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The Six Million Dollar Man

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Will's Guide to the Universe

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"Better, Stronger, Faster"

The Six Million Dollar Man first aired on the ABC Television Network in 1973.  Based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, the show began as a highly rated TV movie.  Two subsequent telefilms followed later that same year, which were equally well received, so ABC gave the go ahead for a weekly series.

Following the telefilms, five seasons of programming were aired from 1974 to 1978.  The latter two films and the regular series featured the title character, Steve Austin, a United States Air Force colonel and astronaut, who is critically injured while test piloting an experimental "lifting body" craft (a Northrop HL-10, though usually seen on screen as a Northrop M2-F2).

In the original TV movie, the title character was a civilian pilot, but for the rest of the series, he was known as Colonel Steve Austin, "a man barely alive," who not only miraculously managed to survive the tragic accident, but was given a whole new lease on life when the director (Oscar Goldman) of a semi-secret organization known as the OSI (Office of Strategic Intelligence) stepped in to literally help to "rebuild" the fallen astronaut.

Given that the Colonel had lost his left eye, right arm and both legs in the crash, all of these body parts had to be replaced with the help of approximately six million (1970s) dollars worth of cutting edge bionic hardware prostheses.  After a long period of adjustment, this revolutionary new technology initially allowed Steve to run up to 70 miles per hour and jump over 40 feet high.

His new bionic right arm was also capable of lifting more than 1,000 pounds, while his revolutionary new cyborg eye was fitted with a telescopic zoom lens system that allowed him to not only see things from a great distance, but also included a powerful macro feature, allowing him to see microscopic objects in great detail.

Naturally, with all these costly superhuman enhancements (that had in fact been funded by the US government for Project Cyborg), Col. Austin had little choice but to serve as a special agent for the OSI.  And so began the legend that is the Six Million Dollar Man.

Bionic Toys from Kenner

Beginning in 1975, Kenner Toys produced a variety of Six Million Dollar Man action figures and accessory sets based on the popular TV series.  Toys You Had (toysyouhad.com) has an extremely comprehensive list of these wonderful vintage Kenner offerings, as does Bug Eyed Monster (bugeyedmonster.com), while Plaid Stallions (plaidstallions.com) has the scoop on all four years of Kenner's "bionic catalogs."

Ardent Six Million Dollar Man enthusiast and collector Michael Van Plew's extensive treasure trove of vintage Kenner SMDM and Bionic Woman merchandise is showcased in the video below.  Both the Kenner versions of the Bigfoot character and the now considerably more rare Venus Space Probe (Death Probe) are of course featured prominently.

The following video by The Bionic Fan & 70s Toy Page (JoanCollins2009's Channel) is a bit repetitive in places, but it is very well made otherwise and certainly does an excellent job of showcasing the extensive line of licensed Kenner merchandise, toys and action figures that were based on the legendary and still beloved bionic duo, The Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors) and The Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner).

The Kenner Toy Company really outdid themselves in most respects with their bionic franchise toy items back in the late 1970s, and perhaps as a result, these figures are still quite highly sought after collectibles.  As a kid, I was fortunate that my family's home had not one, but two SMDM figures and two bionic women, periodically performing kid powered bionic feats of daring do.

The thing I remember most vividly was the fact that even though both Jamie Sommers (the Bionic Woman) dolls were supposed to be identical (and were most likely produced at the same time and perhaps even in the sames overseas facility), upon close inspection, there were notable differences between the two female figures.  For one thing, the skin tone and face paint of the two was markedly different.  I sincerely wish I still had both specimens to post comparison pics, but alas, like many early childhood toys, they are now long gone.

I managed to save and preserve most of the other figures from when I was a kid though.  Sadly however, I no longer own any of the bionic duo toys and collectibles and quite often, I really miss them.  Maybe someday I will get my hands on more of that wonderful stuff from yesteryear.  Until then, if you have pics and/or information you'd like to share on this page, please feel free to drop me a line at will5967@actionfigureuniverse.com.

Bif Bang Bionic Pow!

In 2012, Bif Bang Pow! took the first, long overdue bionic leap back into the franchise by releasing MEGO style, 8" scale figures based on the TV series.  First up were the classic red jogging suit version of Steve Austin, and a very nicely done Bigfoot, complete with fur suit and a better than average likeness of André the Giant, the first actor to play the Sasquatch role in the classic series.

Released at about the same time, were the second and third versions of the Steve Austin character.  The good folks at Bif Bang Pow! apparently decided it was high time that they gave fans a more accurately dressed bionic man, since he usually wore a khaki leisure suit in most episodes of the show (as opposed to the red jogging suit worn by most Kenner SMDM figures).  A mustachioed variant figure was also offered, to reflect the relatively brief period of time that star Lee Majors sported facial hair during the series.

And, if you're gonna have a Steve Austin with mustache, I guess you might as well throw in a Dr. Rudy Wells, too.  But wait!  Since three different actors (Martin Balsam, Alan Oppenheimer, and Martin E. Brooks respectively) played the role during the show, I guess you need an 8" MEGO style figure of the good doctor with three different heads.  Great idea!  Nice likenesses for each of the heads, too.

And if you're going to have a jogging suit Steve, a khaki suit Steve, a mustachioed khaki suit Steve, a Bigfoot AND a Dr. Rudy Wells, well then... why be without an Oscar Goldman?  After all, along with Rudy Wells, the character appeared in both The Six Million Dollar Man series AND The Bionic Woman, too.  Oh... and Fembots!  We must have Fembots!  And Steve Austin in astronaut suit, too!  And Barney Hiller, the famed Seven Million Dollar Man.  Oh yeah, baby!  Let the bionic good times roll!

Of course, the only major bummer (or minor bummer, depending on how you look at it) with all of these wonderful SMDM toys from Bif Bang Pow! is the fact that they all seem to have curiously oversized heads.  All, that is, except the Bigfoot figure, which I think is seriously the best looking one of the whole bunch.  Which isn't necessarily a good thing.  So... the big, ugly, scary looking Sasquatch creature with the dark, spooky eyes has a properly scaled head, but the rest of the characters do not?  Hmmm.

Well, this big headed Bif Bang Pow! phenomenon seems to have cropped up quite a lot in many of their 8" figure production runs.  It wasn't a problem with their Flash Gordon, LOST or Venture Brothers figures, so it does seem rather odd that this should have become such a problem with their SMDM line.  Their Battlestar Galactica 8" line seems to suffer from having even larger heads than the SMDM line however, so I guess that's something.

ZICA Toys Goes Bionic

In late 2013, ZICA Toys got in on the Six Million Dollar Man act by releasing a series of 18th scale "retro style" action figures based on the original TV show.  These toys are remarkably faithful to the designs that Kenner would have put out back in the late 1970s, had the show not been canceled.


Bigfoot just doesn't seem to be able to go anywhere without bionic men following him around!

And just look at the gorgeous card art for these bionic collectibles.  The hot pink background that was a mainstay of vintage Kenner packaging really looks fantastic, even four decades down the line.

The Coolest of Classic TV Intros

American TV shows have had some really awesome opening sequences throughout the decades, but the Six Million Dollar Man intro is still one of my personal favorites.  The show may have aged somewhat over the years, but this opener is still engaging, excited, really cool and surprisingly effective in a whole lot of ways.

And check out this really interesting Korean version of the Six Million Dollar Man intro.  Though perhaps a bit camp (with that silly theme song in the background), it provides an interesting, alternate way of setting up the framework of the story of "Steve Austin, astronaut."

Click here!

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