TOMMY TOMORROWMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1947
Creators: Bernie Breslauer (writer) and Howard Sherman (artist)
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planet to planet and zaps his foes with a ray gun. But Real Fact Comics is where Col. Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers started out.
Real Fact, published by DC Comics from 1946-49, mostly ran unrelated short bits of non-fiction in cartoon form, a little bit like Ripley's Believe It or Not, except this series was able to devote a few pages to an individual item, whereas Ripley would dispose of several in each panel. DC would occasionally feature facts about its own characters (a piece on the creation of Batman in #5 and one on the Vigilante movie serial in #10), but Tommy Tomorrow is the only one to go in the other direction, and become a DC character after appearing in Real Fact.
In the sixth issue (Jan-Feb, 1947), the cover-featured story was a "fact" about the future, using the best possible source of "information" — science fiction of the kind found in pulp magazines and comic books (which may not have been 100% accurate, but came closer than the predictions of politicians and economists). It was a four-page "epic" (to quote the cover blurb) about the first expedition to Mars, and Tommy Tommorow was the star. It started with him enrolling in "rocket college", and brought him all the way to the red planet's surface. The script had a lot of writers for something so short — Jack Schiff, George Kashdan and Bernie Breslauer (all of whom edited for DC) shared the credit, tho Breslauer (a very minor writer otherwise) is generally given most of it. The artist was Howard Sherman, who also had a large role in the creation of Doctor Fate. None of them could possibly have known the character actually had a future — in fact, Tommy was obviously designed simply as a stereotyped hero to represent the sort of man who might pilot the first rocket to Mars. Even his name was chosen to project the "generic future man" image.
Over the next couple of years, Tommy appeared sporadically in Real Fact Comics (but was never again seen on the cover). Once, he was drawn by Virgil Finlay, whose meticulously detailed illustration was familiar to sci-fi readers of the time, but who did very little work in comics. The Planeteers, the law enforcement organization he was a colonel in (and no relation to Captain Planet's outfit), came along in Real Fact #16 (Sept-Oct, 1948). At that point, they must have realized he was turning into an actual character, and was less a "real fact" kind of guy than an action hero. They transferred him to Action Comics, where Superman was the star. His run in Action's back pages began in the 127th issue (December, 1948).
Once he had an every-month gig, he settled into a comfortable routine of zapping monsters and tracking down space pirates. His partner, who shared their two-man spacecraft (The Ace of Space), was Captain Brent Wood. Tho they had officers' titles, Tommy and Brent spent their days out in the field, pursuing suspects and wearing their Planeteer uniforms — an attractive ensemble of purple with yellow trim (to match Tommy's hair), consisting of boots, gloves, long-sleeved tunic, and short pants.
Through most of the Action Comics run, Tommy's six-page stories were written by Otto Binder (Captain Marvel, Fatman the Human Flying Saucer) and drawn by Jim Mooney (Omega the Unknown, Dial H for Hero). The series continued through the 1950s, until Supergirl came along in 1959 and squeezed him out of the comic. Tommy was transferred to the back pages of World's Finest Comics, where he continued a couple more years. His final appearance was in World's Finest #124 (April, 1962).
Later that year, DC debuted a new version of Tommy Tomorrow, this one harking back to his days at Planeteer Academy. In the 41st issue (Nov-Dec, 1962) of Showcase (which had a long history of debuting new versions of old characters, e.g., The Flash and Green Lantern), writer Arnold Drake (Deadman, Doom Patrol) and artist Lee Elias (Beyond Mars, Ultra the Multi-Alien) rebuilt the character from the ground up. Brent Wood was gone, and the closest thing Tommy had to a partner was an alien from Venus. This version disappeared after five Showcase issues, and was never seen again — but at least, he got to wear long pants.
Since then, Tommy Tomorrow's history has been kind of vague and confusing. He's become tied in with characters like Omac and Kamandi, who live in an alternate future (alternate, as in, not his own). Cartoonist Howard Chaykin (Cody Starbuck, American Flagg) used him (as well as several other DC space heroes) in a 1990 mini-series, Twilight, but many readers prefer to ignore Chaykin's less-than-heroic treatment of these characters. Mostly, Tommy hangs around in comic book limbo.