27th Jul2018

‘The Prisoner: Original Art Edition’ Review (Titan Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart | Art by Jack Kirby, Gil Kane | Published by Titan Comics

The_Prisoner_Art_Ed-cover

I’ll be honest here, and say this won’t really be a review. A review is when you approach something objectively, weigh up its pros and cons, and hopefully throw in some entertaining prose. This book, the fabled unpublished Marvel Comics Prisoner, is not something you can objectively review. It’s 70′s Marvel. It’s prime Kirby, and Steve Englehart and Gil Kane are nothing to be sneezed at either. And it’s The Prisoner, an iconic series celebrating its 50th anniversary. I’d give it five stars for any combination of the above, but throw in the way this has been lovingly presented, curated even, by Titan, then this is an absolute slam dunk.

For those not in the know, Marvel Comics bought the comic book rights to The Prisoner TV show back in the early 1970′s. Although the exact chain of events is confusing, apparently then Marvel Editor Marv Wolfman assigned it, as something of a vanity project, to Steve Englehart and Gil Kane. Stan Lee seemingly didn’t like what he saw, and assigned Jack Kirby, with assistant and inker Mike Royer, to take over. The first issue was to be an adaptation of The Prisoner pilot show, and push on from there. Sadly, none of it was enough. Nothing saw print, from any of the creators involved, despite being advertised in Marvel Comics Bullpen Bulletins at the time. The project was dead.

Hey, nothing remains dead in comics, not even projects over 40 years old. We’ve seen little glimpses of a page here or there down the years, but now we have the whole thing in one volume. Behind a gorgeous blown up Kirby panel on the cover, we have a 74 page volume that includes all the artwork, newly scanned, from Kirby and Royer, some just pencils, some pencils and inks. The Gil Kane art has been newly hand lettered, Mike Royer and Steve Englehart have contributed text pieces, and we have nice bios of Gil Kane and Jack Kirby.

The primary draw of course is Kirby’s effort, and that leads the book. It’s a good read, and plays to Kirby’s strengths certainly as an artist but also as a writer. Kirby was never a great scripter, but he had great ideas, and The Prisoner was a concept he was really plugged into. So much so that way back in Fantastic Four issue 84 to 87 he wrote a homage to the show, where the Fantastic Four are stuck in an idyllic Latverian village peopled by seemingly always happy peasants. Dr Doom of course was essentially the Number Two running things there. Kirby also reigns in his natural instinct to go big, and ensures the focus on Number Six is never lost. It’s a solid read.

Next up are Gil Kane’s very raw pencil layouts, no lettering, colouring or inking. Looks perfectly good to me, but I prefer the Kirby effort for the pacing and choice of panels. Certainly a solid effort in its own right though. The Steve Englehart text piece about his involvement is a solid read, and confirms that editorial changes at the time killed the book. Nice bio too, love Steve Englehart’s run on so many books. Next up are Gil Kane’s pages again, but this time presented side by side with Steve Englehart’s script, and with Rick Parker lettering the script onto the art, which is pretty cool to see, both for this edition and for any fans of comic book creation in general.

With the meat gone, we are left with the potatoes to see out the rest of the book, but tasty taters they are. We get a reproduction of the ITC Press Book, circa 1967, which is a fun read, a Prisoner text piece that treads familiar ground but a nice addition anyway, and those Kirby and Kane bios. An iconic Penny Farthing ‘Be Seeing You’ symbol rounds out a great package. Being honest, this is not a cheap book. You’ll need to save up some pennies that’s for sure. That being said, this certainly does justice to the material, and then some. It’s presented lovingly, and a lot of thought has gone into finally bringing this to the public. Will some of that mystique be lost now? A little, but the Kirby pages are excellent, and Kane’s not so shabby either. Nobody likes something done on the cheap, right?

The Prisoner fans should buy this, Kirby fans should buy this, fans of 70′s Marvel, fans of comics in general. This is a great book with great creators and is making me write the word ‘great’ far too much. Age hasn’t withered this vine. I’m off to read it all over again.

Be Seeing You.

***** 5/5

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