Thursday, January 12, 2017

Martin Caidin's Cyborg Series Covered

Welp, here we are with yet another not-movie-themed post, and here I am thinking again how I really ought to just go ahead and change the subtitle on the banner up top to be more inclusive. I mean, this site has become at least as book-centric as it is film-centric.

But. I really do love the feel of that banner, as is. It makes me all nostalgic about deadman's (almost decade old! when did that happen?) origins.

So I guess I'll leave it. For now.

So. I thought at first this post would just be an interlude-within-but-still-part-of the Bionics in Miniature series which I'm still (slowly) doing, and I also thought it would include all the SMDM/BW novel-y stuff I could put my hands on. But that's turned out to be a lot of stuff, what with international editions and all. So then I figured I'd just stick to Martin Caidin's original Cyborg quadrilogy (that's him up top with the cigar, in case you wuz wundrin'), which has managed to cough up a good 25 covers (and I'm sure I've missed a few) all by itself, and that's plenty for one post.

Anyway, after thinking that, I thought to myself "books aren't action figures and action figures aren't books," so I went ahead and gave the action figure series its own label, and this post a more generic "bionics" label, that will have more generically bionic stuff in it (as time goes on).

And that's how I came up with that idea.

I also couldn't decide how to sort the covers I'd come up with here (lots of indecision today). Should I go with the old tried and true by-date-published, or go by-publisher-set for cover continuity's sake? Well, I ended up doing a mix of both, because some of these sets have books that really complement each other and it's nice to see them together. But there are a few incomplete sets and loners tossed in as well. The order I finally settled on probably only makes sense to me but, as Scooby Doo always said, "Roh Rell."

I think I'm pretty solid as far as each book's publishing information goes. I coordinated everything between Fantastic Fiction, Good Reads, ISFDB and WorldCat. A few of the books I had to search out in other places, as these sites didn't have the info. They're my usual go-to's though, and are generally pretty reliable. Still, consider the usual disclaimer in place: I only know what the internet tells me (unless I own copies of a particular book, which I do for some of these).

And now (thank god, you're thinking) we have arrived at the point of talking about these actual book covers, themselves. No particular expertise on my part here, this is just me talking about things that interest me.

So this first set comprises, according to my various sources (as well as my childhood library recollections), the first editions published. Cyborg came out in 1972, with the sequels coming out each consecutive year after that. But let's face it, not a lot going on with these covers. I mean, they're cool--cyborg silvery grey, 70s futuristic font and all that stuff, but nothing saying "pick me up and buy me" (unless you were even then, hungry for all things robotic, like I was). I mostly like these covers for the nostalgia they bring me: they're the editions my local library had in stock as a kid, and I checked all four of 'em out more than once, over the years.

And since there's not a ton to say about these particular covers, I'm gonna go ahead and toss in each book's basic plot line, by way of back cover blurbs, below. I say "back cover" rather than "dust jacket," since I'm taking these blurbs from books I actually own, and they all happen to be later paperback editions. But you'll still be getting the general idea.

Here, take a look:

Cyborg 1972 Hardcover - Arbor House
BIONIC RESURRECTION. Austin was dead, at least he should have been. What was left of him after the crash wasn't enough to make living worthwhile. But the government's Office of Special Operations thought differently. They were willing to pay any price to make Colonel Steve Austin into the kind of man they wanted. And what OSO wanted, OSO got... a wholly new kind of man, a man born of a marriage of bionics and cybernetics. Here would be a human being with electronically engineered parts that functioned perfectly. Powerfully. Incredibly. A cyborg! But once they had Steve Austin together again, they told him what they had really wanted, what they had wanted all along. A weapon...
~ (from Cyborg 1978 Paperback - Del Ray/Ballantine)

Operation Nuke 1973 Hardcover - Arbor House
STEVE AUSTIN, CYBORG, IS THE WORLD'S DEADLIEST WEAPON. When Steve Austin, astronaut, crashed from the skies, he woke to find himself a fragment of a man--no legs, one arm, one eye. But Science rebuilt his body, giving him physical powers no other man possessed. Now, the world is threatened by a syndicate that sells nuclear destruction to the highest bidder. And Steve Austin who, from the moon, saw the Earth as fragile and precious, is the one man who can save that world from the ultimate blackmail of our times.
~ (from Operation Nuke 1974 Paperback - Warner)

High Crystal 1974 Hardcover - Arbor House
IS THIS A SECRET LINK TO THE CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? High in the Andes is an impossible highway, more than two miles above sea level, built on rocks smooth as marble. Who built it? How were such huge slabs of rock lifted to such heights? What forces were used to fuse them into an unsegmented strip? No modern man has explored these mountains; what ancient culture flourished here and performed such marvels? Only Steve Austin can lead an expedition into this hostile land. Only the bionics man can hack his way through the fields of razor-sharp grass, scale the sheer rock cliffs and fly the turbulent skies from mountain ledge to mountain top where the source of the secret energy is hidden.
~ (from High Crystal 1975 Paperback - Warner)

Cyborg IV 1975 Hardcover - Arbor House
MAN-SHIP! Never before has there been a bionics man like Steve Austin--his human capabilities enhanced by the superb electronic reconstruction of his body. Never before could there be such an aeronautic experiment plugging the perceptions of a man into the controls of a spaceship. When the ship rolls, it is Steve Austin rolling in space. When cosmic rays hit the plane's shell, Steve feels them as though they were pelting his own skin. Dangerous! Terrifying! But Steve must accept the challenge to outmaneuver an enemy in the race for space supremacy.
~ (from Cyborg IV 1976 Paperback - Warner)

Now as far as these silver first editions go, I know the first two books were published before the SMDM movies and series were a thing, so I'm guessing the first novel's cover above (the only image of it I could find online) is actually a reprint published after the show was out. How else would we be seeing "A 'Six Million Dollar Man' Super Agent Adventure" on its jacket? Oh. Now that I look, it also advertises the next two books in the series, so I guess it's pretty obviously a later printing.

Extremely small mystery immediately solved by looking closer.

Okay. Here's a shot of the first edition paperback, from Warner Books, which corresponded with Arbor House's hardcover. It was also published in 1972, so it was pre-lee Majors, with no likeness of him and no mention of the TV show anywhere on it. As far as the cover's artwork goes, IFSDB tells me "the artist is not credited, [and there's ] no visible signature on the artwork." So I guess that's as far as I'm getting, artist-wise.

In its general look and tone though, it's pretty standard early 70's American, don't you think? What I mean is it's a book I'd pick up and just assume was probably published after 1969 but before 1975, even if I didn't immediately notice its title and author. It's got the feel, you know?

Anyway, it mentions The Andromeda Strain at its top, and while I don't remember that novel being particularly "explosive," it was a good read. Come to think of it, this cover's style reminds me of The Andromeda Strain's first edition artwork by Paul Bacon. Not saying he did it, just that the general feel of the covers are the same to me. Huh. Which kind of blows my theory since The Andromeda Strain came out in 1969, making it not an early 70s cover. But just barely. Still a good theory, I think.

And what does that chest full of circuitry remind you of, fellow Kenner fans? (Yep. Me too.)

Cyborg 1972 Paperback - Warner

At any rate, any cover image involving a chest full of circuitry would have had me on my way to the register, cash in hand, whether I knew what a cyborg was or not (and I did), so that cover would have been doing just what it was designed to do.

So. Now let's take a look at the British first edition hardcovers for the series. Definitely more exciting than their American counterparts, these were put out by W. H. Allen, generally about a year after each book was published in the States. I didn't find artist information on any of these except the last one, and its cover is different enough from the first three I wouldn't want to hazard the guess they were all done by the same guy. You never know, though.

I really like this first cover. That's a great portrait, for one thing, and the carved-from-stone look it has going for it works in a novel that's about a guy questioning his humanity after being cybernetically enhanced (in the form of man but not actually flesh, and so on). Add in the lower montage of story scenes and characters, and that colorful backdrop offsetting the foreground's sedate palette and wallah! An all around nicely done cover.

One thing, barring the title you'd never know this was anything to do with robotics or cybernetics, or even anything science fiction-ish at all. Still a great cover, and enjoyable to look at regardless of what it indicates (or doesn't indicate) about the story itself.

Cyborg 1973 Hardcover - W. H. Allen

Hmm. Looks like they went with a much simplified version of the first book's cover design for this second one. Meh. Anything I'm responding to here is really a response to the first cover being echoed. I don't like the simplified line work of the portrait, and replacing a beautifully done montage with a duo-tone cutout of a mushroom cloud is just plain lazy.

I wonder if the redone portrait was intended to make Austin look more physically powerful than he did on the first cover. He does look more imposing, here--wider-jawed, thicker-necked. More Adonis-like. But I actually prefer the last book's more vulnerable looking Statue-Steve.

Still, I'd have certainly recognized this cover as being related to the first one, and would've picked it up, assuming that first book had made me a fan of the character. Maybe callback of emotion was all they were going for here, and if so it works for that.

Operation Nuke 1974 Hardcover - W. H. Allen

Aha! Next we have the first cover (as ordered in this post, anyway) that shows off Lee Majors' likeness as part of its design. And it does that well. It's an easily recognizable TV-Steve, they've got here. While technically Lee Majors started with the role in 1973 with three TV movies, and the series proper started in 1974, it wasn't until 1975 when this was published that people were strongly identifying him with the character, so it makes sense to me this would be the first book (in W. H. Allen's series) to explicitly use his image.

It's a decent enough cover in and of itself, but I think it would have been seeing Majors on it that got me reaching for my wallet. Nice design with the crystal-multiple-image thing going on. And it's somewhat reminiscent of the first two covers, I guess. It carries the same title/author colors and fonts as the last one, anyway. Hmm. That parachute disappearing off to the left has me wondering if it's a wraparound cover, with maybe a montage or something else on the back. I couldn't find any other images to tell me for sure.

High Crystal 1975 Hardcover - W. H. Allen

Okay. While the cover of High Crystal was at least vaguely reminiscent of the first two novels in the set, the publisher went in a completely different direction for Cyborg IV, cover art-wise. Admittedly, this fourth novel was a different animal than its predecessors--less action packed and more cerebral--but it sure would have been nice to go with something here that tied it into the earlier books visually, to some degree. Eh, I guess this one also has the title/author font sameness going for it.

Cyborg IV 1977 Hardcover - W. H. Allen

So I'd mentioned this is the only cover in this set I found artist information for. Michael Bell did the art for this one (and not a lot else, as far as I can tell from a cursory search). I suppose the painting here is nicely enough done, and gives you a good idea of what to expect from the story inside. Probably not one that I'd pick up from the shelf by virtue of cover art alone; it'd be Caidin's name and my prior knowledge with the Cyborg series that had me digging into my wallet, here.

Okay, this next set of covers I can seriously get into. I mean these covers are FANTASTIC. I already own the four Caidin novels in one edition or another, but these particular editions I'd get just to have their covers on my shelf. Also British, they were published by Mayflower as paperbacks around the same time W. H. Allen was doing the hardcovers. This is some classic paperback illustration, we're looking at here, folks.

Richard Clifton-Dey did all three covers. (What, only three?! Yeah, as far as I could tell, Mayflower never published the fourth novel, but I could be wrong on that. Hope so). Anyway, these covers are easily my favorites of the bunch I gathered up for this post. No Lee Majors likeness (which I actually kind of prefer not having; it kinda opens up my imagination more), and featuring classic action-adventure imagery you're like to see on any Mack Bolan cover, but with just a little circuitry peeking through. Nice.

Except, what's with that cheesy undershirt badge Steve's wearing? Meh, minor nitpick. Great covers. amiright? This first cover is a mess, but my choice was between it (click-through-able to see larger) and one other one that was clean but tiny. So I went with the bigger one. Click away!

Cyborg 1974 Paperback - Mayflower

Operation Nuke 1975 Paperback - Mayflower

High Crystal 1976 Paperback - Mayflower

So. Clifton-Dey was a big name in British illustration, and googling him will give you plenty to look at, but my now personal favorite has to be this cover art I happened across for a paperback he did called Lord of the Spiders:

Lord of the Spiders 1975 Paperback

That's right, it's an Arach-utan. That wins first prize for a Weird Award, yeah?

Okay. Heading back into the U.S. for the next several covers. Operation Nuke had originally been published as a hardcover in 1973, with its paperback counterpart following in 1974. Well, Warner Books decided to take the opportunity to republish the first novel as well (what with the TV show newly in-play and all), and as a result we got both initial books done up with themed, Lee Major-esque covers. Although that's honestly not a great likeness of Majors. And literal-minded people like me think to themselves "why is he shooting an eyeball-projectile out of his eye socket?"

Or am I the only one that thinks that? Sometimes it's lonely living in my head. Anyway, they're nice covers overall. John Melo did both of them, as well as most of the TV tie-ins down in the next section.

Cyborg 1974 Paperback - Warner

Operation Nuke 1974 Paperback - Warner

And... it dawns on me why those Mayflower editions are my favorites: I prefer "realistic" renditions of bionics over non-realistic. Melo's diagram-looking stuff here is fine and all, but it doesn't get my blood pumping like the bits and bobs you see poking out of Austin's arm in Clifton-Dey's covers. Not that the Mayflower covers are really realistic either--I don't think what's poking out from under Steve's bionic skin in those covers would actually make for natural looking muscle and tendon with the skin intact--but it's at least an effort at realism, and it really pays off for me in a way these Warner covers don't.

Although if you notice on Mayflower's Operation Nuke, Steve's bicep vein transitions seamlessly right into an exposed wire at that skin tear. You can tell Clifton-Dey made a point of painting in circuitry, on all three covers, that at least generally mimics the shape and flow of muscle and tendon around each skin tear. That's some nice detail work.

Well, apparently John Melo was just getting started in 1974, bionic cover art-wise, since he went on to do the art for a six book set that consisted mostly of TV episode tie-ins, but also reprinted Caidin's last two novels. Since I'm more interested in Caidin's novels here, I'm focusing on those, but I threw in a shot of all six books further below, just for reference's sake.

Actually, Melo is only credited with the first five books of the series. I'm assuming that's because the sixth book features a photo cover of Lee Majors. But assuming Melo did the running TV-Steve on the right side of each of these covers (and it strongly resembles his Lee Majors portrait from the 1974 covers), as well as doing the main illustration for each book, I figure his work really graces all six covers in one form or another. Sadly, I can't say I'm a huge fan of his work on these particular covers. I prefer his 1974 covers to these.

High Crystal 1975 Paperback - Warner

Cyborg IV 1976 Paperback - Warner

Warner's TV Tie-In Series

So this next cover is interesting to me, in that it incorporates elements from Melo's 1974 covers (hand and eye) as well as his later TV tie-ins (running TV-Steve). It was published in 1976, about the same time those later tie-ins were on the shelves, so maybe they were just looking to boost sales of the original novel by tying it in with their current offerings. Not a bad cover. I think the elements mesh better here, than they work on their own in their original sets.

Cyborg 1976 Paperback - Warner

And, here's a nice 1978 cover that would be easily (by me, anyway) recognized as Boris Vallejo's work, even if his signature wasn't right down there in the corner. Vallejo has always had an extremely distinctive style. I'm pretty sure those mid 70s Tarzan covers he did were my first taste of his work, and they were magical. And while this particular cover is certainly colorful and action-packed, I gotta say I'm no fan of the multiple-figures-to-indicate-motion thing. It's actually right up there next to giant-floating-heads on my Cover Art Pet Peeve List (well, it's not quite as high on the list as heads).

Cyborg 1978 Paperback - Del Ray/Ballantine

And that about covers it (*NPI), at least for the English language covers I found for the series. I also come across some foreign editions, which we'll take a look at next (nothing too exciting, I'm afraid), before we finish things up with a wee bonus cover or two.

*No Pun Intended

So, while I found German language versions of all four novels, not all four were put out by the same publisher. Weirdly, novels one and three are through one publisher, and novels two and four are through another one. I mean, you'd think a publishing house would do books one and two if they were only gonna go half way. Then again, maybe both houses actually put out all four books, and I just couldn't hunt them down. Here's what I did find.

Books one and three were published by Goldmann, out of Munich. I couldn't find anything as to whether these books are hardcover or paperback, and can't really tell from the images themselves which they are, either. Apparently Goldmann was primarily known for paperbacks, especially in the 70s, so if I had to guess, that's the route I'd go. Books two and four were definitely paperbacks, published by Bastei Lubbe, out of Cologne.

At any rate, none of these are much to look at, far as I'm concerned. If I had to choose a standout, it would be Goldmann's High Crystal. It's at least vaguely cyborg-ish. I don't know what the hell those Bastei covers are trying to do.
Cyborg 1972 Unknown Format - Goldmann

Operation Nuke 1978 Paperback - Bastei

High Crystal 1974 Unknown Format - Goldmann

Cyborg IV 1979 Paperback - Bastei

Oh. And I also found this incredibly unimaginative French cover for the first novel. (Yawn.)

Cyborg 1975 Paperback - Denoël

The end, as far as Caidin's Cyborg series goes.

But wait! he wrote a vaguely-related-but-not-really book a few years later (straight to paperback) called ManFac. I read it in the late eighties/early nineties (found myself a copy of that Baen edition down below). It was... okay. Not Steve Austin levels by any means, but a decently fun read. I don't think I've ever gone back for a second run-through, which tells you something, my having read all four Cyborg novels multiple times.

So, just for kicks, here's both editions' covers and the Baen's back cover blurb ('cause, while I prefer the Dell cover, it's a Baen copy currently sitting on my shelf):
MANFAC = MAN FACSIMILE. He was the lone survivor of an underground nuclear disaster. Pulled from the radioactive rubble, Lance Parker was burned beyond recognition, blind and broken. But alive. Locked in her laboratory, the woman who loved him worked feverishly--to build a body. When it was finished, Lance Parker was reborn. His hands served as wrenches, pliers, wire cutters. He had new eyes and ears--acoustic and visual systems far beyond the human range. Spring-reflex muscles and a plexi-steel frame made him the equal of a Roman gladiator. He was a miracle of technology--and a lethal weapon!
ManFac 1981 Paperback - Dell

ManFac 1988 Paperback - Baen

Oh. Someone named Miro is the artist for this Baen cover. It's, ah, exuberant. About all I can say for it. Apparently Miro did a few book covers in the late eighties, a lot of them Caidin's novels. That's all I could find out about (him?), other than he's not this Miro. Obviously. Didn't find anything as to who might have done the Dell cover for ManFac, and don't have a copy to scour for a signature, so what we got is what we got, folks.

And there you have it: Martin Caidin's Cyborg series. Covered.