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A comic that will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered – The Prisoner: Shattered Visage

September 3, 2010



I first watched The Prisoner back in 2004 and fell in love with it. It “had me at hello” and gets my highest recommendation, with the rather large caveat that it’s most definitely not for everyone. It’s colorful and energetic but thick with late-60’s allegory, and it’s a strange journey, from the pennyfarthing bicycles to the white balloon security system known as Rover:

I get how some people could not be into it, though no one can deny the fun of the long but dramatic sequence that opened most episodes:

Hell, I even like the font used in this series (It’s a derivative of the Albertus font, for all you typeface nerds out there — I looked it up!) .

The late Patrick McGoohan, who I first got to know many years later when he played the evil Edward the Longshanks in Braveheart, was magnificent as the nameless Number Six. His controlled fury throughout the entire run of the series and the defiant plotting that you could see in his steely eyes were wonders to behold.

So how was the comic book follow up?

A mixed bag.

The story, from Dean Motter and Mark Askwith, finds a new character trapped in the Village (now abandoned), and there encountering an older, crazier and hairier Number Six. It’s hard to delve deeply into the plot without going too far into the content of the series. There are plenty of callbacks to the show and Easter eggs aplenty for the fans, and the locales of the real-life filming location of Portmeirion are once again on display. All that’s well and good, but the story is somewhat opaque, and part of what made the series so fun and got you past all the strangeness was the contrast between the bright, cheery primary colors of the Village and its dark, Orwellian nature. This comic employs the drabber color scheme of something like Watchmen, and in this case its a bit too nauseating. It’s like in Star Trek: The Motion Picture when the dazzling gold, blue and red uniforms from the series were replaced by those dreadful gray jumpsuits that looked like they were tailored for Kim Jong-il. Otherwise the art is rough, but adequate — here’s an example of one of the less blah pages:

A fan of the series may or may not like this comic. A novitiate would find it utterly bewildering. I thought that it was okay, but mainly because of the nods to the original series.

As I was preparing this post I did a little additional reading and discovered that Jack Kirby actually threw together a proposed first issue for a Prisoner comic book back when the show was still fresh. Throw that discovery into the “You learn something every day” pile, I guess. It was a straight adaptation (with a few Kirby twists — he could never resist showing incredibly complex machinery) of the first episode, “The Arrival.” You can read more about it here.

Sometimes when Kirby drew real people his interpretation would leave a bit to be desired, or so it seems to me. His depiction of McGoohan as Number Six, however, is quite well done, at least on the couple of pages I looked at. Perhaps it’s McGoohan’s prominent brow and his eyes — they fit nicely with Kirby’s style.

Someday I’d like to see that comic “pilot” get released. I have a feeling I’d enjoy flipping through it even more than Shattered Visage.

“I am not a number, I am a free man!”

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 14, 2011 3:10 pm

    Wonderfully well written blog

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