Dedicated to the memory of K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting, who first gave us Perry Rhodan in 1961 and of Forrest J and Wendayne Ackerman, who first brought his adventures to the United States in 1969.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Book Cave Podcast Episode #150: Perry Rhodan

Along with hosts Ric Croxton and Art Sippo, as well as fellow guest Andrew Salmon, I talk Perry Rhodan and a whole bunch of other stuff as the conversation takes us.  And a good time was had by all....

You can check it out at The Book Cave's own website:, or at iTunes.  Then browse around a bit in The Book Cave.  It's full of pulpy and comic-book goodness - my kind of reading!

Cheers, and Ad Astra!


  1. Enjoyed the podcast, and it was great to see Perry Rhodan get some affectionate attention.

    There were a number of basics regarding the series that you and the team were a little vague/inconsistent on, so if you wouldn't mind:

    As of today (6 November 2011) there have been 2619 booklets (Hefte) in the main story series published in Germany. One a week since 29 August 1961. These are comic book sized, in the cheap, pulpy paper you would be familiar with from Silver age comics. Color covers and a few black and white illustrations throughout. Fairly short. The story arcs are long. (50-100 issues in each cycle. The current cycle is #37, the "Stardust" cycle.)

    In addition to the main series, there were a series of 415 "Planet Novels" in German. These were standalone, fuller length novels (published between 1961 and 1998) that were always consistently placed within the continuity of the current cycle, but were not part of the main series storyline. They were published in trade paperback size and format. (One of them was translated into English and published by Ace: "In the Center of the Galaxy.)

    There are currently 115 of the "silver books" you mentioned on the pocast. These are not merely collected reprints of earlier novels, as your podcast suggested. Rather, they consist of heavily edited versions of approximately 10 issues per book, condensed to help readers catch up or review on the earlier cycles. (Kind of Readers Digest versions of the great classics - Moby Dick reduced to 60 pages --- or in our case, about 10 Hefte with all the subplots removed, condensed to about 200 pages.) These are hardcover, but cheaply produced: think of the old "Golden Books" from the 60s and 70s, with their heavy cardboard covers.

    The Atlan series (also published in the Hefte or booklet format) ran 850 issues, with various miniseries and paperbacks associated with it as well.

    There have been numerous other spin off series and separate, limited run events as well --- too many to summarize here.

    And yes, everything you talked about on the podcast exists for German speaking Perry fans: comic books, audio books, audio dramatizations, ebooks, etc. There is even a regular Perry World Convention in Germany each year. Thousands attend.

    One movie (the worthy-to-go-straight-to-MST3000 "Mission Stardust"), filmed in Italy but released in English, German, Italian and Spanish versions. (I don't think any two actors were actually speaking the same language on the set when it was being filmed.) Although one of the series’ creators was involved in the script but they jettisoned the sci-fi focus to try and give it a James Bond tone.

    There has been a new movie "in development" constantly for at least as long as there has been another Doc Savage movie in development. Occasionally, some VERY impressive, professional quality animated productions appear on the Web.

    Perry in English continues in part two …

  2. As far as Perry in English, the numbering gets confusing because Forry Ackerman and Ace were inconsistent (and the resulting confusion was evident in the range of numbers you guys were throwing around on the podcast).

    Numbers 1 through 126 of the original German booklets (Hefte) were translated into English and published by Ace in paperback format. Originally, two Hefte per paperback (although with a single Ace number assigned.) Starting with Ace #6 (German #12), Ace went to a one per paperback format with a variety of other features added by Ackerman to fill out the book. With Ace 110 (German 118), Ace went back to a two per paperback format, but this time each novel carried in the double books was separately numbered. That ended with Ace 117/118 (German 125/126).

    (As you mentioned, three novels from early in Cycle I that Forry originally skipped were also published in Ace Special additions, along with a few of the Atlan Hefte.)

    For the glory years of the series, Gray Morrow’s cover paintings for Ace were one of the series’ most distinctive features. (Early in the Ace run, Forry experimented with the Johnny Bruck art from the original German booklets on a few of his Ace editions. Many of these were later reprinted by Ace with new, Morrow art.) I have read but cannot verify that Morrow hated the books and never actually read them. His art is beautiful, but rather generically sci-fi, rather than illustrating anything from that particular story itself.

    Forry and friends tried to perpetuate the series in a by subscription only run, published in something very like the German Hefte, booklet format, under the publishing name Masters. One novel per issue, picking up where Ace left off, and continuting Ace's numbering. The series ended with Master #137 (German 145).

    Friends of Forry under the leadership of John Foyt made an abortive attempt to re-launch Perry Rhodan in English, starting from German Hefte #1800. (Vector publications) Only four were published. (The German publishers licensing fees and distribution demands were too steep for a modest, self publishing enterprise. They want into the American market, but apparently only if someone can guarantee nationwide distribution and hefty sales.)

    The Ace books are readily and cheaply available. I would skip eBay auctions. Go straight to and its network of online, used book stores. You can complete an Ace set very quickly and very cheaply.

    The Vector and Master additions are harder to find and can get VERY pricey.

    And one final issue of pronunciation. You guys tended toward placing the emphasis on the final syllable and making it a long A. (row-DAN) The proper, German pronunciation is emphasis on the first syllable, short A. (ROW-den). Same with Atlan. (AT-lan, not at-LAN).

  3. Mark:

    Thanks for your extensive comments. We could have really used you on the show....

    Yeah, I was aware of the numbering inconsistencies we were throwing around, but doing it basically off the top of my head (and I'm never good with numbers anyway). We had the gist right, I think. But thanks for all the clarification about what the various editions are – especially the “Silver Editions.” I didn't realize that they were both so heavily edited and so cheaply produced. One question about them – does that maybe explain something I've already perceived in the early stages of the series, that there seems to be a ten-issue “minicycle” rhythm going there, at least up as far as I've gotten?

    One great shame is that for English readers who diligently track down all the Ace and Master editions, they still fall four issues short of completing the third cycle. I know they've been translated … some kind soul a few months ago emailed me (probably illicit) electronic versions of them so whenever I get to that point at least I can finish out that story arc. So far with a standing search on I've yet to be notified of any availability of the Vector editions.

    As to the pronunciation issue, I tried at the beginning of our conversation (before we actually started recording) to use the more correct “RHO-d'n” pronunciation of which I'm well aware – even made note of it in one of my earliest blog entries – but I only learned it about the time I started this blog. When I was reading them back in the '70s any time I heard it pronounced it was the “Americanized” “rho-DAN,” and I pretty quickly lapse into it in conversation – as happened here. Didn't figure it was a big enough issue to get into for the show. Funnily enough, the day after the show went up a coworker with whom I've discussed the series from time to time called me down on the pronunciation.... I suspected but didn't know the same was true for Atlan. Thanks.

    How did that “rho-DAN” pronunciation come about, anyway? My guess would be that it arose by analogy with the Japanese monster Rodan. I mean, from the typical American insular perpective, German or Japanese, what's the difference, right? ;-) (As I hinted on the show, I figure that's at least partially behind American publishers' reluctance to license a lot of potentially lucrative foreign properties. Their attitude is, I think, basically that Americans aren't interested in non-American stuff. It's not an unwarranted conclusion, either. I'm proud to be an American, but a pervasive American dismissiveness toward the rest of the world is undeniable.)



  4. I am not sure if the "10 story mini-arc" feeling you are getting was driven by the Silver Books or not. It seems more likely that is a more arbitrary and prosaic feature: the writing team probably planned things out in ten story increments and went their separate ways to perform their assigned tasks. (Can you imagine the complexity of ensuring continuity with manuscripts being produced simultaneously by multiple writers with a new one ready for publication every week?)

    My understanding is the Silver Books were started so new readers coming to the series late could catch up. The first one (summarizing the first 10 books or so of the entire series) came out in September 1978 (when the main Hefte series would have been to about issue 838).

    I have no reliable information on the origins of the Rhodan name. I have read conjecture that it is related to the Japanese movie monster, but that seems to be an American-based theory. Never heard it referenced or discussed by any source linked to the originators of the series.

    As for the pronunciation issue ... I have a few audio books in German, listening to the soundtrack of Mission Stardust, and listening to various web items from Germany confirmed it. And it would be very unusual in German for the emphasis to go anywhere but on the first syllable.

  5. Yes, plotting by committee and writing as individuals has led to some noticeable inconsistencies that I've noted already. I liken it to the inevitable inconsistencies that arise in things like the "DC Universe" in comics.

    No, I wasn't speculating as to the origin of the Rhodan name itself, although that doubtless would be an interesting story. I know of no notable historical person with that name to whom the German authors may have been paying homage. But it is a family name that brings a bunch of hits on things like I would be shocked if Ernsting and Scheer were invoking the Japanese film monster. Rather, I was speculating as to the origin of the American mispronunciation. Is it peculiarly American? - What is the prevalent British pronunciation?

  6. Re Americans' insular view of the world: