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The Steve Austin doll was the basic component of the whole line of Six Million Dollar Man-themed toys from Kenner. At 13", he stood slightly taller than the Jaime Sommers doll, allowing for the two to appear properly scaled when used together. He featured many interactive items, including a bionic eye the user could actually look through, an arm that would lift items when a trigger on the back was pushed, and roll-back skin that would display interchangeable bionic elements. It was also possible to switch out both the bionic arm and legs with mission-specific limbs. The doll eventually had a range of clothing, somewhat akin to Jaime's Designer Collection. The basic wardrobe worn by the doll is based upon the tracksuit Austin wears during his test run in the original pilot movie and subsequently in the opening credits of the series. Due to the rather large trigger in the doll's back, however, all of the doll's shirts and jackets needed to incorporate holes to allow for it.
Various other toys, such as vehicles and "sets" were scaled to accommodate the doll.
It was released in two similar editions.
The original action figure came out in 1975, and carried a Kenner product ID of 65000. It was sold with an engine block that the user could slide into Steve's right hand in order to demonstrate the lifting power of what Kenner called the "Bionic Power Arm", which was activated by pushing a lever-button on the doll's back.
The 1977 model with bionic grip was very like the original, except for the addition of "bionic grip" to the right hand. This allowed the user to press a button near the doll's wrist, which made the fingers clamp down around an object. This version of the action figure came with a simulated steel beam that that arm could clamp down on and lift.
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Demonstrating the bionic grip
Bionic arm modules
The original release of the action figure included two modules that could be removed from the bionic arm, one on the forearm and a larger one on the bicep. Later issues of the doll, however, had a modified bionic arm design without the removable modules. This was in part due to the beginning of parental backlash over the use of small, removable parts in toys, which were considered a choking hazard for small children. The modules contained holes into which tubes from the Bionic Transport and Repair Station playset could be inserted.
The bionic arm was covered in a rubber-like fake skin that was intended to be rolled back to expose the bionic modules. This material tended to break down with repeated use and age; as a result, it is uncommon to find a Steve Austin doll with its original skin still intact.
Promotion and product placement
The Six Million Dollar Man action figure was heavily promoted with TV ads and print advertisements in comic books and magazines. Direct references to the doll also occurred in licensed spin-offs and the series itself. The second issue of the Six Million Dollar Man comic book featured the action figure in a starring role, with the villain using it in a voodoo doll-like manner to try and kill Austin; the issue ends with Austin breaking the "fourth wall" and telling readers about the action figure, which is shown prominently on the comic's Neal Adams-drawn cover. A subtle reference to the doll can also be heard in "Elves' Revolt", one of the stories on the Christmas Adventures story record.
The most obvious reference, however, occurs in the televised episode "A Bionic Christmas Carol", where Steve Austin visits a toy store and a shelf filled with Kenner's action figures is clearly visible.