In many ways, Rick Brant is your typical teenager, living with his parents, sister and dog.
In other ways, he’s far from typical. Rick doesn’t live in a city or suburb, but on Spindrift Island, off the coast of New Jersey; his father is a famous scientist, whose work includes rocketry (and who leads a team of other scientists in a laboratory on the island) and Rick himself owns and flies a Piper Cub airplane.
And he gets himself involved in thrilling adventures.
Rick is the central character in the Rick Brant Electronic Adventure (changed to Science Adventure in later volumes and printings) series of 23 books published by Grosset & Dunlap between 1947 and 1968, with a 24th book released by another publisher in 1990. They were written by Harold L. Goodwin (with the first three books co-authored by Peter J. Harkins) under the pen name John Blaine.
I recently read the first three books, The Rocket’s Shadow; The Lost City and Sea Gold. The Rocket’s Shadow concerns the efforts of Dr. Harston Brant and his team to send a rocket to the Moon in order to earn a $2 million grant. However, the project has been plagued by “accidents” and outside interference.
Rick befriends an ex-Marine about his own age named Don “Scotty” Scott, who’d lied about his age when he’d enlisted. Dr. Brant invites the orphaned Scotty to live on Spindrift Island and hires him as a guard. Rick and Scotty investigate whether one of the scientists might be a saboteur.
In The Lost City, Rick travels to Tibet by way of India with Scotty and two of the Spindrift Island scientists. There, they plan to communicate with Dr. Brant by bouncing their signal off the Moon.
But someone doesn’t want the mission to succeed and works to stop it by sabotage, theft and other means.
En route to their destination, the team stumbles upon the lost city. However, its inhabitants don’t welcome tourists.
In Sea Gold, Rick and Scotty seek summer jobs at a sea mining plant in Crayville, Connecticut. However, not only do some of the local fishermen oppose the project, believing it will poison the waters, but someone specifically doesn’t want Rick working there.
I’m enjoying this series and look forward to reading more, when and if I get hold of them. These are well-written, engaging tales and they don’t stretch credulity, which isn’t always the case with “juvenile” adventure series books.
Yes, Rick owns his own plane, but it was established in The Rocket’s Shadow that he bought it by forming a company and selling shares to the scientists to raise the necessary funds. He pays them back by running errands for them and ferrying them around.
O.K., it may have been a stretch for Rick to go to Tibet with the two more experienced scientists, but Dr. and Mrs. Brant might also have felt it would have been a good life experience. And they had no reason to expect trouble.
Also, Rick, like many teenagers, was seeking a summer job when he got embroiled in the doings in and around Crayville.
I’ve owned these Rick Brant books for years, but only got around to reading them in recent days. Why now?
In large part because of a conversation at the Great Lakes Nostalgia Convention in Kalamazoo last month. That conversation concerned to what degree Jonny Quest is based on/influenced by Rick Brant. It gave me an excuse to read my Rick Brant books and to finally get around to buying the season one (1964-1965) Jonny Quest DVD box set.
While I haven’t finished watching Jonny Quest and have only read three Rick Brant books, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jonny Quest is only loosely inspired by Rick Brant, if at all.
Yes, both live on islands with scientist fathers, but Jonny’s island is somewhere off the coast of Florida, not New Jersey. What’s more, tidal flats separate Spindrift Island from the mainland; when the tide is low, you can walk from one to the other. I’ve yet to see a Jonny Quest episode that shows his island is in a similar location relative to the mainland.
Spindrift Island also contains a farm, run by another family “on shares”, as well as a large forest. Plus, a team of scientists works in the lab on the island. And, of course, Rick lives with his parents, his sister, Barby, Scotty and his dog, Dismal.
Jonny, for his part, has neither a mother nor a sister. He lives with his father, his tutor/bodyguard, Roger “Race” Bannon, his best friend, Hadji and his dog, Bandit. I’ve seen no indication that other people live on Jonny’s island, but maybe I’ve missed something.
Both Hadji and Rick’s friend Chahda are from India and came to the U.S. after helping their respective American friends. However, Hadji is a constant presence while Chahda only appears in the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth and fourteenth books in the series, based on what I’ve read online (he’s mentioned in Sea Gold).
Rick Brant also doesn’t have a character comparable to Race Bannon, who’s about the same age as Dr. Quest.
Plus, Jonny and Hadji are younger than the high school-age Rick and Scotty.
Jonny Quest is definitely an exciting series, but to what degree it’s a cousin to the Rick Brant books, I’ll leave to your own interpretation. I’ll call it a second cousin.
In fact, Jonny Quest probably owes as much— if not more— to Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy as it does to Rick Brant. Martin Grams says as much here
and points out that the initial scenes from the Jonny Quest closing credits include clips from a five-minute Jack Armstrong pilot.
Martin, who brought up the Rick Brant/Jonny Quest parallels in Kalamazoo, also discusses Rick Brant in the above blog entry. However, if you plan to read the first three books, you might want to hold off on reading his blog until you do; he includes some spoilers.
Regardless of to what degree Rick Brant inspired Jonny Quest, if you like one, you’ll probably like the other. And if you’re a fan of “juvenile” adventure books, Rick Brant deserves a place on your bookshelf.
Copyright 2017 Patrick Keating.