The Six Million Dollar Man returns in 2019 - but he hasn't been revamped, rebooted, or upgraded. This is Steve Austin in all his 1970s Lee Majors-looking glory.
Writer Christopher Hastings and artist David Hahn return to the show and character's roots in a new Six Million Dollar Man limited series debuting March 6 from Dynamite Entertainment. In this, Austin is called to Japan to stop a madman with a missile, but must adapt when things start off with his cybernetic leg getting chopped off.
Hastings and Hahn spoke with Newsarama about this modern look at the 1970s cybernetic hero, what he's up against, and how they balanced nostalgia with modern sensibilities.
Newsarama: Christopher, what makes the Six Million Dollar Man cool in 2019?
David Hahn: In our case, it's nostalgia, and not a modern take on the character. So there won't be any holographic interfaces or blue glowing tubes in our Steve Austin!
Christopher Hastings: As a writer, I like limitations set out front on the story I'm telling. Superheroes are much more advanced in their powers than they used to be. Much of the technology in our every day life is leaps beyond what a lot of older science fiction predicted. Iron Man of today is far more technically powerful than Steve Austin ever was.
So, we can either update Steve to be a crazy new cyborg beyond all human imagination, or we can stick with his original time period, lean into his limitations, and see what that reveals about his actual character, his personality, his drive. When Steve's cyborg body gets damaged, when he is forced to get creative, that's when this gets interesting.
Nrama: This story is set in the 1970s, but you're doing this for a 2019 audience - how are you approaching it? Is it a period piece, some nostalgia, what?
Hahn: Nothing. I am drawing it with my current skills and sensibilities, so I am not drawing it to look like a comic from 1975, or to look particularly modern either- it'll just be me drawing the way I do.
Hastings: Like I said, I'm really interested in using limited technology to force the characters to be more creative in how they use them, and also see how they can be a hindrance too. We actually originally pitched a version of Six Million Dollar Man set even earlier than his TV debut, in the 1960s, focused on subterfuge in the space race and even more limited cyborg tech. The licensor didn't want that, but we were able to keep a lot of the Right Stuff astronaut vibe with Steve.
Nrama: In this, Steve goes to Japan - which is interesting given the technological advances in that country in the 1970s, in some cases surpassing the United States. Are you delving into that and all?
Hastings: Just a little bit. The villain in the background of all of this is a consumer electronics baron, but it's less about the tech and more about the money allowing him to rise to the point where he can safely develop a long range missile without interference. But we didn't want to do a cyborg vs. cyborg kind of thing for this, so the actual fighting is Steve versus swords and explosions.
Nrama: So who is Steve Austin to you?
Hastings: One of my favorite things about a lot of legacy characters is that they can shine through a variety of different interpretations. 'Batman 1966' is different than 1989 is different than 2008 etc, but they all work because they share a core.
To that end, I think the biggest noticeable change in our series is we've given Steve a bit of an attitude adjustment from his previous incarnations. He's a lot more cheerful, he's not reluctant, he's got a sense of humor. He's still a highly resourceful agent, driven and committed.
He's creative with his powers (and without). Also his eye shoots lasers, which I believe is something he never did in the show, just the comics.
Hahn: He definitely falls into the "big Boy Scout" classification, but I like to think he has a hidden jaded side.
Nrama: David, how did you go about figuring out how to draw him - in design, but also in movements and mannerisms?
Hahn: As far as his look, Editor Nate Cosby and I wanted him to look Lee Majors-ish, but not a spot on likeness, as oddly enough, spot on likenesses tend to take a reader out of the story, instead of it being a more immersive adventure. We want readers to be following the story of Steve Austin the character, and not think of it as a comic of Steve Austin from the TV show.
Nrama: So what brings Steve Austin to Japan?
Hastings: In this relaunch, this is Steve's first mission. A test drive for this new breed of super spy. All he has to do is find evidence of a long range missile on an electronics mogul private island. It's supposed to be a simple recon mission that turns into an odyssey to escape with his life and stop a broader assassination plot.
Nrama: Tell us about Niko Abe.
Hastings: Agent Niko Abe is a by the book, proper secret agent. She's the one who did all the legwork on discovering this missile plan, and when she's paired up with Steve, she doesn't immediately understand why she's babysitting this junior agent.
We wanted to give the book a buddy copy dynamic, someone for Steve to banter against. We also wanted a normal person's viewpoint on what it might be like to encounter this cyborg for the first time.
Nrama: What are they up against?
Hastings: Well, there's a lot of scary masked swordsmen hunting Steve across the island. And the main bad guy himself is a man who should have died a long time ago, but his resources allow from strange experiments that keep him alive. Kind of similar to Steve, but from a more mutated angle.
Nrama: Taking on this book is a big challenge - it's a storied franchise, but hasn't had any new super memorable stories recently. How are you approaching this to work for old fans and potential new ones?
Hahn: This is a question more suited to our writer, but I can tell you this: as far as the art is concerned, I am not trying to specifically play to the fans either old or new. I'm just trying do my take on the character as best I can. Considering I have fond childhood memories of the TV series, I'm just channeling those feelings into the art. It's a good character and we have a good story for him here, so I think that alone will please fans old and new.
Hastings: For the old fans, it's still the same time period, Steve's origin is intact, and the powers are the same. Steve might joke, but he puts his body through hell, uses his powers in smart ways, and is as determined as you've ever seen him.
For the new fans, we've got Niko as the viewpoint character, Steve's actually enjoying himself as a cyborg super spy, and in general, I think the adventure is just pure comic book fun. It's the version of the show I'd want to watch on TV now.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for this title?
Hahn: To meet my deadlines. After that, I am hoping it opens up more opportunities for more Six Million Dollar Man titles !
Hastings: I just want a fun adventure title. Steve's cyborg parts help situations as much as their malfunction harms them. I constantly end issues with Steve in a situation I'm not sure how I'll get him out. Niko and Steve have a really fun chemistry.
The art is clean, dynamic and just a pleasure to look at. We want Six Million Dollar Man to be a breath of fresh air, and I think we've got it.