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Friday in the bionics (and other) labs

I spend a fair amount of time here reminiscing about 70’s super-people. But in a discussion the other day about NBC’s new revival of The Bionic Woman, it occurred to me that my favorite 70’s superheroes weren’t from comics at all. They were from television.

Although they didn’t actually start on TV either — they had their beginnings with a series of novels from a noted military and aviation historian.

Despite the cover, this is NOT Lee Majors. This is hardcore Tom Clancy military-industrial-porn SF.

Martin Caidin already had an enormous body of work in print, and even some Hollywood success with his NASA space-suspense adventure Marooned, when he wrote his original Steve Austin novel, Cyborg, in 1972.

The book was very tough and cool and plausible… sort of like a cross between Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton in its tone, the story of test pilot crash victim Steve Austin being rebuilt with cybernetic bionics was a compelling read from start to finish. Caidin created Steve Austin as a Yeager-esque USAF lifer, bitter about his accident but slowly coming to terms with his new status as government secret agent, and the resultant uneasy relationships that created with everyone around him.

It was adapted as a made-for-TV movie in 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man, with Lee Majors starring as the somewhat embittered Steve Austin, and Darren McGavin as his ruthlessly manipulative government boss Oliver Spencer. Martin Balsam had a nice turn as Dr. Rudy Wells. The structure was essentially the same three acts as Caidin’s novel — crash, rebuilding, first outing as bionic superhero in the Middle East desert– but it cast Steve’s superiors as much more sinister, and the desert mission turns out to be ultimately pointless. This is a bit jarring, and was probably an outgrowth of Hollywood’s Vietnam-era distrust of all things military. (Caidin’s Austin was a smart aleck who would occasionally lip off to his superiors, but he was, on the whole, a good soldier who respected military protocol.)

This book was REALLY GODDAMN HARD to find when I was a youngster.

Caidin followed it up with three more novels: Operation Nuke, High Crystal, and Cyborg IV. They are also very tough, plausible, military action thrillers with a slight overlay of Crichton-esque SF.

The. WEIRDEST. Steve Austin book, ever.

But by the time the fourth one had come out, Steve Austin was already a television and merchandising success.

Turns out the Cyborg TV-movie did well enough for ABC to take it as a series. Originally ABC envisioned Steve Austin as being one-third of a rotating series of 90-minute TV-movie adventures, similar to what NBC was doing with its “NBC Mystery Movie” lineup rotating Columbo, McMillan & Wife, and McCloud. There were two Steve Austin movies made after the Cyborg pilot, “Wine, Women and War” and “The Solid Gold Kidnapping,” and though there were hints of the good times to come, these two efforts seemed a bit too restrained and confused; they are trying way too hard to NOT look like science fiction or superheroics. The resultant split between sort of James Bond camp and sort of 70’s cop-show manages to be mostly just a mess. Plus they are saddled with quite possibly the worst opening-credits sequence ever assembled, with a horrible song by Dusty Springfield playing over a really wonky montage of scenes supposedly from Steve’s point of view. (There’s a blinking-eye oval frame to really hammer it home.)

Steve Austin as I (and most people) remember him showed up a few weeks later. The Six Million Dollar Man was retooled and reimagined as a weekly one-hour drama on Friday nights. With a MUCH better opening that I think is still imprinted in the American consciousness: “We have the technology. We can make him better than he was before. Better. Stronger… faster.”

This was my guy.

And, incidentally, a helluva lot cooler. The first of these one-hour episodes, “Population Zero,” was my first encounter with Steve Austin and it blew my twelve-year-old self right out of the chair.

You have to understand, the television climate was very different in 1974. In particular, the hostility towards SF and superheroics was an almost palpable thing. The only real comic-book successes on television up until then had been the George Reeves Superman and the Adam West Batman, neither of which were known for their seriousness of approach. Star Trek was gone. Twilight Zone was gone. Even the Irwin Allen crap like Land of the Giants was gone. And none of them were regarded as ‘successful’ in Hollywood terms. Science fiction and fantasy was generally seen as a losing proposition on television. Anything that had even a whiff of comic-book superheroics about it was dismissed as ridiculous, and anyone actually daring to try a superhero series generally went for the big laffs.

This show WAS often hilarious, but back then I was too annoyed to see it.

Yet, at the same time, the superhero comics themselves were doing more amazing stuff than they ever had before. O’Neil and Adams on Batman and Green Lantern, Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter, Englehart-Brunner Dr. Strange, all of that stuff was blowing the doors off what people had thought was possible with traditional superheroes. The fundamental disconnect between what we fans thought of as ‘superheroes’ and what most people thought of as ‘superheroes’ had never been wider.

So as I watched that first hour, my jaw just dropped. It was a revelation. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, here is a brief recap from a fan site:

“When a motorcycle cop discovers the twenty-three inhabitants of the small town of Norris lying in a death-like state, Steve Austin is called in to investigate. Donning a spacesuit, Steve enters the town limits, but is astonished to see the supposedly dead townsfolk suddenly come alive before his eyes. Shortly after, Oscar Goldman is contacted by Doctor Stanley Bacon, a bitter scientist who was dismissed from his work for the government due to unethical practices. Now determined to gain his revenge, Bacon demands the sum of $10 million – otherwise he will use his deadly sonic device to attack another town, only this time, he vows to kill every one of the inhabitants… “

Basically, it was The Andromeda Strain, but instead of a disease caused by an alien crystalline spore, the town was in trouble because of a pissed-off scientist and his sonic death ray. Now, let’s own up — a mad scientist is way more fun to take down than a bunch of meteorite spores, especially if he’s got a death ray. (I strongly suspect that it was ABC insisting that the town not actually die but just be in a coma… that felt like a second-draft fix.) Because everything else was just BADASS. The climax of the episode, with Steve Austin improvising an acetylene torch and breaking out of Dr. Bacon’s deep-freeze locker (Bacon knew that bionics don’t work in extreme cold) struggling to recover in time to race to the mobile-death-ray unit, and finally killing Bacon and his crew by ripping a steel-and-concrete post out of the ground and hurling it THROUGH Bacon’s van like a javelin, causing the whole thing to explode… that was awesome.

Yeah. THIS was the stuff. This was what superheroes looked like. Except for a costume, Steve WAS a superhero. He had powers, a secret identity, the whole ball of wax. He even had supervillains: Evil Dr. Dolenz, maker of killer androids (not to be confused with evil Dr. Franklin, maker of killer fembots.) Unstable race-car driver Barney Miller, the seven million dollar man. And of course, the alien spy enclave in the Cascades and their bionic Bigfoot.

He's big, he's bad, and he's BIONIC, baby.

These and many more recurring villains built the same kind of mythology and continuity that you saw from Marvel comics. It really was superheroics for television.

Bigfoot's chasing me!

I was instantly a fan and had soon sought out all the Caidin books.

But Caidin was far from the only one shaping the character of the bionic superman and his world. The architect of a great many of the aspects of the Steve Austin TV mythology was actually a man by the name of Kenneth Johnson. He created many of Steve Austin’s recurring adversaries and supporting characters, as well as the love of his life.

This show was actually quite a bit better than Steve's, if I am brutally honest.
Johnson actually can be credited with saving the show at one point. The script that kicked Steve Austin up into the ratings stratosphere was Johnson’s two-part “The Bionic Woman.” He solved a number of the show’s ongoing problems with that one episode and set the tone for years afterward.

Ironically, the difficulty that The Six Million Dollar Man ran into week after week was money. The kids like me wanted to see Steve Austin doing super stuff, but a weekly show in 1975 couldn’t really deliver the goods in those pre-CGI days. We were resigned to the slow-motion sequences when Steve was allegedly running at 60 miles an hour, but the lifting and jumping and breaking things were starting to look pretty damn cheap with all the budgetary cheats producers were forced to use. That left the show to be carried by the scripts — standard adventure plots, then, not a lot different than other cop shows — and the actors.

And that was a bad place to be. To be honest, Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman was pretty stiff; but he looked like he was emoting hysterically next to Lee Majors. Majors’ Steve Austin had two expressions — deadpan, and deadpan with a raised eyebrow. In fairness, the scripts weren’t very emotional but for God’s sake, would it kill Austin to crack a smile once in a while?

So the show was desperate for people stories, something with a little more depth of feeling than the arms-dealer-of-the-week. The producers asked Johnson to come up with a story that would emphasize Steve Austin’s emotional life (one suspects that they really wanted him to demonstrate that such a thing was even possible) and Johnson delivered in spades.

Kenneth Johnson introduced tennis pro Jaime Sommers, an old flame of Steve Austin. On a visit to his parents in Steve’s old hometown of Ojai, Steve runs into his childhood sweetie, Jaime. Steve and Jaime rekindle their relationship, but then a skydiving accident leaves Jaime as destroyed physically as Steve had been in his crash. She loses an arm, both legs, and an eardrum is punctured. Steve begs his O.S.I. boss Oscar Goldman for help, and so Doctor Rudy Wells performs another bionic replacement operation. However, just as Steve and Jaime are making plans to get married, Jaime’s body rejects her cybernetics and she dies tragically. I assure you there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Looking back it really was a radical departure. We finally got to see Steve Austin as a regular guy, with parents and a home and a life. This was the episode when the show finally shucked off the whole faux-James Bond vibe once and for all. Steve Austin wasn’t a secret-agent type. He was a soldier, serving his country: one of Our Boys. In a weird way Johnson dragged the character back to his military-service Air Force roots and then upped the ante by making him a small-town hero coming home for a visit while he’s on leave. One could easily imagine Steve’s mother sending cookies to Steve care of the OSI, and a fruitcake for the whole staff at Christmas.

Best of all, the script gave us Jaime Sommers, a delightful young lady played by an actress who really knew what the hell she was doing. Lindsay Wagner raised Lee Majors’ game just by being in the frame with him. Jaime was so sure Steve Austin was a great guy that we all believed it too. Even the unfortunate decision to have Lee Majors sing a ballad over the titles couldn’t kill the new energy and good feeling Lindsay Wagner brought to the episode.

It was a smash. And it saved the show. Steve Austin became a top ten hit and a licensing juggernaut.

Hard to believe, but I assure you Steve Austin merchandising was huge back then.

I actually am very fond of many of the licensed novels that spun out of the show’s new success. Michael Jahn, who has gone on to be a well-regarded mystery novelist, did a bunch of nice work and added a lot of Caidin-esque touches to the ones he did.

Truthfully? Jahn's books were better than Caidin's, more fun.

They brought Lindsay Wagner back as Jaime to open the following season (showing that the series had absorbed yet another tenet of comic-book superheroes, the idea of death being something you can get better from) and soon The Bionic Woman had its own place on the schedule, complete with the occasional Marvel-style crossover event with its parent show.

After that, the new school of superhero took off. Suddenly we started to see pilots for shows like Exo-Man, a made-for-TV version of Iron Man in everything but name…

I am ASTONISHED I was able to find this picture.

And many of us have mildly fond memories of Patrick Duffy as The Man From Atlantis.

It shames me how bad I want this movie on DVD.

At least the pilot. The show was pretty awful. Though the Marvel comic had the dubious distinction of being better than the show it was spun out of, it seemed ridiculous for Marvel to even publish it when they already had Namor the Sub-Mariner.

From comics to TV and back again.

Oddly, the one place none of these new characters did well was in comics; any character who got a title out of this little TV-hero boom lasted less than a year. Even Steve Austin couldn’t carry a comics version into double digits as either a magazine or a standard-format book, despite some really amazing artwork from Neal Adams and the gang at Continuity Studios.

The trouble with bionics in comics is that they're not terribly visual... so Steve was always getting torn up.

ABC and CBS were finally willing to go to the source and try adapting real superhero comics, too. ABC took a swing at Wonder Woman, first with a horribly wrong-headed Cathy Lee Crosby ‘update’ in the spirit of Steve and Jaime:

Okay, this was a little TOO serious.

Then with a charming version starring Lynda Carter, now enjoying a second life on DVD. Although, God help me, if I ever saw the Crosby version at a convention I’d probably snap it up. I’m a big nerd that way.

MUCH better.

Stan Lee had just moved out to Hollywood, and he was quick to jump on board. Soon he’d cut a deal with Universal to license several of the Marvel characters to television. Spider-Man, Captain America, and Dr. Strange all got TV-movie pilots, and Spider-Man even had a brief, stuttering tenure as a mid-season replacement series. But the real success of that deal was the incredible Hulk.

Screw the comics purists. This is my favorite Hulk.

Not surprisingly, the success of that effort came from the guy that saved Steve Austin by giving him Jaime Sommers: Kenneth Johnson. For a classically-trained Carnegie grad, Johnson’s got great instincts for making silly pulp super-hero stuff work. Get the costumes out of the equation, give the characters an emotional life, get real actors who can deliver. I have been watching a number of these old shows recently and I am awed at how well they all still work: Bill Bixby as David Banner in the Hulk pilot is amazing.

There’s a DVD containing that pilot and the episode “Married” and I recommend that to you a million times more than the Ang Lee version. You get a great bonus with those — it’s not widely acknowledged, but Kenneth Johnson does absolutely the BEST DVD commentary in the world. His stories of making the original Hulk show are fascinating.

I might as well own up to it. I’m a big fan of Kenneth Johnson. I loved the original V and the television version of Alien Nation. In fact I think I’m the only guy that bought those comics, based solely on my affection for the television shows they sprang from.

For whatever reason, Kenneth Johnson's work never quite seems to translate to comics.

This idea never worked in comics either.

Johnson fans — I know I’m not the only one out here –should check out his website. Certainly I was very excited to discover this —

I should be embarrassed about being so excited about this. But I really am.

Currently in development at Warner Brothers, apparently. Marc Singer had said something to Julie and I about it when we met him at a signing in San Diego a couple of years back, but we’d given up hope.

I admit I am looking forward to a V revival, and the new Bionic Woman. I guess Johnson’s not involved with it, which is a pity; though I hope they at least are giving him some money.

It looks really rather promising. It's not bionic without the jogging suit. At least NBC got that much right.

Certainly these pre-release photos are very promising.

I'm starting to get really amped for this after digging up these pictures.

But you know what my dream revival project would be? The League of Extraordinary Kenneth Johnson Gentlemen. Jaime Sommers, anxious to avenge the death of her husband Steve Austin, recruits Buck Francisco, David Banner, and fembot architect Dr. Franklin to assist her in throwing the Visitors the hell off our planet forever. Their first mission would be a journey to the Cascades, to find an abandoned alien installation in hopes of reconstructing the superstrong android Bigfoot… and unbeknownst to them, they are being pursued by reporter Jack McGee, who’s cut his own deal with the Visitors in hopes of getting the goods on the Hulk once and for all…

Now THAT would rock.

See you next week.

17 Comments

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 26, 2007 at 12:07 am

Hey Greg, have you checked out ‘Heat Vision And Jack’?

It’s a pilot for a show that never happned written by the chap who used to write the comic ‘Scud: The Disposable Assassin’, and it’s directed by Ben Stiller, and stars Jack Black as an astronaut who was exposed to rays that cooked his brain, and now he gets smarter when exposed to the sun, and also stars Owen Wilson as his talking bike.
It’s a great send up of the old Hulk and Six Million Dollar Man shows, but it was made before any of the stars were famous.
They put it up on YouTube where it became a hit, and now there’s a movie being planned.

Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lWgXDOAJ5s

It’s all good fun, and the tone is almost perfect. The credit sequence is spot on and hilarious.

If you haven’t seen it, I definetly reccomend giving it a look.

Last I heard, Steve Austin and the Bigfoot were an item.

“Awwww…you coulda told me sasquatch was a dude!”

“Oh, come on, Brock…sasquatch doesn’t have anything you’ve never seen before…”

“Sasquatch IS something I’ve never seen before!!”

…I’ll never look at The Six Million Dollar Man the same way again.

That Jack Black thing really is brilliant; clearly I’m not the only one those shows imprinted on back then. Thanks for pointing it out, Funky!

Love the Kenneth Johnson proposed crossover you suggest, except for the part about Steve Austin being dead. That would be wack.

I’ve been trying to convince people for years that The Six Million Dollar Man had a cheesy, sappy theme song when it premiered. Everyone only remembers the “Better… stronger… faster” opening.

Now, at long last, I can prove I didn’t imagine that dreadful bit of musical business!

Love the Kenneth Johnson proposed crossover you suggest, except for the part about Steve Austin being dead. That would be wack.

You know, what’s making me nuts is I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep toying with the idea and thinking of refinements for it. What if Shalon’s people, you know, Stefanie Powers and the Bigfoot bunch — what if THEIR planet was the one that Faye Grant and the resistance signaled at the end of the first V miniseries? What if the mountain hideaway was actually established as some sort of spy station as part of an ongoing war, a sort of beachhead Earth thing? Maybe BOTH sides need this planet for something or other….

What if the Tenctonese slave ship was on its way to the Visitors’ homeworld when it crashed and that was the trigger event that actually brought Diana and the lizard people to this star system to begin with? That would make the Tenctonese refugees more dangerous to the Visitors than anyone else on earth, probably, because they would know more about them…having John’s reptile face revealed on national TV, as the resistance did in the second miniseries, would have doubtless lit a fire among the Tenctonese LA refugees — there would have been panic, rioting, when they realized the benevolent Visitors were actually the SAME slave masters they were escaping from…

…and so on. It’s the classic definition of what Peter David called a Useless Story, because you can’t ever do anything with it but you can’t stop playing around with ideas for it either. I have this whole timeline worked out in my head now of how events would have had to play out on Earth-KJ in order for everything to come together — THIS was when OSI first started experimenting with bionics, which means THIS has to be when David Banner was working on gamma research with Elaina Marks and Franklin was first putting together his fembot enclave and building his ‘son,’ which would make THIS when the Tenctonese ship crashed, and about seven years after that would have to be when the Visitors arrived. It’s like the Wold Newton game. I can’t help myself.

As for Steve being gone, I had two reasons — one dramatic, one nerdy. The dramatic one was wanting a tragic motivation for Jaime (similar to Mina Harker’s in the original LOEG; to properly echo Moore’s original, the League should all be damaged goods, seeking redemption) and it seemed reasonable that a military man would have been one of the first wave of casualties. Same thinking was behind leaving out Matt Sykes and Sam Francisco.

The nerdy reason was in trying to restrict it to Kenneth Johnson originals as much as I could. Of course the Hulk screws that, but really Johnson’s David Banner is miles away from the comics’ Bruce Banner.

Oh well. It’s all just daydreaming and goofing off anyway.

WOW! Do I have a few comments here.

First, SIX MIL, as Lee Majors himself abbreviated it, did not rotate with anything. It was the only recurring thing in what was called THE ABC SUSPENSE MOVIE, which had been developed as CRIME, but censors objected. Several of the features here WERE caper stories, but the retitling opened it up to other things too, such as HEAT WAVE, with Ben Murphy and Bonnie Bedalia as an expectant couple trying to get away from the oppressive titular situation.

Second, I have always felt that the introduction of “The Bionic Woman” was the bookmark for the end of the worthwhile era of SIX MIL. When it would come in syndicated reruns, I generally quit watching. Universal hit a big snag here, by the way. This two-parter was the last work Lindsay Wagner did under her contract with the studio, which was allowed to expire as soon as filming wrapped. As you say, Greg, the episode hit big, and they had to negotiate an entirely new deal with Wagner to bring Jaime back. She was well–paid from the outset. She also won an Emmy for the series, incidentally, putting the lie to the oft–made statement by STARLOG, who REALLY should have known better, that Mariette Hartley’s win for the HULK ep. “Married” was the first non–technical Emmy to a SF program (to say nothing of Agnes Moorehead’s win for her guest shot on THE WILD WILD WEST in the 60s!). Of course, in 1978, the same magazine published an interview with Veronica Cartwright conducted on the set of the first INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS remake about her experiences as a child actress on LOST IN SPACE, which actually featured HER SISTER ANGELA, NOT VERONICA! I can only hope that Veronica thought it was a funny joke not to tell the reporter that he had the wrong Cartwright, but somebody in the editorial offices should have caught it. They never published anything in their letter column pointing it out, and it is impossible to believe that they didn’t receive anything.

Third, it may be even weirder than you think that Marvel put out a MAN FROM ATLANTIS comic. That Marvel/Universal/CBS deal that gave us the late 70s HULK, SPIDER–MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA and DR. STRANGE TV versions involved at least two other characters who didn’t get into production. As Brian Cronin covered in an early URBAN LEGENDS entry, HUMAN TORCH was one. Another was, depending on the source, either the then recently created SPIDER–WOMAN or SUB–MARINER. Reports of the latter claim that it was dropped because already on the air was…wait for it…MAN FROM ATLANTIS!

Finally, as for the new BIONIC WOMAN series, since Kenneth Johnson had a “Created by…” credit on the original (literally on-screen, I mean), I’m certain he has to get some money here.

The nerdy reason was in trying to restrict it to Kenneth Johnson originals as much as I could.

Ahhhh, that makes sense. I get it now. Good point.

I had actually meant to mention Lindsay Wagner’s Emmy AND Mariette Hartley’s, but I got sidetracked. But this is as good a place as any to mention that I really thought Ms. Wagner hit it out of the park in the episode she won for. It was “Deadly Ringer,” the two-parter with the evil double Lisa Galloway being altered with plastic surgery and then amped up with ‘adrenalazine’ to simulate cyborg-level strength so she could be substituted for Jaime…. only Lisa starts to assimilate so well into Jaime’s life that she decides to screw her mission and just BE Jaime Sommers. At the same time, unbeknownst to Lisa, the adrenalazine is burning her out….

Lindsay Wagner played both parts and she really did the hell of a job, especially in part two when Lisa is starting to unravel. It is one of my favorite ‘evil twin’ iterations ever. I occasionally wonder if Joss Whedon and the Buffy crew were influenced by it when they did their Buffy/Faith switch in the fourth season and Faith starts to think being Buffy is worth it in the second part of THAT episode.

Wagner won for the season as a whole, although that may well be the episode she submitted as an example of her work thereon (that’s how the competition works; however, I freely concede that the academy has experimented with letting series actors be nominated expressly for an individual episode, just not at that time). And I felt that she did very little to distinguish between the two women other than make the double’s real voice a Southern accent, which I saw as an obvious crutch. Many industry observers felt that Wagner winning over Sada Thompson of the heavy drama FAMILY was absurd. As far as the imposter wanting to take over permanently is concerned, THE AVENGERS did it first, with the impersonations of Steed and Mrs. Peel accomplished with a mind swap machine rather than by creating doubles.

It also should have been mentioned (by me first time around, too) that ABC cancelled WOMAN, but NBC picked it up, resulting in Richard Anderson playing Oscar Goldman regularly on two different networks simultaneously. BTW, are you certain that Darren McGavin’s character in the SIX MIL TV-movie was Oliver Spencer, and not Oscar Goldman? I thought he was (you admit that Martin Balsam plays Dr. Rudy Wells, the same character that first Alan Oppenheimer and then Martin E. Brooks did in the series), and he certainly was O.G. in Caidin’s novel where it all started.

Hey,

Thanks for those nice words about Steve Austin, Martin Caidin, and me. Those novelizations were my first published fiction, they launched my career, and 50 books later I still have a fond spot in my heart for them. Too bad when Universal asked me to choose between writing the books on “The Bionic Woman” or on “Switch” (a con-man series starring Eddie Albert and Robert Wagner), I chose the latter. I guess wrong that “Switch” would last, and I also was afraid that trying to keep track of male AND female bionic body parts would put me back in therapy.

Anyway, thanks!

Let me know if you trip over “Armada,” a SF novel I published in 1980. Somebody is trying to develop it as a movie.

Mike Jahn

http://www.myspace.com/michael_jahn

Well, *I* loved the “Switch” books, Mr. Jahn. If it makes you feel better, I bought them on the strength of your name; by then I knew you were “the guy that wrote the GOOD Steve Austin novelizations.” I was especially impressed with the way you wove the two DC Fontana scripts together in the fifth Six Million Dollar Man book. I still own and enjoy all of those licensed books, even the one adapting David McCallum’s version of The Invisible Man.

Everyone else reading this, you should check out Mr. Jahn’s other novels, especially the Bill Donovan mysteries, which are great fun.

Six Million Dollar Man is one of those things I love, even if I can barely remember more than having the action figure. I did read Cyborg 4 (or was it 5?) repeatedly from the library as a kid: Steve Austin hardwired piloting a space plane? Freaking awesome.

Speaking of the novelization of the pilot for the David McCallum/Invisible Man show, there’s a great bit in it: When Daniel Weston (the McCallum character) goes to a friend to make the masks, etc., to make him seem visible, the guy says he was involved in fixing up an ex–astronaut/test pilot after a plane crash left him really messed up. Said it was all “hush–hush.” Right, Greg?

Re the death of Steve Austin…Don’t worry about it. As you pointed out people in these stories DO comeback-like Jaime! i’m sure the real steve Austin.will break out of his prison and return to Jaime in the third act of your interesting scenario.

I just found this thread. and I have to mention this: How could you write so longingly about Steve’s recurring villains and NOT mention the Probe!

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