Lewis envisions himself wearing Grampa Barnavelt's lucky coin, imagining that he was this figure [The Figure in the Shadows; 61].
This isn’t the first (or last) time Lewis daydreams about being someone strong or heroic as he tries to overcome schoolyard bullies. This time it’s Tom Corbett, the main character in the Space Cadet stories that were popular in various media during the 1950s, though the format Lewis was introduced to the character is uncertain.
In the context of the stories, Corbett was a young man entering the exciting world of Space Academy and coming of age with his friends against the backdrop of the 24th Century. Corbett first appeared on television in 1950 with actor Frankie Thomas, Jr. as the title character. The program bounced around the satellites for a few years (meaning, it changed network affiliation four times) before airing its final installment in June 1955 – seemingly weeks after Bellairs himself graduated from high school.
Between 1952-56 Corbett’s explorations were published in book form; Stand By For Mars (1952) was the first title. Later came the 6-day comic strip (1951-53) and a series of comic books beginning in February 1952. The comics lasted until 1955, with new adventures coming in the 1990s and the late-2000s.
As if there wasn’t enough exposure there was a radio program that ran in the first half of 1952 featuring Thomas and the rest of the television cast, plus an assortment of toys to collect such as cardboard cutouts on the back of Kellogg's Pep Cereal, featuring a space cadet cap, gauntlets, and a ray gun. Interestingly enough it was Pep cereal that began offering prizes in the form of pinback buttons in its boxes, which would go on to be the sort of things that Rose Rita would later be known for collecting on her beanie.