One of my all-time favourite science fiction properties is the kids adventure serial Tom Corbett: Space Cadet. It was like the Hardy Boys … but in space! This little gem ran on radio and early television in the 1950’s, and spawned adaptations in comics, books… and even a marching band album (!?!?!)
I recently stumbled onto a novelization of ‘Tom Corbett and the Space Pirates’ at a local used bookstore, and found myself impulsively sketching scenes as I read along.
In the story, a criminal mastermind steals the ‘universal master key’, a device which allows him to break any safe in the solar system. From a secret base in the asteroid belt, he and his gang of criminals form a pirate band and wreak havoc on the space shipping lanes, eventually threatening the Solar Guard itself.
Captain Strong and his cadets Tom Corbett, Astro, and Roger Manning decide to set a trap, gathering a massive fleet of ships to lay in ambush for the next time the pirates strike.
I also did a bit of brainstorming about what a Solar Guard patrol ship should look like. In the book they’re called ‘Rocket Scouts’ and ‘Rocket Sleds’, so I kept imagining something tiny, like the experimental Lifting Body aircraft NASA built during the 1960’s.
Anyways, the Pirate captain senses something is wrong, and springs the trap! He takes a stripped-down rocket scout and sends it blazing past the spot where our heroes lay in wait, tricking them into revealing themselves and attacking the decoy.