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Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner played Automan, the title character of an American science fiction superhero television series produced by Glen A. Larson. It aired for only 12 episodes (although 13 were made) on ABC between 1983 and 1984.

Automan (the “Automatic Man”) follows the adventures of a police officer and computer programmer named Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz, Jr.), who had created an artificially intelligent crime fighting program that generated a hologram (Chuck Wagner) able to leave the computer world at night and fight crime.

While in the real world, Automan posed as a government agent by the name of “Otto J. Mann.” This was a secret to all except Walter’s close associate, Roxanne Caldwell (Heather McNair).

Nebicher could merge with Automan to become one being, sharing consciousness and skills, while retaining Automan’s invulnerability.

Cursor was his sidekick, a floating, shifting polyhedron which could “draw” and generate physical objects as needed. The most common forms taken were a car (the Auto Car), an airplane, and a helicopter, all of which could defy the laws of physics.

The show also starred Robert Lansing as Lieutenant Jack Curtis and Gerald S. O’Loughlin as Captain of Detectives E. G. Boyd, both Walter’s superiors. Both believed Automan was a friend of Walter’s from the FBI. Captain Boyd, a technophobe who had no use for computers, often held up Lieutenant Curtis as the kind of cop he was convinced was the ideal for police – an ideal to which he believed Walter could never rise.

The Automan costume appeared to glow on screen due to its reflective fabric designed by 3M. The fabric was made up of tiny reflective balls, and it was able to reflect nearly 100 percent of the light shone at it (the technique had been used several years earlier for the Kryptonian costumes in Superman). The costume also had highly polished plates attached to it to provide the holographic appearance.

The Autocar and Autochopper were the most common vehicles created for transport. Each vehicle would appear or disappear as a sequence of wireframes drawn by Cursor, and were black with strips of reflective tape stuck on them. The Autocar was a Lamborghini Countach LP400, which was capable of making 90-degree turns without losing control and overtaking merely by strafing, rather than turning. However, human passengers not properly secured in their seats would often be thrown around inside with the momentum from the sudden position change. The Autochopper was a Bell Jetranger capable of landing anywhere. The show also featured a futuristic airplane and motorcycle, while other episodes featured a distinctive handgun and a guitar.

Another prominent feature of Automan was the ability to “wrap himself” around Walter as a means of protecting him. They would appear as one person, but because Walter was inside Automan, he would inadvertently end up speaking in two voices.

However, Automan’s excessive use of electricity would often mean he would suffer from power shortage during the daytime, so he was rarely active in sunlight.

Wagner (born June 20, 1958) went onto become a successful American actor, director, musical theatre historian and teacher.

 

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