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The Bionic Woman (Charlton)

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You may be looking for one of the other comic publications listed at The Bionic Woman (comics) or The Six Million Dollar Man comic book or magazine, also by Charlton.
TBWComic1

The cover to the inaugural issue


The Bionic Woman was a short-lived title by Charlton Comics Group. It ran for five issues from October 1977 until June 1978. After a delay of several months between the first two issues, it moved to a bi-monthly publication schedule beginning with the second issue in February 1978.

Aside from a four-page preview of the never-published Bionix, it is notable for being the only American comic book home of Jaime Sommers. It is further notable for a number of key differences between it and its parent material, and The Six Million Dollar Man comic book.

Format

The comic was produced in standard modern American size (6 ⅝" × 10 ¼"). Issues 3-9 had one dominant, 22-page comic story, and a 3-page illustrated text story in the back. The publication had color exteriors and interiors. The logo used for the cover was not the same as that used on the TV series, though there were some similarities in the font.

Contentually, its format was similar to its its counterpart starring Steve Austin in that it was mostly a comic title, but included a few pages of illustrated text at the back. However, for its first two issues, it had two separate comic stories. In those initial issues, the first of the two stories generally had a story arising from time spent with her kids at the Ventura Air Force Base School. The second was a more standard OSI espionage mission. In later issues, the connection with Ventura was virtually non-existent, with Jaime being depicted as an active schoolteacher only in the final issue. Even then, though, she was not teaching at Ventura, but undercover at a small, rural school. By the time the comic ended, its format was identical to that of The Six Million Dollar Man.

Price

Issues had a cover price of 35¢ US | 12p UK for the entire run.

Comparisons

The dissimilarities between the two Charlton comic books — and, indeed, between the comic and the television series were noteworthy. Unlike the book featuring Steve Austin, The Bionic Woman made no attempt to retell the origin story in any great detail. This may have been because an editorial decision was made to avoid linking Steve and Jaime romantically. Her relationship with Steve is touched on only very briefly in the initial issue. There, in a narration box, she is described as merely the "friend" of Steve Austin. Her parachuting accident is depicted in the first panel and not referenced again.

Also, The Bionic Woman actually took the time to indicate what OSI stood for, giving rise to Office of Strategic Intelligence, a name never suggested by the the television series. While The Six Million Dollar Man did offer up a variety of names in its text adventure spinoffs, The Bionic Woman was the only one to establish a name within the context of the main comic adventure. (At least two other Bionic Woman spin-offs also used the Office of Strategic Intelligence variant: an activity book for children, and the novelization Extracurricular Activities by Eileen Lottman.)

Unlike The Six Million Dollar Man, the book was noteworthy for never specifically crediting, or even featuring the signatures of, its artists. Therefore, it is remarkably difficult to say with assuredness who worked on the book. George Wildman is a reasonable guess for the editor, based upon his work for Charlton at the time, and Jack Sparling seems the likely artist, based on the artistic style.[1] However, it is difficult to even guess at the series' writers.

It is further unusual for featuring a story in which Rudy Wells' importance to the storyline eclipses Oscar's. The fourth issue's "The Deadly Maze" has a story loosely based on Dr. Wells is Missing, in which a rogue group holds Wells captive and attempts to extract his knowledge of bionics. Much like the series though, this Rudy Wells has been recast. While he bears no great resemblance to Martin E. Brooks, he's clearly different from the balding Wells seen in the premiere issue of The Six Million Dollar Man.

The back-up story in the first issue, "The Weaker Sex?", is notable for having Oscar acting more like Oliver Spencer from the first Six Mil TV movie, in that Oscar decrees that Jaime's bionics be tuned to human-level power when not on a dangerous assignment. As a result, Jaime is sent on an assignment that is not considered to be dangerous, and thus her powers are not restored. As a result, she is almost killed.

Finally, the character model for Jaime cannot be said to be typical of Lindsay Wagner. Unlike the televised Jaime — who tended to prefer loose, comfortable attire — the Charlton Jaime is often dressed in skin-tight action wear. While presumably quicker to draw, it often results in panels that makes Jaime seem like she's more super-hero than school teacher. Facially, however, the character often closely resembled publicity images of the actress.

Cancellation

The exact reason for the short run of the book is well understood. While it might be believed that cancellation was caused by the television series themselves failing to be renewed for the 1978-79 season, many comic adaptations actually outlive their parent products by a number of years. Instead, the reason was that Charlton Comics had itself begun to grind to a halt in 1978. Following a massive exodus of artistic talent — in which every artist known to be connected to the "bionic books" left Charlton for DC — Charlton found itself in an untenable business situation. According to Comic Book Artist, Charlton "management ordered the comics line in 1978 to stop accepting new material". [2] Thus, The Bionic Woman was no more because Charlton had effectively become a reprint-only comic house. Also cancelled as a result of this change were the Six Million Dollar Man comic book and magazine. Charlton remained in operation until 1986.

An attempt at bringing Jaime Sommers back into the realm of comic books was attempted in 1996 with Bionix, but this title was cancelled before any issues were published, save for a four-page teaser published in another magazine. Finally, in 2012, Dynamite Entertainment launched The Bionic Woman, an updated reimagining in which Jaime resembles the original TV series in only superficial ways. That comic was cancelled by the start of 2014, after which the original Lindsay Wagner version of Jaime returned to comics in The Six Million Dollar Man Season Six. A new title based upon the TV series, The Bionic Woman: Season Four, has been announced by Dynamite for publication beginning in 2014.

Issue detail

Here is a brief description of the contents of each issue. Dates given are the cover dates for the issues, but in reality they would have been actually on newsstands one to two months before the cover date.

Issue
No.
Cover Cover Date Contents
1 TBWComic1 October 1977 Rico Come Home - comic story
Weaker Sex - comic story
Birth of the Bionic Woman - text short story
2 TBWComic2 February 1978 Freedom Way - comic story
Deep Danger - comic story
A Job for a Woman - text short story
3 TBWComic3 March 1978 A Dying Breed - comic story
The Rescue - text short story
4 TBWComic4 May 1978 Comic story (title unknown) - Jaime battles a new kind of female cyborg
Short story - title unknown
This issue and #5 were published after the TV series had aired its final episode.
5 TBWComic5 June 1978 Operation Fish Net - comic story
Very Important Assignment - text short story

References

  1. Grand Comics Database entry for issue #3
  2. Cooke, Jon B. and Christopher Irving. "The Charlton Empire: A Brief History of the Derby, Connecticut Publisher. Comic Book Artist #9.

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