A while back (well, a year or so ago actually,) I recieved a letter form Bob Wilkins. In it was an audio tape of him discussing the creation of the Captain Cosmic show among other things. I was going to transcribe it, but I have never seemed to find the time. So I finally decided to digitize the relevant parts. If you have a the newest Real Player (at least the G2 version) then you can click on the following links below to hear Bob speak! Say did I mention the device on Captain Cosmic's belt is actually a bike turn signal light? I used to have the same model on my bike at home!
The life and tiles of Bob Wilkins are being chronicled in a new book "The Bob Wilkins Scrapbook" Almost 100 pages of solid Bob! Captain Cosmic is one of the featured sections in the book. It also covers Creature Features, Seven Arts Theater, and the many specials Bob has hosted over the years. Includes many rare photographs. It is a limited printing so order yours today. Only $11.95 plus $2.00 shipping. Check or money order to Gesco, 5297 Warm Springs Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442
One of my favorite shows as a Child
growing up in
California was that of Captain
Cosmic. Captain Cosmic was one of the last
(and sort of nostalgic at the time it was on too) hosted shows for
kiddies. Captain Cosmic was on every weekday at 4pm on KTVU Oakland
(Channel 2) and he would introduce various science fiction related
television shows. Captain Scarlet, Star Trek (the animated series),
Spectraman, Ultraman and others paraded before my cathode ray tube
every afternoon. Along with his robotic host, Wonder
Robot 2T2, Captain Cosmic
kept people up to date with interviews of science fiction
professional and fans. He would also announce conventions and other
special events. There was a Captain Cosmic club to join. All you had
to do was send a self addressed stamped envelope and you would get a
numbered membership card back. On the back of the card was the
Captain Cosmic Secret Crypto Code. Every Friday the Captain, who wore
this awful red lame outfit, would read s secret message that the
viewers at home could decode. Usually the messages were long but
conveyed a simple though like "Have a great weekend", or "Have a
NEW 10-97 Currently Planer X Magazine ( a brand new zine dedicated to old neeto stuff) has an article about Bob Wilkins in their first issue. They claim to have some copies left... They also seem to have this hidden page http://www.planetxmagazine.com/bob.html? which is actually a page where you can get a snail mail address to order some video tapes of Bob as both the host of Creature Features, and as Captain Cosmic as well as some old 16mm film of bob from various commercials.
The opening segment (which I must have viewed well over 600 times) always stuck in my mind as being a bit unusual. It sort of has a superman like feel to it. It has some narration by KTVU's announcer voice saying how powerful the captain was.. "Faster than a speeding BART train (a clip of the Captain running along side of a BART train as it departs from a station (BART trains only travel quickly when away form the stations) ,Stronger than the entire Oakland Raider Football team! (a picture of the Captain lifting a obviously chromakeyed Volkswagen over his head), Able to leap over tall buildings with a single bound (a picture of a chromakeyed Captain flying a little too close to the top of the Transamerica pyramid building and a sound effect of ripping pants).
The set itself (which was expanded
to two rooms in
the later years of the show to make room for more guests and large
items on display) was that of the control room of his space ship (did
it have a name?) and form there he could look out onto a blue
chromakey screen which usually just displayed and animated star loop
from some television show. Occasionally they would slip in a clip
from Buck Rogers or some other show with space fighters flying
around. There was also a table he could put things on. Often model
builders or authors would stop by to show off or promote something.
Occasionally there were contests. I still have (someplace) a Reading
Club certificate with drawing of Captain Cosmic and Wonder Robot
I have recently acquired some new video clips of Captain cosmic when KTVU ran a special Segment 2 on Bob Wilkins career hosting monster movies as the host of Creature Features. This new segment had several images of Captain Cosmic. Included were several parts of the credit sequence including the part where the captain tears his trousers on the Transamerica pyramid building (shown above) and interviews with media personalities such as the picture of Anthony Daniels (C3PO) shown below.
My only previous footage came from 'Segment 2' report on the history of children's television in the late 80's. There were many segments on Romper Room and Captain Satellite, but no mention of Captain cosmic. One segment featured several clips form the Captain Satellite show (form the 60's to the early 70's also on KTVU) but they skipped by Captain Cosmic with only a 1 second silent clip and no mention of his popularity or even so much as a description of what the clip was from. To celebrate it's 20th birthday (back in the mid 80's) KTVU did a special on its history and had a bit about Captain Cosmic, though all they did was show part of the credit sequence (pictures shown near the top of the page), as well as Bob Wilkins remembering about Creature Features.
Captain Cosmic never revealed his
the Segment 2 story in 1997) by removing his mask, however it was
well known that he was also the host of Creature Features (a late
night horror movie program on the same channel) for many many years
on a variety of television stations including KCRA (Ch3 out of
Sacramento where Creautre Features started), KTXL (Ch40 out of
Sacramento who actually had
billboards made with Bob's face on them!), and KTVU (Ch2 out of
Oakland Who made neeto Creature Feature Movie Membership cards and
Captain Cosmic Fan Club Cards). He hosted both the KTXL and KTVU for
several concurrent years. His trademark signature on this show was
his huge cigars which he would light, whole sitting in the dark, at
the beginning of the show. Although he never removed his mask as
Captain Cosmic I have a vivid memory of him putting a cigar in his
mouth under the visor (although he did not light it).
I recently found an old T-shirt I had when I was a kid. It had Bob Wilkins face on it. i managed to scan in the image. Thought some of you might get a kick out of it.
If you have any other information or have any bits or pieces of episodes on video tape please drop me a note at email@example.com.
I finally got around to uploading some of the larger pictures of Captain Cosmic. Click on the thumbnail below to seee a large version of that picture.
Bob Wilkins with cigar
Bob back at KCRA
A very early Captain Cosmic picture. Notice the unfinished visor.
Wonder Robot 2T2 and Captian Cosmic
Spiderman and Captain Cosmic
Oh.. I was digging through a closet filled with junk and found my old Captain Cosmic summer reading certificate. To get this I had to send in a list of all the books I read over the summer. I recall reading a lot of books that summer! Sorry about the quality. The original was printed on canarry yellow and had several small holes in it.I removed my clumbsy name from the certificate. I think it looks more interesting this way.
Some people may have a hard time haring the audio clips above. If that is a case a very nice person (LoriLee in There.com) made this transcription of the clips.
** Clip 1**
Let me get my memory functioning here…
Breen called me in one day, and Breen was a very creative guy, but unlike a lot of program directors, he would give the freedom to the talent to develop things, and then he would look it over and either ok it or make some recommendations, he was really a wonderful leader. At the time, Science Fiction was really big, I can’t remember whether it was around the Star Wars Era, I’m sure that it was—and he said, “you know, there’s a lot of Japanese Science Fiction Stuff out there.” He said “ I want you to come up with a concept for daytime television where we can play these in the children’s hour, you know, in and around where they get out of school and come home and turn on their tv.”
And that was it. It was up to me, whether I wanted to do the assignment and so forth, and somewhere along the line, I thought of the old robot in a garage back in Sacramento. Now we had had the robot back on the old Channel 3 program maybe one time, to tie into some… maybe one of the old sci-fi movies that had robots. And really, 2T2, he was named, I forget if he had a name before we named him 2T2, after the station’s call letters there, but he was in the garage for many years, he was a high school project by a fellow named Gary Tomasec. Gary Tomasec was a young man who came on my show very early on, he did a satire on the Marlboro Man, the cigarette character, and he really showed a lot of talent, loved television, he was only about 14 years old then. Anyway, I got him a job as a delivery boy at Channel 3 because he wanted to get into television (and just a sidebar, today he films movies, he’s all over the world, he’s just an outstanding cameraman and a very nice young man.)
Anyway, I said, “Is it possible to bring the robot up to Oakland, and we’ll pay you a fee, a monthly fee for him” and I said “ We’ll have him painted, and we’ll do some things with him mechanically and we’ll get him going again” and he said “No problem.”
And so the robot was brought up, and we got him a paint job, electronically we got him going there, and it was quite a job—you know, there aren’t just robot repairmen around, so we took him over to people who work on motors and engines and things like that, in Oakland, and they got a kick out of getting him prepared. So while they’re working on the robot and getting him all ready, I’m trying to come up with a concept for 2T2, for the show itself. I went to a costume designer, that made costumes, in it was Oakland/Berkeley, where they all blend together there, a bunch of unusual shops, and they measured me out and we came up with the Captain Cosmic outfit. We made two of them, one in case the other one was ripped or got destroyed or whatever.
And then came, we went to film the opening, and one was “Faster than a speeding BART train” and that was the day everyone was wondering “What in
the World is going on here?” and I kept the helmet on at all times, and we filmed a number of takes there of me racing the BART train, and then the
other parts of the…uh…going over the Transamerica building, things of that nature, that was all done in studio. And so we got the opening ready, we got
the Captain Cosmic show all ready to go, and we got a fair amount of Japanese product coming in, because the inventory’s going to be wiped out real fast when you’re playing 5 shows a week.
**end clip 1**
**Begin Clip 2**
So within a very short period of time, Captain Cosmic was the number one children’s show for kids in the Bay area. And this is really important for television stations, I mean to lock up anything, the news, movies, and so forth, but with the kids programming, there is so much spent in television advertising for kids, not just at Christmas time, but all year long—fast food chains, clothing, you name it. And there aren’t that many programs suited for kids where you can reach just that audience. And if you think about it, the Saturday morning cartoons, that’s the key area, those are fairly expensive because there’s just a limited amount of airtime there to air commercials. So here was something on 5 days a week, with a lot of availabilities, room for spots, and so the show became very very profitable, and as the demand soared to get in there, especially around Christmas and holidays, the show did extremely well. We’re riding along there for well
into our second year, and all of a sudden, we ran out of product. We had shown some of it in reruns already, and as far as the American products out there, that was just not available at the time.
So we…um…the program director shopped around, and he came up with the Flash Gordon serials. And the Flash Gordon serials were unique in that the kids had never seen them, but they were so old fashioned, and almost laughable, you know, they didn’t have the special effects and they were in black and white. And that started the decline of the show and simply Channel 2 scouted all over the world trying to find a product that would fit in there, and the Japanese were just about the only ones who had produced things where you could switch it to English and they were animated and in color. So that, briefly, was the demise of the program, and I believe we were on 2 ½ , almost 3 years and I knew it was coming because, you know, as I said earlier, I was a student of the ratings and I knew that we couldn’t last too much longer. So Tom Breen called me in, and he said, “This is it, this is the last week.” And that’s when we wrapped it all up and tried to say goodbye to the kids, where we were returning to the planet Cosmos , and 2T2 and I said goodbye.
**end clip 2**
**Begin clip 3**
First of all, all the concepts, all the ideas were mine, and I had complete program control, and I never went out of bounds on anything for them to call me in because I was really dealing with young people out there. And the opening, all the footage, I think we discussed that…that was all provided with my “creative” juices. The guests that we had on the show, and we had people from Star Wars and Star Trek and things of that nature, we had magicians on there, we had all sorts of things that tied into the area that might fascinate children, and they wouldn’t really see that type of thing anywhere else. I did say on the final program, probably the beginning program, and didn’t mention it on the final one, I don’t believe, that we had come down from Cosmos, Captain Cosmic and 2T2, and to disguise ourselves we have taken a voice from someone you think you know but it’s not that person at all. That’s where we got around the kids thinking it was me. And of course, the older kids knew who it was, and we had many many young adults watching it too. And so that was never a problem there. We did take 2T2 on several occasions to get a paint job, and we promoted that quite a bit.
Have any pictures of Captian Cosmic? or just stories to share? People have been sending me things but I have had several hard drive crashes and lost most of it. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org