R.I.P. Jan Merlin, actor, author, Space Cadet

Posted by R. Allen Leider on Oct 16th 2019

Jan Merlin, Al Markim, and Frankie Thomas in "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" (CBS, 1950-1955).

Originally, Awesome Tales #11 would be dedicated to Jan Merlin, in appreciation for his career and friendship. Now, alas, we must also dedicate the issue to commemorate his passing. Three weeks before the issue’s planned release, actor Jan Merlin died at 94 years of age on September 20th, 2019.

Merlin’s most memorable roles were from 1950 to 1953 as Cadet Roger Manning in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, and Lieutenant Colin Kirby in the ABC western series The Rough Riders (1959), and Kenneth on the NBC drama Kitty Foyle (1958).

His professional acting career, which spans more than five decades, included performances in stage plays on and off Broadway, radio dramas, live and filmed episodes of television series, and more than 30 feature motion pictures.

Born and reared as Jan Wasylewski in New York City, he attended the Grace Church School for Boys before dropping out to join the Navy. During World War II he became a torpedoman. He served on three successive ships in the North Atlantic and Pacific fleets and accumulated ten battle stars. He entered Japan’s Inland Sea with the first group of occupation forces following Japan’s surrender.

After his discharge, he worked in summer stock beginning in 1946, and then enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. His Broadway debut in 1949 was Mister Roberts starring Henry Fonda.

His professional acting career, which spanned more than five decades, included performances in stage plays on and off Broadway, radio dramas, live and filmed episodes of television series, and more than 30 feature motion pictures.

Merlin received a Daytime Emmy Award in 1975 for Outstanding Writing for a Daytime Drama Series as part of the NBC Daytime soap opera Another World. He was nominated again in 1976. His first novel was published in 1982. He currently has a number of novels in print. Merlin received a Golden Halo Award in 2009 from the Southern California Motion Picture Council for his work as an actor and writer.

His son, Peter William Merlin, connected me to Jan when my first Tom Corbett story was published. Jan was delighted that new stories featuring his character Cadet Roger Manning were forthcoming in Awesome Tales #5 and eventually #11.

Awesome Tales #11 is all science fiction and features an epic adventure for Tom Corbett, Astro, Roger Manning, Dr. Joan Dale and Captain Strong. In a fantastic new Polaris spaceship, they travel to the other side of the Galaxy to investigate messages coming from a long lost probe at Kepler 186f, an Earth-like planet shrouded in mystery.

It would have made a great episode. We think Jan would have approved.