Buck Rogers in the Dangerous Mission

Calkins, Dick, and Phil Nowlan. Buck Rogers in the Dangerous Mission. New York: Blue Ribbon, 1934.

Popping Into Space!

The theme of space travel has inspired a large number of pop-up books. Perhaps the vivid imagery of this art spurs the imaginative leap required to envision rockets, alien landscapes, and adventures to the far reaches of the universe. As seen in this section, the treatment of space travel runs the gamut--from the sober and scientific to the speculative and fantastic. The more the pop-up engineering springs off the page, the more we feel ready to defy gravity. Who wouldn't want to go to Mars having seen the Jolly Jump-Ups' happy encounter with alien hospitality? Or dash off on a trip around the galaxy with Tip, Top, and Tap? Or follow Buck Rogers on his daring adventures with a space ship that resembles a flying vacuum cleaner?

Tip and Top and the Moon Rocket

Kubasta, Voitech. Tip and Top and the Moon Rocket. London: Bancroft, 1964.

The cutting-edge technology of pop-ups complements the cutting-edge lifestyle of heroes like Buck Rogers. This small-scale pop-up book features the written and illustrative work of the team of Lt. Dick Calkins and Phil Nowlan. The "moderne" sensibility of the design shows up in the supposedly streamlined but now clunky style of the space vehicles. Zippy and bright, this space adventure includes lavish images of robots, launch pads, rockets, and interstellar travel.

Strange Adventures in the Spider Ship

Calkins, Dick, and Phil Nowlan. Buck Rogers, 25th Century...: Strange Adventures in the Spider Ship. Chicago: Pleasure Books, 1935.

Part of the series entitled "Full-Size Pleasure Books," this pop-up features a huge mechanical monster in a twenty-fifth-century setting. Another Calkins/Nowlan production, the work exhibits a characteristic 1930s futuristic style--sleek lines on chunky forms and heavy mechanical objects capable of all kinds of nimble wonders. In the pop-up, "Attacked by the Giant Reptile," Buck Rogers once more leaps to the rescue, confidently challenging an enormous monster with what looks like a water pistol.


The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space

Clyne, Geraldine, illus. The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space. Springfield: McLoughlin, 1952.


The wonderful electric typography of the headlines in this book supports the imaginative and fantastic tone. The Jolly Jump-Ups make new Martian friends who are happy to join in human games and activities. They even enjoy the barbecue with its hotdogs transported in cans from Earth. Like most of the Jump-Ups books, this work features the illustrations of Geraldine Clyne.


Into Space

Sevastyanov, Vitaly. Into Space. Trans. S. Lednev. Moscow: Malysh, 1980.


Written by cosmonaut Vitaly Sevastyanov, "Twice Hero of the Soviet Union," this is a later and more serious work than some of its companions in the section. Here we find no nonsense about alien encounters or galactic monsters. Instead, space travel appears as a colonizing venture with a strong commitment to exploration. In a neat metaphor, the cover art outlines the image of Columbus' sailing ship, suggesting that it is a predecessor to the rockets undertaking their modern voyages of discovery.


Into Space with Ace Brave!

Into Space with Ace Brave! London: Birn, [1950s].


On the first page, Ace Brave asserts that "YOU are the captain," navigating only with the benefit of his advice, experience, and anecdotes. This 1950s fantasy shakes off the constraints of realism for the sake of dramatic effect.


Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future. London: Juvenile Productions, [1953].


This anachronistic fantasy envisions "rotor-cruisers," space transports, and the space station SFJ2, supposedly established in 1982 to serve as a convenient travel hub among points on Earth, Mars, and Venus. We learn that it was destroyed by the "terrific magnetism" of the Red Moon in 1999.


Pienkowski, Jan. Robot. New York: Delacorte, 1981.

The robot provides Pienkowski with ample opportunity for inventiveness. These anthropomorphic machines inhabit a strange distant world made no more familiar by the fantastic and exciting paper engineering. Whether looming, lurching, lurking, or launching themselves into space, these robots reach the zenith of contemporary pop-up art.