Some series are longer than others. Terry Pratchett produced 40 Discworld books. The Hardy Boys has more than 200 titles to its credit. Longarm, an R-rated western adventure series, has had more than 375 books produced. The Simpsons have had 662 episodes. Over in Japan, Detective Conan has had almost 950 episodes, still averaging one death per episode and keeping him ranked among the most toxic characters ever created.
All of them fade before the master, Perry Rhodan.
By himself, Perry is responsible for just over 3000 books. A spin-off series about another hero, Atlan, ran for about 850 more.
Perry is a classical space opera, with a heroic main character engaging in dramatic missions throughout the entirety of outer space. Beginning in September 1961, short novels have been published weekly, continuing the character’s adventures in a series of story arcs. The books are plotted out for a story arc – usually at least thirty of the novels – and then simultaneously written by a handful of dedicated authors. Because they know roughly where Perry and his associates have to be, plotwise, for the following novel the authors know where they are going to have to end their books.
The style is similar to that used by American dramatic television shows, particularly those having a season-long story arc. Dallas, Buffy, The Walking Dead… all of them have their scriptwriters working like this.
The difference is that Perry Rhodan has had them working in this fashion since 1961. One might think that this was made for film… but its one venture into that realm, in 1967’s Mission Stardust, wasn’t especially successful.
The books have been translated in Brazil, iChina, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Russia… all around the world. On top of being the longest-running series, it’s one of the most beloved.
With something this successful, it’s reasonable to assume it would be popularly known throughout the United States. Unfortunately, it’s not originally published in English. Perry Rhodan is a German creation, and unlike other countries which have typically translated between 400 and 2000 of the stories, less than 200 have been translated into English, and most of those were during the 1970s.
All of this, despite the fact that the protagonist chosen by the German authors… is American. The longest-running serial hero, created in Berlin in 1961: U.S. Space Force Major Perry Rhodan.
Question of the night: Who or what is your favorite person or thing from Germany?