Celluloid Hero


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Buster Crabbe was the Brad Pitt or George Clooney of the ‘30s and ‘40s movie serials: the go-to actor whenever a studio wanted a suitably square-jawed heroic type to portray a space ranger or jungle lord.

(In fact, Crabbe was the only actor to ever play Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon…)

Crabbe – an accomplished athlete who won a Bronze Medal at the 1928 Olympics for swimming the 1500-metre freestyle and a Gold medal at the 1932 Olympics for swimming the 400-metre freestyle – leveraged his fame on the silver screen to appear on television, launch successful businesses and even headline two comic-book series.

Publishers Eastern Color and Lev Gleason printed a total of 16 Buster Crabbe comics between 1951 and 1954. Although many of the issues were filled with standard western, crime or space opera tales, both series benefitted from the work of such future legends as Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta  and – in today’s tale – Al Williamson, who would later leave his own mark on the character that is arguably Crabbe’s most famous role – Flash Gordon.

From Buster Crabbe #5 (Eastern Color, July 1952), here’s “Buster Crabbe And The Maid Of Mars.” The story was drawn by Al Williamson and Roy Krenkel.

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As a special bonus, here’s the cover of Buster Crabbe #5 drawn by the one and only Frank Frazetta!

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