The Tom Corbett books have similar plots found in the radio,TV and comic book series. The first three TC books have story elements drawn from the radio & TV series while the fourth book's storyline is similar to the Dell comic #421.
The TC novels were written under the house name of Carey Rockwell. Attempts to locate the author or authors writing under the house name of Carey Rockwell have been unsuccessful. Jerry Bail's WHO'S WHO IN COMICS, list Joseph Greene as editor of Grosset & Dunlap during the early 1950's and writer for the Tom Corbett Comic books published by Dell. It may be possible that Mr Greene developed some of the story lines and plots while others completed the story. This seemed to be a common practice for many publisher's of juvenile fiction. If Mr. Greene is the same author mentioned in James Gunn's Science Fiction history ALTERNATE WORLDS, he is listed as a NEW writer of the 1960's. It may be that Mr.Greene cut his teeth on the Tom Corbett series first. (Note: New information in Part II)
The late Willy Ley was the technical advisor for the series. Mr. Ley seemed to be involved in all aspects of the Tom Corbett series. He even helped design the Marx Tom Corbett Space Academy playset. Willy Ley was one of the leading rocket experts of the 1950's who urged the United States into space. His articles appeared in many leading journal's and his most well known series appeared in 1952. Along with other noted space scientist he contributed articles to the Man on the Moon Series written for COLLIER'S and later collected and expanded for book publication. It was Mr. Ley who tried to keep the TV show from using nonvalid science, such as having a meteor crash into the Polaris every show.
The science in the TC series was more pseudo than fact. The rocket motors were atomic fueled with the fuel being "burned" in the engines. Lead baffles were used to protect the crew from radiation and the landings and takeoff's were by the "seat of the pants". Hyper-drive, developed by Dr. Dale, was used by the Solar Guard units which involved a vague reference to " bending" space.
The cadets, Tom, Roger and Astro were always in trouble with the commanding officers, even though the cadets had single-handed defeated space pirates, saved a deep space colony, braved dangerous assignments and performed the everyday hazards of space flight. Over and over the cadets were on the carpet trying to prove they were innocent of any wrong doing. Roger had a knack for getting the unit into trouble, which would require the unit to work as a team and prove their innocence. Many times the cadets sense of adventure would outweigh caution and send them off without checking in with their supervisor, Capt Strong.
The lone female in the series, Dr. Dale, reflects a bias of the times. Dr. Dale is described as a brilliant scientist but continues with ...."Although a Women, Dr. Dale has distinguished herself as an outstanding scientist and was allowed to become the ONLY women admitted to the Academy". There are several possible answers to this line of reasoning.
First, this was traditionally a boy's series and in a boy's series the only female or romance allowed was the kissing of a horse or in this case a love affair with your space ship. Capt Strong may have been sweet on Dr. Dale and in the newspaper strip and one of the Dell Comics Tom is Kissed by Dr. Dale.
Second, the space academy is modeled after the West Point of our time. Up until recent times this was a male only institution.
Third, this was an out and out prejudice. The series was aimed at the male audience and any romance other than comic was not included.
Even with the pseudo-science and some uneven writing, the series is readable to any space opera fan. The format for all eight of the books would open with the first two chapters dealing with academy life such as a Mercury ball game or an important academy event. By the third or fourth chapter the cadets would be involved in the adventure, many times meeting the villains or having a run-in with them. These accidental meetings would prove to be important later in the novel. The villains are always very bad and hate both the cadets and the Solar Guard. No BEM's (Bug Eyed Monsters) would be found in the series other than the prehistoric giants of Venus.
STAND BY FOR MARS and REVOLT ON VENUS are the best of the series. STAND BY FOR MARS introduce the cadets, the academy and the Solar Alliance. The book contains many references about the TC universe,the Space Academy and the Solar Guard, while the major plotline of SBFM details how Tom, Astro and Roger become the best unit at the Academy. REVOLT ON VENUS is an easy going adventure about the Cadets summer vacation, which also involves a revolution. Both books are a good read and will hold a readers interest.
The first four or five books in the series follow the radio and TV shows, but by the time the last two books are written a different writing style is noted, basic information is different and Roger Manning is transferred to Mars Academy. The last book, ROBOT ROCKET, was written during or after the TV series had ended in 1956 thus ending a four year run of solar adventures by the cadets.
FIRST EDITIONS VS EARLY PRINTINGS
No true first editions are available from the Grosset & Dunlap series or any other reprint / juvenile publishing house book series. However, First or Early Printings MAY be determined by using a little detective work. A first / early printing of a TC book can be identified by looking at the last book listed in the front. If the book is the last on the list then it is a first printing. An example: if ON THE TRAIL OF SPACE PIRATES #3 in the series has only STAND BY FOR MARS #1 and DANGER IN DEEP SPACE #2 listed than it is a first printing. This will work for all but the first and last book in the series.
Many of the storylines, characters and situations in the G & D books are found in the radio, television and newspaper series. Not having a complete TV series synopsis, the crossovers found in the Grosset & Dunlap books are primarily from the radio series. Any information on crossovers from the TV series or other sources are welcomed. Listing starts in Part II of the Grosset & Dunlap page