Legendary Entertainment wants to bring back a classic science fiction hero: Buck Rogers. The Hollywood Reporter says that the company has signed a deal to adapt the character, and plans to put together film, television, and animated projects featuring him.
The character is one of the earliest icons of the genre. First appearing in Amazing Stories in 1928 (incidentally, the same issue that featured E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “Skylark of Space”), the character was a World War I veteran who finds himself trapped in a mine shaft and ends up in suspended animation because of *handwave* radioactive chemicals. Recovered five hundred years later, in the year 2419, he finds himself now the ultimate outsider, and has to figure out how to orient himself to this strange new world. You can read the original story here (Page 40).
The magazine’s editor, Hugo Gernsback, noted in the story’s introduction that “we have rarely printed a story in this magazine that for scientific interests, as well as suspense, could hold its own with this particular story. We prophecy that this story will become more valuable as the years go by. It certainly holds a number of interesting prophecies, of which no doubt, many will come true.”
The story was widely adapted in a number of mediums after it was originally published, becoming a comic strip, a radio, movie, and television series (in the 1950s and again in 1979), and in a roundabout way, helped to inspire much of what we now know as modern science fiction.
THR says that Legendary has some ambitious plans for this property. It’s apparently looking to adapt the character for a big film, which “would pave the way for a prestige television series as well as an anime series.” Legendary has some experience with this IP strategy: it’s currently adapting Dune, and has a spinoff TV series in the works. A similar approach for Buck Rogers could transform it into a bigger franchise that would hit theaters and streaming services.
But there’s also a pitfall here—the earliest science fiction stories haven’t exactly dated well. Disney’s adaptation of John Carter of Mars flopped horribly, and more recent takes on similar characters like Green Hornet haven’t exactly been beloved by audiences. Legendary would have to find a way to update the character so that it can stand alongside its successor properties, and ensure that its doesn’t rely on its place in genre history to appeal to audiences.