SERIES: Six Million Dollar Man
Bionics in Comics
As with other popular genre and Sci-Fi shows over the decades, many of them have made the transition to comics, some of the earliest being the Westerns shows such a Roy Rogers, Bonanza and Lee’s The Big Valley. Other shows such as Star Trek, Lost in Space, X-Files, Buffy and many more followed suit. Both The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman appeared in comic form, in the 1970’s at the height of their popularity and again when licensed by Dynamite comics in the 2000’s.
Below is a summary of mainly English Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman comics, when they were published and how many issues they ran for, along with an example of covers and artwork. Several sites have covered these is more depth than us and we’ve included some links if you want to follow up and read more on the history of the comics or the companies behind them..
Charlton comics was founded in 1945 and existed until 1986 and published across a wide range of genres, from Western to Horror, to War, Science Fiction, Crime and even Romance, to name a few. Known for it’s low budget practises, Charlton often used unpublished material from defunct companies and were known for paying comic creators some of the lowest rates in the industry. They were unique in the comic industry and differed from the 2 big hitters Marvel and DC comics, in that they controlled all areas of publishing from editorial to printing to distribution all under on one roof at their Derby headquarters.
Published during what is regarded as comics Bronze Age (1970-1984) Charlton initially put out a 9-issue run of The Six Million Dollar Man between June 1976 and June 1978, in the standard colour format you would find on any comicbook spinner in your local grocery store. They also published a magazine-sized B&W SMDM title aimed at older readers. This lasted 7 issues and was put out between July 1976 and November 1977. The larger format lent itself to the B&W artwork better as well as carrying feature articles on Lee and the show.
Jaime also got her own Bionic Woman title from Charlton. Sadly it only ran 5 issues, between October 1977 to June 1978. It started as a monthly title, but with a delays between the first 2 issues it moved to bi-monthly.
Whilst the short runs of the titles might be put down to the television series show waning in the eyes of the public, it was more of a case of changes at Charlton, when it lost the majority of it’s artists who moved over to DC and this saw Charlton become a reprint comic company instead of producing new titles/issues.
Look-In and UK Annuals
The UK comic industry has a long history of producing high quality comic titles, mixed in with very much junior titles such as The Beano and Dandy as far back as 1930. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw a slew of older age-group titles launched such as Eagle, Look and Learn and TV Comic, as well as the hugely popular and now collectable TV Century 21 which featured new stories and articles based on the Gerry Anderson titles such as Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.
Whilst there was a never a direct British Six Million Dollar Man or Bionic Woman comic released in the UK – not even as Charlton reprints, which seems a missed opportunity even to this day – both of the Bionic shows got comic strips in the British ‘Junior TV Times’ magazine Look-In. The title was published between January 1971 and March 1994 and had features on current TV, sport and pop stars of the day, aimed at a younger audience, The magazine complimented article with comic/picture strips of popular shows/characters of the day, both US and UK and the title ran strips for the Bionic shows as well as US shows like Battlestar Galactica, The A-team and Knight Rider.
Look-In actually had 3 Bionic strips, one for The Six Million Dollar Man (June 1975 to March 1975), one for The Bionic Woman (August 1976 to May 1979) then a combined B&W strip for both shows, called Bionic Action (May to November 1979).
The magazine carried both comic strips and photo features for both Bionic shows as well as some superb cover artwork. The titles are much sought after on the reseller market and have yet to be collected or reprinted.
As is the custom, still, most big TV shows had a hardback ‘book’ or ‘annual’ released in time for Christmas for parents to buy for their kids. The Bionic shows were no exception. Steve got 4 annuals and Jaime 2. These were a combination of text and new strip stories, feature articles on the shows and the stars as well as often a ‘fact’ feature or a 2-page board game. Whilst the art work in these was not up to the same standard as Look-In or some of the other comics, they were still a ‘must have’ for fans.
We have a separate page where we discuss Look-In and the British annuals in more detail.
El Hombre Nuclear
One of the few foreign Bionic comic books we have information on is El Hombre Nuclear. A Spanish language black-and-white publication from the late 1970’s, with 50 issues published between 1977 and 1979. A smaller format than the Charlton comics, which were 17cm x 26cm. El Hombre Nuclear came in around 13.5cm x 20.5cm. The principle writer and artist on the title was Jorge Pena, The title seems to have been re-printed in Columbia, by Editorial bril and whilst a lot of the content was similar, they had different cover art. The title initially appears to been published in Argentina, but then reprinted in Columbia, but I have struggled to find any real details on why, other than the below
From Teve Osfera:
The Colombian edition altered the covers of the Argentine numbers, made mainly by Enrique Cristobal (Argentine), to which he added new covers made by Henry Vithery (Colombian) and Jorge Peña (Colombian). He also altered the content of the Argentine numbers, so that they do not correspond to each other. The Argentine edition included as a complement the Charlton Emergency series (by Neal Adams and Giordano) while the Colombian edition adapted the contents of different Argentine issues so that only stories of the Nuclear Man appeared. Some original American stories were redrawn in Argentina by Enrique Cristobal (such as: “El muñeco” from the Colombian number 4). The Argentine edition did not reach 20 issues, so for the Colombian edition new stories were created by Jorge Peña and Nicanor Villabuena from number 21. The Colombian edition in its first issue published the story of the birth of the Bionic Man (from Six Million Dollar Man # 1 of Continuity, including some added pages of Cristobal), while the April edition only published those of Continuity.
France produced it’s own version of the British Look-In magazine, called Tele-Junior, Founded by Franklin Lufrani and published by Tele-Junior SA., the title ran for 140 issues between August 31 1977 and February 28 1983 and like Look-In was aimed at a young audience and featured comic adaptions of TV shows of the day , including The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman, as well cartoons.
Most issues ran around 63 pages and was more substantial than Look-In, and was more of a cross between Look-In and Look and Learn with various practical and factual features as well. Whilst Look-In featured a simple 2-page strip each week for the Bionic shows, Tele-Junior often went to 7-8 pages.
The company also put out 23 laminated collections of stories, featuring one character or show, in 3 series between 1979 and 1982. 2 Six Million Dollar Man ( L’homme qui valait trois milliards) volumes in October 1979 & June 1980 and a Bionic Woman one (Super Jaimie) in June 1979.
Dynamite comics are renowned for publishing comic book adaptions of licensed feature films such as Army of Darkness, and Terminator, as well as public-domain properties such as Zorro, Red Sonja and Tarzan. The company was founded in 2004 by Nick Barrucci to initially publish one title, Army of Darkness. Following this up with a highly successful Red Sonja 25 cents #0 issue which sold 240,00 copies, then $2.99 edition which sold 100,000 copies! By 2009 Dynamite was publishing 14-20 comics a month… from humble beginnings.
Dynamite comics re-launched Steve Austin in comic book form in the fall of 2011, written by, and based on the un-filmed script, of kevin Smith, who re-tells the story of the Bionic Man for the 21st Century. Co-written by Phil Hester and art by Jonathan Lau. Kevin’s story ran for the first 10 issues with his name bannered across the top of the title. From Issue 11, Phil Hester took over writing duties, to be joined by Aaron Gillespie from issue 12 and Ed Tadeo picked up the art. The title ran to 23 issues, with Aaron picking up sole writing duties from issue 17 onwards and the final issue coming out in July 2013. There was also a 40-page annual in March 2013, with Scott Beatty writing and Dietrich Smith on art.
Now Dynamite had the licence for the Bionic shows, they released various other Bionic titles over the next few years, to varying success. Jaime got her own title, The Bionic Woman, which ran 10 issues from March 2012 to January 2013. Paul Tobin was in the writers chair for all 10 issues, with art from Leno Carvalho for issues #1- #6 and Juan Antonio Ramirez for #7- #10. Artwork is quite subjective, but for me the best part of the run was the cover art.
The inevitable cross-over title The Bionic Man Vs. The Bionic Woman and ran 5 issue from January to May 2013.
March 2014 saw the release of 6-issue series The Six Million Dollar Man Season 6, which Dynamite described as:
it’s The Six Millions Dollar Man‘s 40th anniversary, and we at Dynamite are proud to bring you the direct continuation of the classic television series with Season 6! For the 1st Time EVER! Fan favorite toy-line character Maskatron makes his Six Million Dollar Man debut and becomes a part of the classic television series mythology with a violent and terrifying purpose. And as Steve’s world is threatened from within, his very actions unknowingly release an alien menace upon an unsuspecting world. Classic action, powerful science fiction, and a cast of characters from one of television’s most original series combine to make The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 6 a must have for comic fans!
November 2016 saw comic writer and Bionic fan Van Jensen pick up the Bionic title for another 5-issue outing with the premise: The dissection of Steve Austin commences now. The race is on between O.S.I. agents and mad scientists alike to be the first to carve him apart and unlock the secret to building a cyborg army. Against overwhelming odds, and with the future in jeopardy, Steve has to hope he has at least one ally left.
Issue #3 was unique in that it broke to usual comic book old and the whole issue is on big fight in/on a train and each page stitches together in one huge piece of artwork.
*** Read our exclusive interview with Van Jensen here.
In January of 2018 Dynamite and IDW then released a 4-part story crossing G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and The Six Million Dollar Man. The four-part crossover was written by Ryan Ferrier (TMNT: Dimension X, Rocko’s Modern Life) with art by G.I. Joe artist SL Gallant.
March 2019 saw Steve Austin back in action for 5 more issues, this time by writer Christopher Hastings and art by David Han with a controversial style which felt more like Teen-Austin from the interior art: CHRISTOPHER HASTINGS (The Unbelievable Gwenpool! Secret Agent Deadpool! Adventure Time! I Am Groot!) and DAVID HAHN (Batman ’66! Bombshells: United!) proudly present a story from a time when there wasn’t internet, but there WERE cyborgs! It’s the 1970s. Things are going great. Steve Austin (used to be an astronaut, now has robo-parts & a laser eye) heads to Japan to help Secret Agent Niko Abe stop a madman with missiles. Steve figures, no sweat. But then…sweat. How’s Steve going to complete his mission, when his fancy $6,000,000 body starts (DRASTICALLY) depreciating in value!?
Dynamite published 3 additional Bionic Woman titles: The Bionic Woman Season Four, with 4 issues starting September 2014 and Charlie’s Angels Vs The Bionic Woman in July 2019 with all 4 issues written by Cameron DeOrdio and with art by Soo Lee. The best title by-far, was the 6 issues Wonder Woman 77 and The Bionic Woman, which came out in May 2017. Written by SF author and Wonder Woman aficionado, this title is truest to the TV characters of Jaime Sommers and Diana Prince and Mangels love for the shows and their characters shines through., Artwork is by Judit Tondora. How could you not love a book that pits the pair against Fembots and Amazons and get max the Bionic dog involved in the action.
*** Read our exclusive interview with Cameron DeOrdio and Soo Lee here.