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Art by Ray Bailey
Story by Paul S. Newman

The newspapers of America have been a source of many exciting stories, but there have been many unnoticed, and usually ignored, stories as exciting as any front page news copy.Stories of adventure of ordinary people in the vast void of space occurring in fantastic settings. Instead of being reported on the front page they were found near the back of the weekday First Sunday Page 9/9/51paper and in the middle of the Sunday paper and were known as the "Funnies". The 1930s followed the exploits of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the 1940s would document the adventures of Flash Gordon on a newly discovered planet and on Sunday, September 9th 1951, a new chapter would be added to the annuals of the 4 color space heroes -Tom Corbett Space Cadet. The newcomer to the science fiction scene opened with three young men traveling on a "sliding" sidewalk. The marvels of the future West Point of Space (SPACE ACADEMY) are passing before them. The young men of this future epic are just beginning their adventure at the Academy and are the famed members of the Polaris unit: Tom Corbett, Roger Manning, and Astro. The first six months of the Sunday page did not follow the daily strip. Instead, the Sunday pages followed the cadets as they are tested at the Academy. The panels portrayed the cadets going through their paces with a comic punch line at the end, usually at the cadets expense. The first Sunday adventure, would set the pattern for the "punch lines" of the Tom Corbett Sunday comic pages. While the boys are drinking in the marvels of the Academy another marvel brings them down to earth .... a STUDY MACHINE for class work!!!!

The Artist- Ray Bailey

This new series was translated from the Tom Corbett television series to the comic section by the veteran strip artist Ray Bailey. Mr Bailey had a popular aviation series in the 1940s, BRUCE GENTRY, developed VESTA WEST for a Chicago paper, assisted with the GUMPS Strip and worked as Milton Caniff's assistant on STEVE CANYON. His distinctive artwork can be seen in a number of the 1950s DELL comics including the Dell Steve Canyon comics and a number of the Dell TV Show adaptations of TV Boots & Saddles, The Gray Ghost, Ripcord and others.

Undersea Agent #1The comic book series which bore the strongest resemblance to the TOM CORBETT strip were the UNDERSEA AGENTS published by Tower Comics. Lt Davy Jones of the UNDERSEA AGENTS (click on cover for full graphic of the #1 Undersea Agent) is a dead ringer for TOM CORBETT SPACE CADET. The scenery and equipment in the UNDERSEA AGENTS comic book have a strong resemblance to the "outer space" look of TOM CORBETT. Both settings had an "out of this world" feeling along with "unknown" quality of unexplored space- either underwater or outer space. Other comic book work by Ray Bailey included the 1960 issues of Mandrake published by King and Charlton's Jungle Comics. His work on the TOM CORBETT strip was a mixed style of cartoon and realistic styles. The spaceships, land crafts and equipment were drawn with clean, crisp, functional lines while having a used look with wear marks and general maintenance repairs visible on the equipment. This was in direct contrast to some of the illustrations of the Polaris crew.

Undersea Agent-Lt Jones (Tom Corbett)Tom, Roger, and Astro would be illustrated in a cartoon style which didn't seem to match the detailed backgrounds. Many of the full face panels of Tom exhibit a Noel Sickles influence while the aerial views were well balanced for perspective and depth. Rather than a background for a comic strip, the landscapes of Earth mountains, distant vistas Venus, Mars and Titan had an almost fine art quality to them.
Lt Davy Jones: note Noel Sickles influence.
Undersea Agent-Lt Jones (Tom Corbett)Ray Bailey's art did vary in quality from some excellent spaceship panels to average panels with little or no background. A matt board was utilized to give the strip a textured lined effect similar to some of the Roy Crane art of the late 1940s. His space stations were uninspired round balls in the blackness of space with panels of large areas of darkness with nondescript action scenes. The dark art technique was probably used to save time at the expense of the strips action.

A 1952 Sunday Supplement article in the Baltimore Sun stated that he had dropped another adventure strip in favor of Tom Corbett, which he felt would be one of the most interesting projects he had ever done. Ray Bailey had grown up in a newspaper environment with his dad, Ray W. Bailey, who was a reporter for a New York paper.

He and his wife Dorothy Behrens, a well known fashion illustration, proved to be a working team. Mrs. Bailey did most of the lettering for Tom Corbett while the Bailey's three children Richard, Carol and Bonnie served as critics, Carol was one of the "Whiz Kids"on early TV. A major tension release from the artist work was building model railroad cars and running them on his train sets he designed and kept in the basement.

Strip Structure

The Tom Corbett strip ran from September 9, 1951 to September 12, 1953, covering 12 different adventures ranging from a short run of 5 1/2 weeks to the longest run of 14 weeks. Several of the characters would be used as crossovers in other stories but only the mainstays of the Academy (Tom, Roger ,Astro) would appear in all of the adventures. The first two weeks of the daily strip (9/9/51 - 9/22/51) introduced the main characters, Space Academy training, and some background information on the history of space flight in the Tom Corbett universe. The introduction strips demonstrated the friction between the Polaris unit members and only hinted at the friendship Roger and Astro later developed. Roger is the senior cadet during the first week of the strip but by the second week Roger was replaced by Tom as unit leader.

TC Daily 6/25/53The cadets receive their first mission in the 10/21/51 daily strip, a mission to Mars which becomes the first newspaper strip adventure"The Mercurian Invasion". The newspaper strip storyline differs from the first Tom Corbett television show (The Mercurian Invasion) that was broadcast the previous year ( 10/02/50 - 10/27/50). The newspaper adventure began with the rescue of a pretty girl, which resulted in a series of misadventures for the cadets. The television adventure (10/2/50) opens with a crashed rocket and a sinister warning (10/06/50). When the newspaper strip author, Paul S. Newman, was asked in an unpublished 1998 interview, if there were any outlines or plot summaries given to him for writing, he didn't remember any but he did have a set of notes relating to the plot lines. The strip is pure 1950s Space Opera with many plot cliche,situations, and gags at the expense of the cadets. The strip did make a fairly accurate prediction in the 6/25/53 daily strip when Roger tries to remember the date that man landed on the moon in 1968!!! There is a problem with the moon landing date because the 9/20/50 strip is about the spaceship TC Daily Feb 12, 1953"Pioneer", the first rocket to land and return from the moon on March 7, 2077. Maybe in the Tom Corbett Universe the first man landing in 1968 didn't return.

The characters in the strip had some behaviors that differed from the television show, such as an abundance of smoking pipes that were drawn with Captain Strong. The pipes seemed to have a life of their own, appearing in the character's mouth without his knowledge!! The strip villains were heavy smokers as well, something that wasn't part of the television show, a possible art technique carried over from the aviation strips Mr. Bailey drew in the 1940s. Dr Dale is drawn wearing glasses throughout most of the strips adventures and exhibits a more '"feminine" side, a contrast to her no nonsense approach on the television show.

The artwork ranged from average to excellent with many of Ray Bailey's influences from prior newspaper illustration work appearing in the strip. The obvious Steve Canyon / Terry & TC Daily March 21, 1953the Pirates look-a-likes with flight jackets (2/12/53) to Alex Raymond like costumes and Capes (3/21/53). Even a few "Dragon Lady" villains appeared in full "vamp" gear complete with a sneer. Spacecraft was a strong point for Ray Bailey's artwork with a lot of rivets and steel plates. Landscapes also came alive, even thou we know Venus is not a jungle and Mars has no navigation canals. Overall the art set the stage for high flying space adventures for the cadets and left a great impression on many Corbett fans.

Sunday Pages

The Sunday pages did not follow the daily strip for the first six months. The storyline of the daily strip and the Sunday page were finally synchronized on March 30th 1952, a week after the start of the third Tom Corbett strip adventure," Revolt of the Marsian Divisionists" (03/23/52 - 5/20/52). During the un synced first six months, the Sunday page would dramatize a science fact the cadets were learning at the Academy. A special panel at the end of the strip called SPACE DUST explained in detail how the science fact worked. Many times this section would be cut in order to make a quarter page strip rather than a half page comic.

An early article from Colliers magazine stated that Willy Ley, the technical advisor to the TV series and Grosset & Dunlap books, was the author of the science SPACE DUST articles. Many of the SPACE DUST stories reflect Mr Ley's science background and thinking. He had participated in the Collier's Space Symposium that was later published as a series of articles in Collier's Magazine between 1951 and 1955. This early work in space research is considered the foundation of many of today's space projects. Ideas from the Collier's Symposium such as a Space Station ( 11/11/51),movable gantry and rocket firing platform (6/22/52), the use of gyro's in space flight (4/26/53) and other topics from the Collier's articles were discussed in the SPACE DUST five years BEFORE Russia's sputnik and a full 7 years before the United States put their space program into gear. Facts about our Solar System, science concepts, jet and space flight information, possible "space maneuvers" and other interesting topics were part of the SPACE DUST subjects.

Space Dust - October 7, 1951The "single" Sunday adventures documented the practical jokes the cadets played on oneanother as well as the "Punch line" worked into the strip. The October 7th 1951 page, which deals with weightlessness, is a good example. While on a routine flight in space, Astro turns the artificial gravity off on the Polaris while Roger is sleeping, causing him to float away from his bunk into open space. The joke backfires on Astro when the gravity is turned back on and Roger falls on top of Astro. Captain Strong delivers the "punch line" by saying Astro didn't understand the gravity of his joke. If you survive the pun, the SPACE DUST section explained weightlessness effect in an elevator as it drops to what Free Fall would feel like.

When the Sunday page was synchronized with the daily strip, the first three panels provided a re-cap of the prior 6 days of action with some new scenes. The pattern for the daily strip involved a synopsis of Monday thru Wednesday's adventure on Thursday and a cliff hanger situation on Friday or Saturday.

Ray Bailey's art brought a special "space opera" feel to the Tom Corbett strip and advances the Tom Corbett Saga as an excellent example of the Space Opera genre. Unfortunately Mr. Bailey passed away in 1976 and efforts to contact his family have not been successful. If you have any information about Ray Bailey please pass it along to the Academy for a future update.

A quick reference to the 12 story lines with a summary of each adventure with observations and points of interest pertaining to the adventures are linked from the table below. The first two weeks of the strip served as an introduction to the Space Academy with two years of comic strip adventures to follow.

So stay tuned for the further adventures of T..O..M ... ...C..O..R..B..R..E..T..T >>>>>>>>..S P A C E .. C A D E T !!!!! in the newspaper. The following titles were made from the action suggested in the story lines. Keep checking back as adventure pages are updated and linked from the list below

Introduction - 09/09/51 - 09/20/51
1-"The Mercurian Invasion" 09/21/51 -01/05/52 - 14 weeks
2-"Titan Colonist"01/06/52 -03/22/52 - 11 weeks
3-"Revolt of the Marsian Divisionists"03/23/52 - 5/20/52 - 8 1/2 weeks
4-"Slave Plantation of Venus"05/21/52 - 08/01/52 - 10 1/2 weeks
5-"Ship wreckers of the Asteroids"08/02/52 - 09/07/52 - 5 weeks
6-"First Women to Alpha Centuri" 09/08/52 - 11/01/52 - 7 1/2 weeks
7-"Epidemic on Colony F-6"11/02/52 - 12/21/52 - 7 weeks
8-"Interplanetary Con artist in Flaxville"12/22/52 - 02/08/53 -7 weeks
9-"Billie Buck-Undercover Agent And the Marsian Rebellion"02/09/53 - 05/11/53 - 13 1/2 weeks
10-"Titan Mission"05/13/53 - 06/23/53 - 6 weeks
11-"Race to Alpha Centuri"06/24/53 - 08/05/53 - 6 weeks
12-"Search for Lost Star Chart"08/06/53 - 09/12/53 - 5 1/2 weeks
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Article "Tom Corbett Space Strip" copyright 1996 - 2013 by Ed Pippin
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