Monday, April 24, 2017

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies: Volume 1, 1929-1930 - pt. 1

I've been reading and reviewing Famous Funnies almost since the start of this blog, but have never read the Buck Rogers installments because they have all been excised from the public domain issues online. That doesn't mean I don't have access to Buck Rogers, though, as I have recently picked up this first volume in the reprint series.

How old is Buck? We know he's over 400 years old because he was in suspended animation for 400 years. He was also 20 years old when the Great War ended. If the first two panels take place in the then-present day of 1929, before he travels to the future, then he was 31 when he was trapped in the mine with the peculiar gas.

A passage that caves in and traps you with peculiar gas that puts you in suspended animation for 400 years is quite a trap.

Buck's first battle is with half-breeds because...yeah, Buck Rogers is pretty racist.

Buck's first trophy item is a jumping belt that he takes from one of the half-breeds he defeats (possibly kills, though the story isn't clear). The jumping belts make you weigh 1/30 your normal weight and let you make 300' standing high or long jumps.

The Mongol Empire that has conquered North America in this future world has anti-gravity technology, but have not been able to master miniaturization like the North Americans have (almost the exact opposite of which continent mastered miniaturization in the real world). So, while the Mongols don’t have jumping belts, they do have large armored airships. There seems to be no distinction between the U.S. and Canada anymore in the future, so everyone Buck encounters for awhile who is not Mongolian or a half-breed is a North American. Native Americans are, interestingly, finally on even footing with the white man, as their “org zones” (territories) are no more primitive than anyone else’s.

Weapons are also distinctly different for each culture. The North Americans have rocket pistols that shoot exploding bullets. It’s hard to say how to stat them, really, as they seem to miss an awful lot. Perhaps rocket guns would just be +1 guns and exploding bullets would do…2-8 points of damage? The Mongols use disintegrator rays. They are devastatingly effective when within range -- airships and giant mortars might have a 1-mile range -- while hand-held disintegrators have terribly short range, maybe half that of a rocket pistol. It’s unclear how much damage a Mongol disintegrator would do to a person, but the big ones wreck like mighty men (7th level superheroes).

The North Americans have an electro-hypnotic chair that they use to find out if someone is telling the truth. The Mongols use surgery instead, removing the parts of the brain able to tell lies (although they seem to still be able to withhold information, sometimes -- save vs. science to do so?). Other than jumping belts, rocket pistols, and electro-hypnotic chairs, the North Americans live exactly like early 20th century people (even flying in single-prop biplanes, though ones that could be flown by remote control). The reason for that seems to be that the Mongols, when they took over, took all technology away from the Americans. After about 50 years of that, the Mongols started to settle down in just the western U.S., leaving the east coast free for the Americans to begin slowly rebuilding their cities, their culture and their technology. But they fast forward past some technology, like past bows and arrows back to guns. Wilma has never seen a bow and arrow until Buck makes them.

That is not to say that all ancient weapons are unknown in the future. When Buck’s jealous rival Killer Kane challenges him to a duel, Kane’s weapon is a mace, while Buck goes for a more “modern” rifle and bayonet.

The Mongols eat synthetic food, though it isn’t clear what that means. Genetically modified? Theirs is the only culture that watches television; instead of prepared programming, though, Mongols entertain themselves by spying on each other (since their TVs work like crystal balls). All work in the Mongol mines is automated (at least they don’t use slave labor!).

Further evidence of how easy disguise is, going all the way back to the beginning of comic strips -- Buck Rogers only has to wear oriental clothing to disguise himself as a Mongol; apparently his face doesn't give him away at all.

Though Mongol soldiers use disentegrator rayguns, ordinary patrolmen in their cities use a gas gun that is shaped like a large syringe. The gas is simply pushed out with the handle at the back, so it can’t have a very effective range.

The Mongols also have glider cars that look like one-room huts with rocket tubes bending downwards from the sides of the “car”. Other than levitation, the glider cars have not yet been shown to do anything else.

Demonstrating how racy even all ages fare could be in the 1920s-30s, it is implied that Wilma would be drugged so she couldn’t resist the Mongol emperor having his way with her.

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