The story of Anthony Rogers, published in Amazing Stories in August 1928, caught the eye of John Flint Dille, president of the National Newspaper Service syndicate, who commissioned Nowlan to do a science fiction comic strip-–the world’s first-–with artist Richard Calkins.
The comic strip, titled "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," debuted on January 7 1929, with the character now called by his nickname. It ran consecutively until 1967, and at it’s peak was published in more than 400 newspapers throughout the world and translated into 18 languages. By the time his radio serial of the same title appeared in 1932--another science fiction first--Buck had become a national hero whose image graced a variety of tie-in merchandise, including toys, games, cups and plates, and clothing. His popularity was such that in 1934 a Virginia department store substituted an actor disguised as Buck for its annual Santa Claus.
According to Nowlan's original stories and comic strips, Rogers is a former U.S. Air Service support pilot who served in France during World War I. After being mustered out, he worked as a surveyor in Pennsylvania where he was trapped in a mine by a cave-in and overcome by a strange, radioactive gas that put him in a state of suspended animation for 500 years. Upon awakening (the beginning of the story), the first person he sees is Wilma Deering, who mistakes him for an outlaw and tries to shoot him. Grabbing her ray gun when she trips a root, he kills the outlaws and wins her confidence. Spotting Buck as a man to be trusted (and perhaps loved), she brings him up to date and tells him of the Mongol plot to dominate the world. Donning the jumping belt of one of the fallen outlaws, he joins Wilma for a tour of magnificent cites of "metalloglass" where 25th century citizens eat synthetic food, travel by air (roads are almost nonexistent), and have a number of ingenious art deco gadgets to do all the drudge work. In no time at all, Buck has become a captain of Earth’s military forces, a secret agent, an intelligence officer and head of the Rocket Rangers, with Wilma as his co-pilot and the brilliant Dr. Huer as his advisor. They spend the next 38 years battling the Mongols, Killer Kane and his untrustworthy partner-in-crime, the malevolently beautiful Ardala.
Among the comic-strip characters directly inspired by Buck are Brick Bradford and Flash Gordan.