Anthony Rogers first appeared in 1928 in the Amazing Stories pulp story Armageddon 2419 A.D. Written by Philip Francis Nowlan it became popular enough that Nowlan wrote a sequel in 1929 The Airlords of Han. The other event that secured Rogers in science fiction lore was the beginning of a daily comic strip that changed his name to Buck Rogers and followed his adventures in the 25th century.
The comic strip was so popular that in 1934 Alex Raymond created Flash Gordon to compete with Buck Rogers. Flash actually beat Buck to the big screen with a 1936 film serial. Buck Rogers didn’t get to the big screen until 1939 but he was played by the same actor, Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe.
The original story for Buck Rogers had Rogers following a similar origin story to Edgar Rice Burroughs 1917 science fiction novel A Princess of Mars. Buck is veteran from WWI. After the war Buck became an investigator for the American Radioactive Gas Corporation. While investigating a mine it collapses on him trapping him and exposing him to a radioactive gas that puts him to sleep for 500 years. When Buck awakes he believes it has only been a few hours not a few centuries. He is shocked to see that the world has changed. He saves Wilma Deering, a female soldier in a local gang that fights against the evil ruling Mongol Reds (in the novel they are the Hans) who have taken over the entire world with their superior technology. Naturally Buck joins the resistance.
In the 1939 serial Buck’s origin is changed slightly. He and sidekick Buddy Wade (who didn’t exist in either the novel or the comic) are over the North Pole in a dirigible when a storm hits, crashes their vehicle and they breath in the gas that puts them to sleep for 500 years. When they awake they find the world is run by the evil Killer Kane (Anthony Warde) and his army of super-racketeers. Naturally Buck and Buddy join the resistance to over throw Killer Kane.