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Tag Archive: Martin Caidin


In the battle between kung-fu grip and the bionic eye, will life-like hair or better, stronger, and faster prevail?

We first previewed this crossover series here at borg back in February 2018.  Now the adventure series is available in a trade/graphic novel edition.  It’s a story that has been played out millions of times in the backyards of kids who grew up with both G.I. Joe and The Six Million Dollar Man.  It’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vs. The Six Million Dollar Man, last year’s crossover series from IDW Publishing and Dynamite.  Is this merely a crossover or also a team-up?  You’ll have to read it to find out, and you won’t want to miss it.  The villain is COBRA, and that infamous G.I. Joe threat and organization of evil has hacked Steve Austin’s cyborg circuitry to become a tool against Team Joe.

So it’s Colonel Steve Austin, COBRA Commander, Storm Shadow, Baroness, Zartan, and Major Bludd against Hawk, Scarlett, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Roadblock, and Ace.  But the good guys have more than one ace up their sleeve, as they introduce one of our favorite borgs, borg Hall of Famer, Mike Power, The Atomic Man.  Finally–a face-off between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Atomic Man!

This is as much about toys as comic book characters.  Pitting the famous 1960s-70s 12-inch tall Hasbro “fighting man” G.I. Joe team (or small-scale figures, or animated series, if you prefer) with Adventure Team member (and second cyborg hero) Mike Power against the first cyborg Steve Austin–who appeared on millions of TV sets and produced one of the best selling 12-inch action figures of all time.  This was a fantasy played out in living rooms and sandboxes all over.  Technically this story isn’t the G.I. Joe of the 1970s, but the reboot universe Joes from the 1980s–the animated series, the mini-figures, and beyond.

As recounted in the recent Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, G.I. Joe began as an action figure line in 1963 to fill an untapped niche for boys alongside Barbie for girls. The Six Million Dollar Man began in 1972 as the hero of Martin Caidin′s novel Cyborg (previously reviewed here at borg), and was adapted two years later into a four-season television series starring Lee Majors.  Cyborg Mike Power, The Atomic Man, was Hasbro’s response to the popularity of the Bionic Man on TV.

For anyone not following G.I. Joes in the 1970s, here is the original comic page meet-up and origin story with Major Mike Power and G.I. Joe:

The original Mike Power had a cybernetic “atomic” right arm and left leg.  The new iteration of the character has prosthetics on both legs.

Here is a preview of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero vs. The Six Million Dollar Man:

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This weekend at New York Toy Fair 2019, toymaker Mezco Toyz surprised fans of the classic Six Million Dollar Man series with a peek at two new 3.75-inch scale, five points of articulation action figures from its “5 Points” line.  Zica Toys previously discontinued its line of Six Million Dollar Man action figures for low sales back in 2014.  The sculpts for the two new figures revealed at the Mezco Toyz booth are similar.  Fans of the 12-inch Steve Austin action figure from the mid-1970s will recall it being the #1 toy of its day, following on the success of 12-inch G.I. Joes.  A later generation in the 1980s and 1990s would experience G.I. Joes reduced in size closer to the Kenner-sized figures.  Now Mezco Toyz has created homages to the 12-inch Bionic Man and the other popular action figure from the original line, the 15-inch Bigfoot.

Although Zica Toys released both a red (and blue) track suit small version of Steve Austin and a Bigfoot, the new figures take it all a step further, revealing the cyborg chips in Steve’s right arm similar to the design of the large-sized classic figure, and Bigfoot features the chest button that, when kick-punched, revealed the robotic circuitry inside (we’re not sure how the Mezco Toyz version will work).  New Steve also comes with the accessory engine, which the large-sized figure easily lifted over his head.  With the classic Adidas Dragons, the only thing missing is the removable skin, chest patch, and bionic eye.  If you’re watching Doom Patrol, you’re seeing DC’s Cyborg borrowing his clothes from the original Cyborg.

Mezco Toyz also featured several new licensed figures from its six-inch line–the One: 12 Collective–including Brie Larson′s Captain Marvel from the coming 2019 film, David Harbour′s Hellboy from the upcoming film, Jon Bernthal′s The Punisher, classic Wesley Snipes as Blade, The Warriors, and yet another They Live alien figure following on Super7′s new 3.75-inch figures.  Plus many more.

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It’s a story that has been played out millions of times in the 1970s, and now it’s finally coming to your local comic book store.  It’s G.I. Joe vs. The Six Million Dollar Man, the latest crossover story from IDW Publishing and Dynamite.  Initially teased as a team-up, it’s actually not–we now know the two franchises will play on opposite sides of the story.  Pitting the famous 1960s-70s 12-inch tall Hasbro “fighting man” team against the hero of the television series that produced one of the best selling 12-inch action figures of all time–this was a fantasy played out in living rooms and sandboxes all over.  Just add in an appearance by Hasbro’s Mike Power and Ideal’s J.J. Armes and you have a snapshot of a kids’ backyard from 1977.

Here’s the description from IDW and Dynamite about the forthcoming four-issue mini-series:

The greatest American heroes go face-to-face with the most dangerous living weapon… Steve Austin!  Hacked by COBRA, the Six Million Dollar Man has the G.I. JOEs in his bionic targets as the fate of world peace hangs by a thread and Cobra Commander holds the world’s infrastructure in his venomous clutches!

Steve Austin, Bigfoot, Storm Shadow, and Snake Eyes!

So technically this isn’t the G.I. Joe of the 1970s, but the reboot universe Joes from the 1980s–the animated series, the mini-figures, and beyond.  As recounted in the recent Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, G.I. Joe began as an action figure line in 1963 to fill an uptapped niche for boys alongside Barbie for girls.  The Six Millon Dollar Man began in 1972 as the hero of Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg (previously reviewed here at borg.com), and was adapted two years later into a four-season television series starring Lee Majors.

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Mark Wahlberg track suit Six Billion Dollar Man running

Damián Szifrón, who was nominated this year for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, was selected to write the screenplay for the reboot film of the classic 1970s Bionic Man tale.  The Six Billion Dollar Man, to star Mark Wahlberg (Ted, Shooter, The Italian Job) as Steve Austin, will be directed by Peter Berg (Battleship, Hancock).

“I couldn’t be more honored and grateful. Such a major challenge represents a great opportunity,” Szifrón said in a press release this week. “The themes surrounding this beloved property allow for the creation of a memorable sci-fi actioner as well as a bold spy thriller.  Expectations are high and I’ll do my best to deliver the strongest basis for an amazing cinematic experience.”

The Argentinian writer/director won numerous awards internationally for his film Wild Things, including the Oscar nod.  He has also penned and directed several Latin TV series.

bionic eye

The film will be based on the characters in the classic TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, and its source material, the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, reviewed previously at borg.com here.

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Mark Wahlberg track suit Six Billion Dollar Man running

Finally Steve Austin will make it to the big screen 42 years after Martin Caidin first created the man who was barely alive, rebuilt, better, stronger and faster than he was before in his novel Cyborg.  And it’s been 36 years since the 1970s popular TV series went off the air.

And the best part?  Mark Wahlberg has been tapped by the Weinstein Co. to play not the Six Million Dollar Man, but the Six Billion Dollar Man in The Six Billion Dollar Man.  We at borg.com couldn’t be happier with the selection of Wahlberg if we were allowed to hand pick the actor to play the Bionic Man ourselves.  Wahlberg is an actor cranking out some of the most enjoyable films around for the past 15 years, from The Italian Job to The Departed to Shooter to The Happening to Ted to the latest Transformers.

Thankfully, the parody film rumored to be “in the works” supposedly to star Jim Carrey then Robert Downey, Jr. then Leonardo DiCaprio, is now off the table.  The original Bionic Man, Lee Majors, expressed concern about a parody earlier this year at Planet Comicon.  No worries now!

Wahlberg sported a similar white track suit in Pain and Gain.  Will he don the red track suit for Steve Austin?

The Six Billion Dollar Man is expected to start production in 2015 with a 2016 release.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

 

New RoboCop

The classic borg cop is back, and if you thought the 2014 MGM/Columbia Pictures release of RoboCop would be another bad remake like Total Recall or lame franchise redux like Die Hard 6, we think we may have found the exception.  When we first learned in April 2012 about the reboot of the RoboCop franchise, our first thought was what bigtime actor would get the title role.  We reported here then that Joel Kinnaman was selected as the murdered cop turned cyborg Alex Murphy.  Back then he hadn’t yet been featured as the male lead in the TV series The Killing.  He looks pretty believable, and interesting as a newly borgified lifeform, in this first trailer for the film.

But better yet, you couldn’t put a more stellar, dream team supporting cast together to make this movie succeed.

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Last year there were rumors aplenty that the story of the original cyborg himself, Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, would be remade into a motion picture.  With a new RoboCop movie now pushed out to February 2014 with an all-star cast (well, except for the borg cop himself, played by Joel Kinnaman) including Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Jennifer Ehle, and Jackie Earle Haley, it’s not a stretch to think someone would lay down some real money to make the first big screen adaptation of Martin Caidin’s astronaut-turned-borg novel Cyborg.  The big rumor revolved around Leonardo DiCaprio as set to play Steve Austin.  But even if you don’t think Lee Majors was the perfect running man, it’s pretty difficult to imagine DiCaprio a tough astronaut of the Right Stuff variety who could survive a test craft auguring into the earth.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Cyborg, by Martin Caidin, is the 1972 novel that was adapted into the television series The Six Million Dollar Man.  Long out of print, it is only available today via libraries or used online bookstores.  I managed to track down a copy via Amazon.com for only a few dollars.  My assumption was that this would be a dated story, but that it could be similar to the novels that it claimed to be like in its cover statement “In the explosive tradition of the The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man.”  Both The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man were by Michael Crichton, and having enjoyed both of those years ago I figured this was worth a try.  I was more than happy with this book.

First, it is a medical thriller more than a dramatic work of science fiction. Cyborg focuses on the details of witnessing the crash of a NASA stunt vehicle and an Air Force emergency response team’s reaction to a man who barely survived such a crash.  More than anything I have read before, this absolutely reads like an early Michael Crichton novel, including his way of incorporating scientific details, but not too much detail to bore the reader.  Cyborg has characters you care about, characters dropped into strange circumstances made very real.

Caidin’s description of the crash was as an eye-witness of sorts, and the first three chapters read like nonfiction.  Written before the space shuttle program, this type of mission reflected real missions of the time between the days of Apollo and the shuttle program, honing the technology leading to the first real mission with Space Shuttle Columbia.  Shockingly, the crash scene is like a foreseen account of the actual real-life disaster of the Columbia space shuttle.  The gritty realism of the first three chapters sets up the reader for a believable entry into the un-real that follows.

Colonel Steve Austin is a stunt pilot who had already served as astronaut on the last moon mission, the last man to walk the surface of the moon.  Waiting to go off as an astronaut on some Skylab mission he is now at a Mojave Desert test launch, which is vividly described.  Jan Richards is his girlfriend, all too familiar with being the spouse of an astronaut and the circumstances that come about on launch days, and although she has been there before, she is still nervous.  We learn quickly that Colonel Austin is a stunt pilot every bit like the Chuck Yeager as detailed in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.  He is confident if not cocky.  Like Han Solo, in response to his girlfriend’s “I love you, Steve Austin,” he responds, “Same here.”

The fact that author Martin Caidin actually participated in the real-life NASA counterpart to the program in which Austin crashes adds a heightened realism to the novel.  Caidin was on site when a pilot suffered a similar terrible accident–the same type of disaster that aired at the beginning of each Six Million Dollar Man episode and makes up the first part of the novel.

Steve Austin, seriously injured as a triple amputee, gets not prosthetics, but improved-upon artificial limbs and an artificial eye.  But first we get accounts of medical triage, a play by play account of the cutting off of Austin’s blood loss, the overall success of protecting the body from burns because of the NASA flight suit, loss of both his legs and left arm, loss of eye through metal debris in the cockpit, skull damage, jaw damage, skin damage, assessment of respiratory damage, standard procedures from placing the intubation tube to removing the space suit from what remains of his body.

Doctor Milton Ashburn, head of emergency response, after hours go by, finally utters the words “He’ll live.”  But then all the conflict and story begins, starting from the lowest of places: “If you love that man like I do… then pray that he dies.”

If you’ve seen people recovering from surgeries, it is all about pain and lots of recuperation time.  It’s what I thought was missing for the first third of the book, then Caidin goes into detail about nerve endings and compensation for missing limbs.  To the layman even in 2012 it all seems to make sense.  Instead of brushing over the details of creating a cybernetic organism–a cyborg–he details all the processes and only in the last 20 percent of the novel do we get to the reason the government is willing to pay $6 million to keep this one man alive, and more than that, make him superhuman.  It is of course to make him a super soldier.

As storytelling is concerned, Cyborg is part Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, part Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Sphere, part Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage.  There is something exciting when a team of experts in varying fields come together to achieve some purpose that no one initially believes will work.  It’s the formula that worked so well several times for Michael Crichton.

The second third of the novel brings the realization that this in a real and thoughtful sense is a modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, only it is the story you can imagine a young 19th century author wanted to tell, as she obviously thought this type of medicine would be possible one day.  As the science is concerned, if it was not exactly possible to do in 1972, it certainly could be more possible today.  Despite the fact that this was written before the pervasiveness of computing, Caidin includes many references to computers, to micro-electronics that would one day be microchips, and bionics that would one day become the beginning of nanotechnology.

Once we get past months of recovery, recuperation, and therapy, and Austin getting to know his new body and abilities, the last third of the novel is a cross between Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger mixed with any number of 1960s military intelligence operation stories, like The Guns of Navarone.  First Austin goes on a deep-sea mission, using mechanical dolphins, off the coast of Surinam.  He then moves on to a desert mission in North Africa–a Seal Team Six type operation mixed with a True Lies international arms story where Austin teams with an Israeli soldier named Tamara.   The ending is about survival, and whereas Austin upon learning of his triple amputee state remarked that the doctors should have let him die, when he finally is left in a hopeless situation he learns he really wants to stay alive.

Great survival references are included in the final chapters including a bit about the real-life B-24 bomber downed decades ago in the desert called the Lady Be Good (documented in an episode of the History Channel’s History’s Mysteries in the 1990s).

Cyborg is surprisingly not dated considering it was written in 1972.  There is the odd focus on male-female relationships reflecting 1970s men-women workplace relations, but nothing as cringeworthy as I’ve read in 1950s pulp novels.  It probably helps that Caidin doesn’t spend any time on things like clothing descriptions, the very thing that makes the TV series a bit hard to watch today.

I’ve had the fortune of meeting and talking to three of the 12 surviving United States Apollo program astronauts who flew to the moon, and their confidence and character were well mimicked by Caidin’s account of the fictional Colonel Austin.  Clearly Caidin spent time with these guys in real life, and it is reflected in his book.

Cyborg is a great candidate for re-issue.  The TV series opening episodes follow the novel very well, with only the most minor of differences, like which arm that is lost and replaced.  It was also good to see that Phil Hester and Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man comic book series, which we review here periodically, is faithful to the spirit of both the series and novel, although it takes more of the TV series changes on in its monthly story.