants.

#3's "Invisible Monsters of Callisto" has Buster accidentally crashing his plane into a UFO: its crew – the invisible Syndics (see Invisibility) – take him back to Callisto (see Jupiter), where they have conquered the humanoid population (see Life on Other Worlds). Buster is forced to participate in a Chess-like game whose pieces are people forced to fight each other: he and the planet's former co-ruler fake their deaths, battle Robots and turn off the invisibility device, revealing the Syndics to be Little Green Men. #4's "The Thing from Out of Space" has Buster opening a small container that hit him on the shoulder: he is cut by a sharp-pointed star, onto which his blood drips – and is "transmitted on a beam of light ... through space" to six-mooned Polon. A young woman explains that ages ago their greatest scientist sent a message to "bring a stranger from another world to help us", as the High Priest of Rogor (see Religion) was wiping out science from their world – and now its people have "returned to superstition and ignorance". Buster is thrown into a volcanic pit but finds a cave there, leading to the room where the priests store their tricks to fool the populace. He ends up causing a giant statue of Rogor to topple and crush all the priests.

The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe is a minor comic: the sf stories are adequate but unremarkable, while the shortage of space means any interesting ideas are undeveloped and the endings rushed, so as to focus on the action. "I Cover Mars" is probably the best tale, mainly because it focuses on the Martians rather than Buster. [SP]


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