When I was a youngster Buster Crabbe was my hero. That's probably not news to most of you. If you're of a certain age then he was most likely your boyhood hero as well. Born Clarence Linden Crabbe he literally swam into the movies by winning the 400 meter event at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Signed to a movie contract almost as soon as he left the pool he was cast as Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan in the serial TARZAN THE FEARLESS. Most likely to capitalize on the success of the movie TARZAN THE APE MAN that starred Crabbe's one-time swimming rival Johnny Weissmuller. However TARZAN THE FEARLESS was one of the worst Tarzan movies ever made. And Crabbe's "ape-man" made Weissmuller's monosyllabic Tarzan seem like a Rhodes Scholar in comparison.
He was far better as Kaspa,the Lion Man in KING OF THE JUNGLE. That movie had a plot that mirrored that of KING KONG. But of course the role that would bring him screen immortality was that of Flash Gordon.
Crabbe was perfectly cast as Alex Raymond's science-fantasy comic strip hero. With his hair bleached blond for the role he looked like Flash Gordon come to life. He would play the character in three serials... FLASH GORDON,FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS and FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE from 1936 to 1940. He portrayed two other comic strip heroes in serials during this period. Undercover detective RED BARRY and science fiction icon BUCK ROGERS. During the 1940s he worked steadily for PRC playing various jungle adventurers and western hero Billy Carson. During the 50s Crabbe would make his final serial starring as THUN'DA a Tarzan-like comic book hero who was originally drawn by Frank Frazetta. (Click here to read Thun'da)
Crabbe's popularity as a movie hero led him to getting his own comic book
series during the 1950s. Two actually. Eastern Color Printing published Buster Crabbe Comics from 1951 to 1953 for 12 issues in total. Lev Gleason published 4 issues of The Amazing Adventures of Buster Crabbe in 1954. (Click here to read this classic comic)
And then there was the first cover to Magnus,Robot Fighter 4000 AD. The resemblance is unmistakable. Just check out that jawline and chin.