Monday, April 12, 2010

Rocky Jones Space Ranger Coloring Book (1953)

Rocky Jones was one of the many television "space heroes" that appeared in the early 1950s. He is better remembered that most because his show was filmed rather than staged in front of television cameras. This meant special effects could be better and that the films could be re-released on videotape and DVD.

To learn almost too much about him check this site out:

The reason I mention this fictional character is how fiction started being influenced by popular non-fiction representations of what space would look like in the future. I came across some original art from the coloring book that illustrates my point.

This illustration looks much like Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. We have the older scientist, the young boy, the female interest, our hero, and a strange device. Fictional space stories were not that different from stories about magicians and knights. A "magician's special powers" detect a threat and the hero is given a quest. Science is indicated by the strange devices and the solar system diagram.

The space ship also doesn't reflect any science (or realistic streamlining). This illustration could be from almost any time 1930-1950. Also notice that the ship looks nothing like the cover illustration. By 1953 we all "knew" rockets didn't look like this illustration, they were finned and V-2 shaped.

This however is something new. Circular space stations were put forward in 1952. This may be the first space station in a coloring book. You can start to think about the science of it. How do the ships land and take off? We also see a radio antenna and have some idea of the scale of the structure. It can't be the future without a circular space station can it?

Finally there are the tailored space suits. Oxygen tanks, 3 finger gloves, and bubble helmets. These suits reflect the real research going on with corregated joints that allow bending when under pressure. Also boots have thick soles to insulate from the surface. They still have holsters for their ray guns but are also carrying coils of rope for exploration. Finally like all good space heroes men's and women's suits are "cut" differently.

Even though fictional, these drawings do show the brave future that seemed sure to come.
For "Doc Atomic" :)


  1. What, no large #1 image this time? Anyhow, I enjoyed your comments. The spaceship, too (in the lower illustration), looks as if it owes something to Buck/Flash designs.

    Coincidentally, I just happen to have reread the whole Carey Rockwell "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" series.

    -- Michael S.

  2. I remember seeing those pages of original art -- I came very close to bidding on them myself. Did you end up winning them? If so, congratulations!

  3. Yes I bought "scientist", "space station", and "space suits". I missed out on the other one. Since I love space art, original art from these books is especially treasured to me and I am always hunting. I have art/ephemera from 3 other children's space books that I will share sometime.

  4. Great stuff. I love original art, though it's often tough (or expensive) to come by. I've got a few interior illustrations from some old science fiction digests and a couple books, as well as cover art from a couple vintage paperbacks. One of these days I'll get them out of their frames and post them to my blog. You've inspired me!

    Oh, btw, I just noticed your comment underneath that last picture. Ha! Yep, I wish they'd made a toy out of that one. Definitely an awesome looking space gun!