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Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Prisoner of Smash!

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, numerous British TV adventure shows had a comic strip version running in one or other of the many weekly comics of the time. From series that are now almost forgotten such as No Hiding Place and Orlando to the ever popular Thunderbirds and Doctor Who, it seemed natural for comics such as TV Express and TV21 to reflect the popularity of the small screen heroes. 

There were exceptions of course. Although The Avengers, The Champions, Department S, The Saint and Danger Man all appeared as weekly comic strips, other shows such as Jason King, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and The Prisoner never did. It's not too surprising regarding the latter as its quirky, satirical, surreal tone didn't really lend itself to the style of British children's comics at the time. 

Except... there was an instance when The Prisoner appeared in a UK comic strip. The issue in question was Smash! No.109 and the character appeared as a guest star in Charlie's Choice, illustrated by Brian Lewis. 

The plot of Charlie's Choice was simple but intriguing. Every week a different character from a contemporary TV show or historical documentary would emerge from Charlie's magical portable television, with hilarious consequences. (Well, slightly amusing consequences at least.) Brian Lewis was often (but not always) the artist and he skillfully captured the likenesses of the actors. His version of Patrick McGoohan here is excellent. 

With this Prisoner spoof, none of the complexities of the series are addressed. It's just a simple story of Number Six on the run, escaping "that place" (the Village) and eventually returning due to his own error. Nevertheless, Brian Lewis could easily turn his hand to humour and adventure artwork and if there had been a comic strip version of The Prisoner back then I think the more realistic style Lewis used on strips such as Moon Madness would have suited it perfectly.

The Prisoner did eventually appear in comic form of course. Jack Kirby's aborted and never-published version in the 1970s would have been interesting, and in the 1980s, Dean Motter's The Prisoner: Shattered Visage was published by DC Comics in the USA. 

I did a kind of parody of the devices and situations of the series in a Combat Colin serial in The Transformers around 1989/90. Here's part one... 

(This Combat Colin chapter and the rest of the story can be seen in my book Brickman Begins, available here: )

I've always liked the original Prisoner TV series and about ten years ago I created The Unmutual Website as a small news site. However after a couple of years I didn't have time to continue running it so I handed it over to a pal, Rick Davy, who is far more knowledgeable about the series than I and who has expanded the site into a fantastic news and information source. Here's the link:

Incidentally, here's a couple of comic strips I did for that website. A mixture of traditional cartoon and CGI imagery:

"Unmutual" was a phrase used in The Prisoner episode 'A Change of Mind' to refer to residents who refused to cooperate with the oppressive rules and establishment of The Village. Likewise, The Unmutual Website has no connection with any fan club regarding the TV series and is an independent news source that is free for all. 

If you're interested in The Prisoner and its themes, or if you've never heard of it and you're wondering what the heck I'm on about,  take a look around that site. You should find a few things of interest.  


Dr Andy Oliver said...

Some good artwork on that Combat Colin Lew. As for Kirby's Prisoner the drafts I've seen out there on the web looked excellent, a shame it never got off.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Andy. The strangest thing about Kirby's adaptation of Arrival (the first Prisoner episode) was that he missed out the fight scenes. One would think that would have been essential for a 1970s Marvel comic.

It would have been interesting to see what he'd do with a Prisoner series. Kirby had such a powerful imagination that it could have been a real winner.

Phil Rushton said...

Of course there were British comic strip versions of The Prisoner's unacknowledged precursor Danger Man (including one drawn by the great Jesus Blasco). Also, Mick Anglo produced a fantastic Prisoner cover for an issue of TV Tornado though, as was often the case, this wasn't linked to any interior strip.

Manic Man said...

It's a shame the Combat Colin version never gets reprinted.. Nothing wrong with the 'Brickman' version, but .. well.. i guess i like to have both versions.. which, if i can ever find all my issues, i should have.. Brickman without his memory (Legal wise?) and the Cut-out combat plane ^_^

Lew Stringer said...

When I get around to doing the Combat Colin Collection I may reprint the original version.

Lew Stringer said...

@Phil, Yes I've shown a few of the Danger Man stories here in the past. The debate as to whether or not it was the same character in The Prisoner rages on. The general assumption is that John Drake was Number Six but as two different studios held the rights they could never admit that. However McGoohan always insisted that The Prisoner worked better if he was a nameless everyman.

Rick Davy said...

Hi Lew!
You've referenced The Prisoner a few times in various things over the years, have you thought of publishing a "Lew Stringer Prisoneresque Collection"? I'm sure a lot of fans of both your woek and the series would like to see that.
Thanks for mentioning the website :)

Lew Stringer said...

Good suggestion, Rick! Some of the gags in those fanzine strips may be too in-jokey or obscure perhaps, (references to certain fans for example) but I'll give it some thought.

Manic Man said...

Gill Kane did a Prisoner Story for Marvel by the way.
18 pages were completed with Steve Englehart writing. But Englehart then had his falling out with Marvel and left them, and he wrote in Comic Book Artist "I’d been waiting a long time to write The Prisoner, and by God! I was going to write that issue."

First issue was complete as an adaptation of the first episode.. or with only 18 pages, part of it i guess (haven't read it). Topps almost published it it seams. And for Bay Area Con, Engleheart did a slash with inker Steve Leiahola..

Not sure quite how Engleheart had too much claim to do that Splash, as it was Gill Kane that drew the thing but oh well. Rumour has it that when Marvel wasn't happy, it was then given to Kirby to handle the project, and Kirby did his take.

Lew Stringer said...

Englehart did a WHAT? :-)

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