Phil Hester Rebuilds BIONIC MAN, Makes Him Stronger

They can rebuild him, Phil Hester and Dynamite have the technology. They can make him faster, stronger.

That's right, the Bionic Man is back, this time in comic book form. Taking a page from the way they handled the return of another classic character, Green Hornet, Dynamite is starting off this new series with an unfilmed script by filmmaker Kevin Smith. Scripting for the comic, however, is once again Phil Hester. Hester tells us about his love for The Six Million Dollar Man, working from Smith's original ideas, and how this book is a 21st century project. 

 

Newsarama: Phil, you're tackling another licensed property with Bionic Man, which begs the inevitable question: how big of a fan are you of the original property? Did you watch The Six Million Dollar Man as a kid?

Phil Hester: Of course. You young whippersnappers don't understand what it was like to be a nerd back then. Star Wars may have been the dawn of a new era of nerd culture, but even after it came out, comic book/sci-fi themed TV shows and movies were like oases in the desert. We were happy to get lame Dr. Strange TV movies back then. So, yes – I consumed every even remotely comic book-like mass media I could get ahold of, and The Six Million Dollar Man was at the head of the pack.

I kind of remember his toys being crazy expensive back in the day, and that I had to make do with the relatively cheaper G.I. Joe derived knock-off The Atomic Man. My rich neighbor had Col. Steve Austin and ALL the play sets. That guy's probably a senator or something now.

Nrama: Of course, this is also a reunion of the Dynamite Green Hornet team, and you're once again adapting an unproduced Kevin Smith screenplay. Is your approach this time around any different than with Green Hornet, or is the process mostly the same? 

 

Hester: Almost completely the same. We kick the screenplay back and forth until we have it in distinct, issue-sized chapters. I adapt the screenplay, change a few things here and there, Jonathan Lau draws it, then Kevin does a final dialogue pass, and Simon Bowland tries to make all the word balloons fit.

Although the story itself is largely more serious and intense than the Green Hornet book, it will have a similar flavor in terms of style and look.

Nrama: And we've got Jonathan Lau back on art duties — what new dynamic (pun not intended, honest) is he bringing to the series?  

 

Hester: As I've said before, Jonathan has this incredible gift for action. He can depict speed and impact unlike any other American or manga artists. As you can imagine, that comes in very handy when you have a character capable of Steve Austin's bionic feats. Also, he finds a way to make seven or eight panel pages breathe; they never feel crowded. I don't know how we keep him down on the farm.

Nrama: Alex Ross is the final piece of the puzzle. How important is having such an iconic artist on covers?

Hester: Oh, Lord, it's more than that. Alex has been involved from the very earliest stages of the book. He designed the look of the characters as well as the updated bionic systems that will augment Steve Austin. He's second only to Kevin in the existence of the book. I always say, the best part of this gig is kicking out character ideas then seeing Alex's designs in my inbox the next day. Miraculous stuff.

Nrama: Clearly, the Green Hornet series brought plenty of twists to the mythos. What's new and different with Steve Austin in Bionic Man? 

 

Hester: It's definitely a 21st century project. I think, at least in my mind, the character is so firmly a product of the seventies that updating his motives, abilities, and mission for modern readers was paramount.

I think the most important update comes in terms of what a comic book is capable of depicting over what a television show with a limited special effects budget could. We're in the realm of super heroes here, and, frankly, knocking a door off its hinges or jumping to the top of a two story building doesn't cut it here. We need some spectacular action to make the grade in the world of comics, and thankfully Kevin's script and Jonathan's art provide that. We'll see Austin do things we always sort of wished he'd do in the show, including a wide screen battle with a cyborg on par with himself. We're pulling out all the stops.

Nrama: I'll leave you with this — a lot of people reading this were probably born after The Six Million Dollar Man went off the air, and though it was obviously popular, it's not necessarily a show that still has a huge afterlife in syndication and all that. So for fans who may be no more familiar with the concept beyond Seth Rogen busting Steve Carell's balls for owning an Oscar Goldman toy in The 40-Year-Old Virgin: why should they check out Bionic Man?

Hester: In this day and age the line between man and machine is blurring like never before. I mean, most of us walk around with a cell phone grafted to our heads. Soldiers come back from the middle east with prosthetics that would have blown our minds when the original show came out. I think creating a hero that's a logical product of modern medical and military science is pretty relevant. Steve Austin is not fantasy, but plausible science fiction.

Putting all that aside, it's simply a good comic book. Kevin knows how to get inside characters' heads and live out the results of their choices. Jonathan knows how to draw the hell out of a bionic fight scene. Alex knows how to create covers that feel like classic icons the second they're completed. And I know how to hang on to the caboose of a gravy train, baby!

Bottom line: The book will feel unique and you will be entertained. Buy it and see! 

Bionic Man #1 ships from Dynamite Entertainment August 2011!

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