If you were born in the late sixties or early seventies then part of your pop culture education started with the line: "Steve Austin, a man barely alive. Gentleman, we can rebuild him." The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors ran for five seasons from 1974 to 1978 and made it popular to run in slow motion while saying "na na na na… na na na na…"
Now thirty-five years later Dynamite Entertainment has picked up the torch and is putting out season six. I sat down with the writer of the new series, James Kuhoric and asked him a few questions about the project and his connection to the classic television show.
DAN WICKLINE: I remember getting a Six Million Dollar Man action figure as a kid for Christmas and staying up late to watch the show. Did you grow up with the character? How familiar were you with the character/series when you got offered the chance to write it?
JAMES KUHORIC: I think every kid that grew up in the 70s had The Six Million Dollar Man toys. It just so happens I still have mine. I was very young when the show was originally run but I remember making sure I was in front of the TV when it came on. The Six Million Dollar Man was a program that really spoke to us as children and we'd recreate our favorite scenes on the elementary school playground. Over the years Steve Austin stayed with me and I've continued to enjoy watching and rewatching the episodes regularly. I am probably one of the biggest fans of the series and I have a collection of comics, books, magazines, and toys from the era.
For the new comic series I really wanted to try to capture that essence of the Six Million Dollar Man that captivated me as a kid. I know it is a tall order to try to recreate the magic of the past, but I think that if we show today's audience what really captured our imaginations about the show back in the 70s, we can make a series that is really special. At the very least, I can promise you that the Six Million Dollar Man Season Six will be fun. It will be a romp through an age gone by and an homage to one of televisions greatest heroes.
DW: You're doing this as the sixth season of the series. How does that differ from just working on a license property? Were there plot threads left from previous seasons to pick up on? And how much does previous knowledge of the series matter to the reader?
JK: Television series in the 1970s were very episodic in nature. There wasn't as much overall season plot development as we have today in modern programming. To some extent, it really was "villain of the week" for the most part with the viewer being able to jump in at any point if they understood the basic premise of the show. If you knew Steve Austin was an injured test pilot who was rebuilt with bionic parts you could watch any episode and enjoy it. And if you did need some previous plot thread to understand the current adventure, they would run the "Previously on the Six Million Dollar Man" prologues to give you pertinent information at the beginning of the episode. We're doing that with the new comic series too. If you understand the general premise and read our "Previously On" recaps, you can jump right in for the ride.
DW: Are you able to use all the characters from the series like Oscar Goldman, Rudy Wells, etc? What about Jamie Sommers? Were there any characters deemed off limits?
JK: We have the full list of characters that appeared on The Six Million Dollar Man returning for the new comic book season. Oscar and Rudy play significant roles and Jaime Sommers will guest star just like she did in episodes of the original series. Even characters like Oliver Spencer from The Six Million Dollar Man pilot will be in the new series and will have pivotal roles that explain their parts in the SMDM universe. I also snuck in an appearance of Peggy Callahan, Oscar Goldman's plucky receptionist from early season episodes for a cameo. We are going to give longtime fans of the show everything they want to see in a new season including bigger villains, wilder threats, and new technologies. And we're keeping and focusing on the bionic action, sound effects, and slow motion special effects that were the show's trademark.
DW: Judging by the covers we've seen, Maskatron plays a part in it or at least the robots of Dr. Dolenz. So what is season six about?
JK: Maskatron is a big part of the Season Six first arc. The villain never appeared in the television series proper, he was a creation of the Kenner toy line and an amalgamation of the robotic threats Steve faced in the series. Maskatron does have connections to the original "Robot Maker," Doctor Dolenz. That trademark circuitry and wire face of the SMDM robots was a pretty frightening thing to kids watching the show. Anyone could be replaced by an android that was exactly like you down to your voice and actions. I want to capture that essence but also give Maskatron a chance to develop into a much bigger threat to the SMDM world. By the end of the first few issues, it will be clear that Maskatron has become the most dangerous artificial intelligence ever created.
Season Six is really about returning to the age of bionics. We wanted to take everything that was original, cutting edge, and fun about The Six Million Dollar Man and apply an overall evolving thread to it. There are many plots woven through the first arc that advance the character and the world around him, but the overall theme of this arc is the dismantling of the Six Million Dollar Man. From government conspiracies to alien invasion, the series will test Steve Austin like he has never been tested before. And at the lowest point of his career, he'll begin the climb back to the top of OSI. The real power of the Six Million Dollar Man isn't the bionic appendages; it's the will of the man using them. We'll test Steve's will and see how he bounces back.
DW: Not too long ago they tried to bring back the Bionic Woman to television without success. Do you feel that a concept like Six Million Dollar Man belongs in its original era or could you see the character making the jump to modern times?
JK: I actually really enjoyed the Bionic Woman series they attempted in 2007. If they had cast Katee Sackhoff as Jamie, I think we'd still be watching it today. The concept of the Six Million Dollar Man is maybe more relevant today than it was in the 70s. As we catch up to "bionic technology" the world really has the potential to have people with synthetic parts. And even in current television you are seeing echoes of the Bionic Man in shows like Intelligence and Almost Human. Martin Caidin's Cyborg novel (which was adapted to become The Six Million Dollar Man for television) was so far ahead of its time that it created a vision of the future which has influenced almost half a century of technological advances. I don't think we'll see people running 60 miles per hour or lifting a car engine with one arm, but we may be seeing men and women having their lives restored to normal thanks to robotic prosthetics. I recommend any SMDM fan go back and read Caidn's novel. It will add to your overall enjoyment of the series to see where Steve Austin came from.
And now an exclusive first look at the Six Million Dollar Man Season Six: