Written by an ever-changing team of authors, Perry Rhodan is issued in weekly novella-size installments in the traditional German Heftchen (pulp booklet) format. The series was created in 1961 by K. H. Scheer and Clark Darlton. Initially conceived for thirty volumes, it became an enduring success and passed 2200 installments in 2003. There have been several reissues, including a revised edition in hardcover format. Significant spin-offs include the Atlan series and the Planetenromane paperbacks that provide additional playgrounds for stories set in the Perry Rhodan universe but usually not considered canonical. Over the decades there have also been comic strips, numerous collectibles, several encyclopedias, audio plays, inspired music, etc. The series has seen partial translations into several languages. It also spawned the movie Mission Stardust (1967), which is so appallingly bad that fans of the series playfully deny its very existence.
Perry Rhodan is unabashed space opera, picking up (or reinventing) virtually every theme that has ever appeared in science fiction. While critics outside the genre and many within have habitually savaged the series, its multi-decade commercial success has become a literary phenomenon in itself. If nothing else, Perry Rhodan provides a mirror of the contemporary zeitgeist, reflecting concerns such as the 1960s Cold War, 1970s New Age, and 1980s peace movement in its story line. The series and its spin-offs have captured a substantial fraction of the original German science fiction output and exert an undeniable influence on German writers in the field.
Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers.
The story line starts in 1971 with the first manned moon landing by U.S. Space Force Major Perry Rhodan and his crew, who discover a marooned extraterrestrial space ship. Appropriating the alien technology they proceed to unify Terra and to carve out a place for humanity in the galaxy and the cosmos. As the series progresses major characters are granted virtual immortality and the story continues over the course of millennia, including flashbacks several thousands and even millions of years into the past, and the scope widens to encompass other galaxies, extremely remote parts of space, parallel universes, and weirder cosmic structures.