Thursday, January 6, 2011

The only Six Million Dollar Man comic book I ever owned!

Here's the cover, courtesy of Comic Vine. The Six Million Dollar Man #5, published by Charlton Comics Group. You just couldn't find these in my hometown. And while all the boys at my elementary school were hardcore fans of Col. Steve Austin and his various cyborgian body parts, we never really warmed up to his four-color adventures. That was probably at least partially due to our prejudice against Charlton's magazines, which were considered vastly inferior to those from DC, Marvel and even Gold Key.

The cover art is pretty dynamic, it does give away a large portion of the composition to some generic motorcycle guy with little or no charisma-- hunting rifle notwithstanding-- while foolishly relegating the star of the book to the lower left hand corner where he suffers the further indignity of having his torso stamped over with a UPC code. Even the cycle jockey in the background can't believe his eyes! Far freakin' out! The Bionic Man should be the central design element on the cover of his own title, man! Even if he did just clobber me and trash my bike!

Charlton's cover typography was never all that attractive, nor was their use of conjoined circles in kind of a full-bleed configuration. They make a visual irritation up there, kind of a tangent you'd generally want to avoid. Frankly, it makes the book look cheap compared to the big publishers. Charlton books always looked sheepish in the spinner racks, as if they knew they couldn't quite cut the mustard alongside Batman, Superman, The Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four.

I'm sure Sgt. Rock told them to "Buck up, mister. It's a long war and the fella in the foxhole next to you needs to know he can count on you." But as a longtime veteran of the war for readership-- a vicious, bloody struggle of attrition that continues to this day-- Rock knew the score. Charlton just wasn't going to make it. Sooner or later, it would break under the strain and either do something foolish like bolt during an artillery barrage and get itself killed or else just start sobbing and wetting its pants and have to be evacuated to the aid station for combat fatigue. Poor Charlton. They never should've drafted it into this man's comic book army.

What the hell am I talking about? Oh yeah, The Six Million Dollar Man #5. The interior art by Jack Sparling was pretty sweet and I remember especially admiring how he drew these incredibly lush eyelashes on the female characters. Col. Austin resembled Lee Majors, which was a plus. The plot had something to do with invisibility and a Las Vegas showgirl and there were a few moments of wry humor but, overall, it just didn't have that much of an impact on me as a kid. It remained just an oddity in my collection, along with those freaky Spire Archie comics the youth minister at our church gave me when I had my tonsils out.

I never saw another issue of Charlton's The Six Million Dollar Man after this one-- and despite its being labeled #5, I felt pretty sure at the time it had to be a one-off thing and any indication otherwise was some kind of con job or mail fraud or something. Then again, I never looked all that hard for this book. I was too busy reading Sgt. Rock.

But after all this time, I'd love to snag another copy of The Six Million Dollar Man #5 and see if the mental images I'm experiencing while writing this bear any relationship whatsoever to what's really inside its pages. I'm usually so wrong about these things!

No comments: