Our own Jim Kuhoric has been playing in the world of Steve Austin. Now that the first story arc of The Six Million Dollar Man season six is coming to an end, Jim sat down to talk about it with Byron Brewer. And the exclusive first look at the covers for issue #6.
BYRON BREWER: First, Jim, were you a fan of the original Six Million Dollar Man TV series? It's hard to believe it's celebrating its 40th anniversary.
JIM KUHORIC: I still am a big fan of the original Six Million Dollar Man series. My first exposure to Steve Austin was as a very young child and it captured my imagination from the initial viewing. I remember making sure I was in front of our old box television to see it from start to finish every week. Back then there were no VCRs or DVD players so you had to catch it on first run or on rerun. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of watching the episodes and playing Six Million Dollar Man with my first and second grade friends. I perfected my running in slow motion and bionic punch sound effects at a very early age. Sadly…I still break them out every now and again to the chagrin of my kids.
BB: As you look back at your first arc on The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six, anything you now would have done differently left out or added?
JK: What a good question. There are always things you wish you could have done differently on a series but I am pretty happy with the way the book played out. I'll ask the Dynamite folks to tweak a few minor things for the trade collection, but overall I'm very pleased with just about everything on the book. If you read the first issue and don't find yourself smiling when Steve punches "Jaws" with a bionic haymaker, then you must be taking life just a bit too seriously.
BB: Season Six is a direct sequel to the original television series. How have critics (and comic book readers) compared it to the work of, say, Kevin Smith's re-imagining of Steve Austin in the Bionic Man comic book?
JK: We set out to make a 1970s television episode in comic book format. For the most part I think we achieved that. The way I measure success for this series is the reaction by the hardcore Six Million Dollar Man fan base. They have been so supportive and complimentary on the book – all the guys and gals at Bionic Fan Network @bionicfans – and especially Bionic Gurus Paul K Bisson and John Drew have embraced the series and offered very helpful input and suggestions. That tells me we did something right.
Some modern comic fans (critics) didn't fully understand what we were trying to do with this story. We didn't try to reinvent The Six Million Dollar Man for a modern audience like Kevin Smith did, we tried to be as true to his 1970s television persona as possible. And that means that we didn't use a lot of modern storytelling conventions to write and draw this. Our series isn't supposed to feel like a cutting edge comic from the flavor of the month writer, it's supposed to make you feel like you stepped into a time machine and are watching an episode of the television series from 40 years ago. The readers that did get it have really been vocal and supportive. And I feel good that it is as true to the original source material as possible.
JK: I think that is a big part of the fun. I love trying to capture the voices of actors from television and film. Some of my favorite comics as a fan are licensed fare and when they are done well, they can be great books. I approach the voices by immersing myself in the property and then trying to think like that character. That was a lot of fun on series like Freddy vs Jason vs Ash where you can be Freddy Krueger or Ash Williams for a day. On Six Million Dollar Man I was already very familiar with these characters. They've stayed with me over the years and I found it a very comfortable fit to bring them into the stories.
BB: In the first arc, you as a writer really tore Steve Austin down. Let's see: He faced betrayal, corruption, Cold War enemies, familiar foes, and an alien menace like he has never encountered. How do you think the character adapted to meet these many challenges?
JK: Trust me, you haven't seen anything yet. Steve is in for a brutal series of events in the next few issues. But one of Steve Austin's biggest strengths is his resilience. His character was born out of tragedy and he has the willpower to get through just about anything. I've always said that what really makes Steve Austin special isn't his bionics but his heart. He's going to need it as he faces some adversity that would break lesser men into crumbly bits.
BB: The real estate, the clothes, the cars: You and artist Juan Antonio Ramirez look like you had fun bringing back the era of the TV show, and have done a superb job. How did you manage to imagine a way to bring back the classic Six Million Dollar Man special effects and sound effects into comic book form?
JK: I can't say enough about Juan Antonio Ramierz's art for the series. He has done a fantastic job of capturing a very distinct era right down to the groovy threads the characters are sporting. For me it's easy to see the 1970s because I've been watching the classic Six Million Dollar Man television series for so long. The sound effects were such an identifiable part of the show mystique that we had to find a way to incorporate them. I think seeing the "da-na-na-na-na" worked into a panel with Steve using his bionic strength just helps to solidify the memories of watching the show.
BB: If I recall correctly, Maskatron was never in the TV show but one of the several action figures from Kenner. One of the neat things I recall of the villain is that, with the striking of triggers, parts of the robot's body flew off! Talk about adapting Maskatron for Season Six.
JK: One of the biggest things I had on my plate was coming up with an origin story for Maskatron. The toy was basically an amalgamation of the robots that Steve fought on the show. But we wanted him to be more than just another automaton so we put a lot of energy into his origin. And Maskatron's evolution is a big part of the first story arc. I think when classic SMDM fans see where we are going with it; they are really going to love it. Here's a little hint…Maskatron's future is entwined with another SMDM fan favorite character…Bigfoot.
BB: In your first arc, the OSI is really a mess. Is this reflective on your part of the manner in which government spy organizations are portrayed in James Bond flicks other places today, instead of the super-secret be-all, end-all authority back in the day (Big Brother, etc.)?
JK: Government corruption isn't a new topic but introducing some of the more sinister elements of it into The Six Million Dollar Man just made sense. Steve could see that as good of a guy as Oscar Goldman is, he ultimately isn't the final say on how things are done or how technology is used. The series took place during the Cold War and that influence certainly led to increased paranoia. We're just getting a look at some of the darkness beneath the surface of the OSI.
BB: So how would you comment on Ramirez's interpretations of your take on Steve Austin? What has Juan brought to this first arc?
JK: Juan brought a vitality to the series that I am just thrilled by. It is very hard to recreate the rose colored memories of childhood with any contemporary medium, but his art captures so much of what made The Six Million Dollar Man special. Every time I get new pages in I can't help but get this big grin on my face. It really does capture the joy of years gone by.
BB: As the first arc concludes, where does Steve Austin go from here?
JK: Well issue #3 is leading directly into the end game – Maskatron is evolving, Oliver Spencer has some big issues to face, the Alien threat to NASA is manifest, a traitor is working against Oscar in the OSI, and Steve finds himself facing problems that his bionics can't help solve. But the one thing that has always meant the most to him is back in his life as we reintroduce the Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers to the series after being absent in the final SMDM season due to the two programs being produced by rival networks. Jaime is the key to Steve's future. If he is going to come out of this being stronger it will be because of her influence. I can promise you that by the end of issue #4 Steve will be at his lowest point ever and he's going to need all the help he can get to recover.
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