There are fans of both bionic series who enjoy watching the episodes over and over again. There are those who swear by the comic books, be they the Charlton Comics, the strips in Look-In Magazine, or the recent Dynamite Comics. There are other fans who create all new adventures through picture stories based on the "action figures" of the 70s.
But there is one aspect of bionic fandom I feel doesn't get enough love or respect from the fans - the novels and novelizations. And there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, there is the original novel itself. Cyborg was written by Martin Caidin and was first published in 1972. If you read the basic story of Steve Austin in this book and view the pilot, it is pretty much the same. But there are some differences. Steve Austin in the book is a much colder man who is willing to kill when needed. He is equipped with more gizmos than in the TV show. (A limit of television budgets and what they were able show.) Steve's bionic leg features a compartment that allowed him to carry a weapon or an underwater breathing apparatus. He has a metal plate in his skull, which allows him to deflect blows to the head with ease. A finger in his bionic arm can eject a dart that can kill or stun a person, depending on the need.
The novel itself is a little weighty in the reading. Caidin was a man who loved air travel and it shows in the writing as he goes into great detail on the craft that carried Steve to his bionic future. He also doesn't skimp on details when it comes to his characters. This kind of dense writing may put off some people.
And then we come to the rest of the series. The books were primarilly written by Caidin and Mike Jahn. The thing is, the books, even the novelizations of the episodes from the series, feature the Steve Austin of Caidin's original novel. This can be off-putting to some as Steve suddenly takes out an enemy with a dart where in the episode he karate chops the person.
But it gets even weirder.
The first two books, written by Caidin, were called Cyborg and Cyborg 2: Operation Nuke. And then there came the novelizations. Wine, Women, and War was labelled book #1 followed by The Solid Gold Kidnapping #2. This was then followed by an original novel by Caidin, High Crystal. Now, instead of calling it Cyborg 3, it was numbered in the novelization series. And here we go with the weird again. In the first work, Jackson McCay, head of the OSO is still in place, although Oscar plays a bigger role in the work. In the second work, there is some retconning going on as Oscar is said to be head of the OSO and was responsible for making Steve bionic as in the show. And then in Caidin's novel, he goes back to his format and McCay is calling the shots.
This was then followed by Pilot Error #4 and The Rescue of Athena One #5. The weirdness continues.
Pilot Error was based on the second season episode of the same name. It goes into greater detail on the characters and the motivations for what they do, but it almost seems to parody Caidin's love for flying by reading like tech porn. Oscar is back in charge.
The Rescue of Athena One was actually a combination of the first season episode of the same name with the second season episode, "Straight On 'til Morning". It's one of the better adaptations as the events of "Rescue" lead nicely into "Straight On".
The sixth book in the series was written by Martin Caidin and is simply called Cyborg IV. I haven't read this one yet, but I would imagine he has McCay in place as head of the OSO.
This was followed by two more novelizations, neither of which were placed in the numbering system.
The Secret of Bigfoot Pass by Mike Jahn is a near perfect adaptation of the classic two-part episode from the third season. But again, this Steve Austin is Caidin's version, complete with metal plate in the head which results in a very different ending in the novel compared to the television show. (Hope to have Mike Jahn on the podcast at one point to discuss these discrepancies.)
How many of you remember getting a copy of this one through the Scholastic Book Service in school? Long before even VHS recordings, it was novelizations that allowed people to relive movies and television shows again and again and I read this work at one point once a month as a kid.
International Incidents was the final work combines THREE episodes from the third and fourth season - "The Deadly Test", "Love Song for Tanya" and "Double Trouble". I haven't read this one yet, but I'm concerned as it is about as thick as the average novelization while at the same time hopeful as it's written by Mike Jahn.
In the end, Cyborg is what started it all and it is well worth a read by any bionic fan. The other novels in the line are based on preferences to reading your bionic action or watching it, but they do bare some scrutiny. As we prepare for a new Six Billion Dollar Man movie, I hope they will take advantage of special effects technology today to make Caidin's Steve Austin more of a reality.