Foreword for the Space Ranger…
In Showcase magazine’s original version, Space Ranger’s secret identity is Rick Starr, the wealthy indolent son of interplanetary business tycoon, Thaddeus Starr. For no known reason, except perhaps because he was bored, Rick disguises himself to become the Space Ranger, the self-proclaimed Guardian of the Solar System (later, Galaxy), who regularly battled space pirates, criminals, alien invaders, evil scientists, and assorted cosmic threats.
Rick Starr was Caucasian, black-haired, and crewcut. His costume and working attire consisted of a loose-fitting, bright yellow jumpsuit with red epaulets, belt, gloves, and booties (collectively reminiscent of a child’s pajamas); a hemispherical, transparent blue helmet (which masked his identity about as well as Clark Kent’s eyeglasses); and utility gadgets on his belt that included an all-purpose multi-ray pistol (presumably to give our hero and easy solution if he was ever in too tough a predicament). He also had a sleek spaceship, the Solar King, that was berthed at his secret base in the Asteroid belt. Otherwise, he had no special powers or abilities.
Space Ranger had two teammates. Myra Mason was his beautiful, miniskirted, blonde secretary and girlfriend (who, though described as beautiful, was occasionally drawn so mannishly as to make her gender unclear). However, most of the time Myra’s primary mission was to pose on the cover facing the villain, recoil in fear, and for no apparent reason announce the current issue’s cosmic threat.
The other teammate, Cryll, was a cute little shapeshifting alien who could assume the form and abilities of any extraterrestrial creature that could help the plot along. Cryll’s character design is inexplicably like a pink beachball with huge, round eyes; black swimming trunks; tubular arms and legs like a wiggly inflatable man; fingers and toes like a bird’s feet; and finally, trumpet-shaped ear stalks and a snout. Cryll was the Space Ranger’s co-pilot, secret base manager, and sidekick in a fight. I have no idea of his origin, other than he was found frozen in suspended animation beyond the orbit of Pluto.
Admittedly, this foreword spends too much time poking fun at Space Ranger, but in all fairness, it’s hard to not get sidetracked. In my Lesser Heroes story, I try to fix my main objections to the original. I want to give the Space Ranger’s character a set of values, beliefs, strengths, fears, and goals so he seems more three-dimensional. Consequently, the pursuit of those goals becomes his origin story. I also want to give most of the supporting characters their own conflict; that is, all the protagonists have a matching antagonist. I want to make my characters “cool”; that is, suitably modern, interesting, and admirable. Finally, since I’m using the mechanism Showcase magazine employed to generate new stories, I want to introduce enough characters, conflicts, and intentional loose threads so some potential writer in the future will have enough material to springboard into his or her own stories.
Some of the inspirations for my Lesser Heroes story are Space Ranger’s introduction in Showcase magazine #15-16 and subsequent issues of Mystery in Space and Tales of the Unexpected; Harlan Ellison; Doctor Who; Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; an old, unpublished science-fiction story of mine set in a hospital; parts of my What-Little-Girls–Are–Made–Of universe; Wolfgang Petersen’s movie, Das Boot (1981); Old West lawman, Bass Reeves (acc. Wikipedia); the Lone Ranger TV series (1949-1957); and last, but not least, Johnny Depp’s role in Gore Verbinski’s movie, The Lone Ranger (2013).