Well, Pals, I’m about to say something that is going to shock-the-living-Hell, right out of all of you…. Here goes: there’s something I love more than Star Trek.
Yes, you heard me right. From the earliest-days of my childhood, from the moment it debuted (March 7, 1973), I have loved The Six Million Dollar Man; (even-more than Superman, Batman and The Hulk combined). I was three-months shy of my 7th birthday, but it’s something I still recall vividly; my dad watched this groundbreaking pilot-episode with me and it’s impact on my young gray-matter was immediate; it’s been a mainstay in my life, ever-since. I was Colonel Steve Austin, Astronaut… The world’s-first bionic man. I had the Steve Austin action-figure, the Bionic Transport and Repair Station, as-well-as, Oscar Goldman (yup, with his exploding briefcase) and, of course, I had Maskatron. (You can keep your Star Wars toys…) These top-of-the-line toys from Kenner were well-used and the adventures we had are priceless.
Long before my obsession with Star Trek books, there was Mike Jahn’s adaptation of the SMDM episode, ‘The Secret of Bigfoot Pass’ and Martin Caidin’s ‘Operation Nuke,’ which, I read from cover-to-cover, over and over… I still have them, too. Plus, I had all of the trading-cards, the Six Million Dollar Man Movie Viewer and some of the comics, as well, (much to my chagrin, they were destroyed by water damage!!).
Needless-to-say, Steve, Jaime, Oscar and Rudy are a part of who I am. So, when something new comes along, I am over-the-moon with excitement. Unfortunately, there haven’t been a lot of these moments, since those shows were canceled in the mid-70’s. There’s been the Bionic Reunion movies, the ‘old’ Sci-Fi channel’s relaunch in the 90’s and, finally – the release of both shows on DVD. If you don’t have The Six Million Dollar Man Complete Collection (from TIME/LIFE), you are truly missing-out on something special. This extraordinary box-set has got everything under the sun, so-far-as digitally remastered episodes, all of the crossovers, the pilot movies, all three reunions, extras-galore and interviews, like crazy. Also, be sure to check out Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast to hear my pals John S. Drew and Paul K. Bisson go through these episodes with a fine-tooth comb. They’re great fun and I feel like I’m right there with them.
The last episode, ‘The Moving Mountain’ aired on March 6, 1978 and, with the exception of the reunions, nothing-new has been seen of those ‘classic’ shows, ’til – now. On March 12, Dynamite Comics released the much-anticipated first-issue of Season Six; (whew, that was one-helluva hiatus, eh?) It’s been 36 yrs and 6 days, to be exact. My pal John S. Drew broke the news of James Kuhoric‘s unprecedented reimagining of my favorite bionic action-hero, back in the fall of last year. I’ve been waiting with bated-breath, ever since…
Well, it’s finally here, pals!
Letter to the secretary… WARNING: You’re about to have your Security Clearance raised to a Level 6; (in other words, SPOILERS).
1976: Steve Austin has thwarted the ‘Venus Death Probe’, which mistakenly landed in the United States. In response to Russia’s Venus Lander Probe Program, NASA launches the Venus One Space Orbiter with the intentions of reaching our neighbor-planet and transmitting images of what it finds there. The Venus Probe encounters a radioactive anomaly; that anomaly has changed course, making contact with the craft. Receiving disturbing transmissions from the probe, there is sudden silence from the craft and NASA has given it up, as lost…
Queue the opening music… ‘Steve Austin, astronaut: a man barely alive…’ Ok… I have some ideas that will make this opening more in-tune with that ‘iconic’ sequence: 1) Use some small shots Steve’s horrific crash. 2) Show us the blue grids of the eye, arm and legs, with the colored bionics. 3) Instead of having the feet displayed on the computer screen, show a shot of the bionic arm being passed by the surgical team. 4) It would be helpful to use the ‘right’ arm, when showing Steve, lifting the weights. 5) No T-shirts allowed under Steve’s running-suit. 6) Lift Steve’s left eyebrow just a bit more and show the lens-flared targeting-scope. The rest of the sequence is terrific; especially, Steve running, the bionic eye shot (turn it a bit, though, so you see the screw-threads and wires) and the surgical team performing the bionic reconstruction. Steve’s likeness, here, is well-done, gentlemen. If the art team could implement these small iconic changes, I would be one happy-camper.
Washington D.C.: Oscar tells Steve about the inexplicable return of the Venus Probe and he informs Steve that he’ll be going with Rudy to recover it. (Just like in the show. Right on!) I’m with John S. Drew on this; Steve would’ve been great in his beige outfit in this scene and, we’ve GOT to have that belt buckle!! Plus, Oscar’s desk needs some extra monitors, phones, etc. It would’ve been good to see him in his glasses and removing them. The dialogue was just what I was hoping for and the artwork is A-1.
OSI Robotics Division: Now, I was pleasantly surprised to see the return of Steve’s former boss, Oliver Spencer! Hell. Yeah. Wow! It had me grinnin’, big time! What a treat for us uber fans! Thank you! And, man…he is perfectly in-character, from the get-go! Way to go, pal! Who better, than Oliver Spencer, to be the one behind my childhood’s ‘never-seen-on-TV’ arch-enemy Maskatron! I mean, Spencer always hated Steve’s human ‘component’, right? He wanted Dr. Wells to put Steve to sleep between missions, so-yeah…this is great!
That said… I was horrified when Oliver changed M.A.S.K.A.T.Ron’s name to ‘Number One.’ WHAT?! And…he’s controlled by a high-tech ATARI joystick? No way! (But, I have it on good authority, that Mr. Spencer isn’t going to have the last-say on this… So, I’ll go-light on my bitching and griping – for now. LOL!) We do get a fantastic shot of the profile bionic eye in blue-grid, though; (however, that would’ve been just-right in the opening-shot, as I mentioned…) The use of Maskatron’s ‘mask’ is paying true homage to the action-figure back-in-the-day and I thought it was a nice touch.
So, Steve and Rudy are in-route to the Venus Probe’s crash site (off of the Atlantic coast of Florida) and they’re being briefed by an old friend: Dr. Joan Anderson (‘Target: Steve Austin’ Season 5, Episode 10). Steve wants to join the diving team, but Adm. Miller doesn’t think Steve is needed, so the team proceeds to carry out the mission. An accidental-harpooning of one the divers, though, is about to make things interesting…
Meanwhile… In Washington, Oscar is ordered to a debriefing that Spencer has called. Spencer informs the assembled participants of several project closures, among them: the Bionics Research Program. Oscar immediately argues against this, using National Security and Steve Austin’s successes, as his defense. Again, Oliver Spencer is well-played and expertly written. Now, we see what Spencer intends to do with Maskatron; making the dig at Oscar personal, because he looks just like Steve Austin! Even Oscar is fooled, and…shocked, at what Spencer has in mind.
The recovery site: Steve is looking into the ocean and sees the trouble below the surface. I had to read the issue several-times, to ‘get’ that Steve is using his bionic eye. (I would suggest, that, in-future, they zoom-in on Steve’s eye and use the sound effect associated with its use. Maybe, do some ‘Superman’ X-ray vision’-like effects and use the targeting-sight we see Steve use in the episodes).
Steve dives way out into the ocean, (against Rudy’s objections, of course), and shoots like a torpedo through the water to the distressed divers. Using bionic strength, he snaps the harpoon off and pulls it out of the diver’s leg, then he stops the bleeding. Next, he speeds-up the Venus Probe’s recovery using ‘bionic persuasion’; breaking it free from the rocks it’s wedged in and pushing it up through the water to the surface. Breaking the surface himself, Steve finds a new threat: SHARKS!!! Wonderful! He punches one with his bionic arm!! LOL! Nice. But, the danger is far-from-over, as another shark bites the unaware Steve in the arm, biting through the bionics and causing major damage. You can’t keep a good ‘bionic’ man down, though…Steve gives the shark a badass bionic kick in the chops! (There is some brilliant Steve-esque humor thrown-in, throughout, too.)
Steve is back aboard the recovery ship and he gets some bionic maintenance from Dr. Wells: we learn that the Neotraxin 3 in Steve’s system (from ‘The Return of Bigfoot’) has saved him from the radiation poisoning of the pierced power cell casing in his damaged arm. Sweet! Also, the Venus Probe has been recovered and Dr. Anderson’s team is ready to begin its studies of the craft….
That’s where we leave-off for this debut-issue. Overall, I’m happy with the direction the story is going and I like the little details that they’ve used, that made The Six Million Dollar Man such a powerhouse for millions. Is it perfect? No, but I have confidence that with a bit of feedback and patience, these guys are going to give us some exceptional future-issues. I will say, the covers by Alex Ross and Ken Haeser are ‘Dynamite!’ Seeing Maskatron on that main cover took me right back to my backyard in Florida! Wow!
Jim Kuhoric, Juan Antonio Ramirez, Fran Gamboa and Joshua Cozine: You did a great job, gentlemen.