Buck Rogers first appeared as Anthony Rogers in a short space opera, "Armageddon-2419 A.D." by Philip Francis Nowlan, published in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories. A sequel, "The Airlords of Han," appeared in the March 1929 issue (the warlike Hans were later changed to Mongols).
The August, 1928, issue of Amazing Stories was beyond question one of the most important not only in its history but in the history of science fiction. That would have been the case if it had only presented to the science fiction public a new author named Edward Elmer Smith with the first installment of "The Skylark of Space." But its immortality was assured by introducing Anthony "Buck" Rogers to the world in a 25,000 word novelette titled "Armageddon-2419," by Philip Francis Nowlan.
Few people, either in or out of science fiction, know that "Buck" Rogers was born in Amazing Stories. Fewer still are aware that the first artist to cartoon the famous future Americans and soldiers of Han was Frank R. Paul. Breaking its policy Amazing Stories ran, in addition to two full-size illustrations, three cartoon panels which may even have given Nowlan the idea of submitting the entire package to a comic strip syndicate.
When Buck Rogers in the Twenty Fifth Century appeared as a Comic strip in the daily newspapers in 1929 it created a sensation and added a new phrase to the language. Phil Nowlan wrote the continuity about the famous characters of Buck Rogers, Wilma Deering, Dr. Huer, and Killer Kane, along with their disintegrators, jumping belts, inertron, and paralysis rays, and made them familiar to millions of people in this country and abroad. The daily adventures on radio thrilled many more. The popularity of the strip began to decline in the late thirties under the competitions of Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford and other imitators. When Phil Nowlan severed his connection with the strip there was a steady loss of readership. Today, though the strip still appears in some papers, few people are aware it still exists. When Nowlan left the strip in l939 he resumed his writing of magazine science fiction; but he died in early 1940.
"Buck Rogers" is for the world of tomorrow, future invention and the spirit of science fiction. In past years the phrase "that Buck Rogers stuff" had a derisive ring to it, but more recently atom bombs and earth satellites have changed all that.
The strangest part about this entire story is that the original Buck Rogers' stories in Amazing Stories were in no sense juveniles. They were serious, adult works based on the most plausible science of the time. They have an aura of accurate prophecy about them that cannot be erased. "Armageddon-2419" precisely described the bazooka, the jet plane, walkie-talkie for warfare, the infra-red ray gun for fighting at night, as well as dozens of other advances that are not here yet but are on their way.
The perceptive Hugo Gernsback, then editor and publisher of Amazing Stories called his shots as accurately on the quality of his stories as he did on future invention. Of "Armageddon-2419" he said: "We have rarely printed a story in this magazine that for scientific interest as well as suspense could hold its own with this particular story. We prophesy that this story will become more valuable as the years go by. It certainly holds a number of interesting prophecies, many of which, no doubt, will come true. For wealth of science it will be hard to beat for some time to come. It is one of those rare stories that will bear reading and re-reading many times."