Jack Kirby’s version of The Prisoner gets official release

Splash page to Jack Kirby’s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner

Jack Kirby’s 1970s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner has been scheduled for an official release by Titan Comics, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Titan also is releasing a new comic book series based on The Prisoner. Here are the details about the Kirby material:

In July, Titan will also release The Prisoner: Original Art Edition, a hardcover edition of previously unreleased work by Kirby, (artist Gil) Kane and writer Steve Englehart from their attempt to adapt the pilot episode of the TV show to comics during the 1970s. In addition to featuring the complete Kirby artwork for his unpublished issue — six pages of which were inked and lettered by his long-term collaborator, Mike Royer — the collection will also feature 18 pages of Kane’s pencils, and the complete script for Kane’s issue by Englehart.

Background: Kirby (1917-1994) returned to Marvel — where he co-created many of the classic Marvel characters of the 1960s — in 1975 after spending a few years at rival DC.

In the ’70s, Kirby wrote, drew and edited most of his projects. In the previous decade, Kirby did the heavy lifting at Marvel with plots while editor Stan Lee did the scripting.

Jack Kirby self portrait, circa 1970

With his second stint at Marvel, Kirby took over Captain America (a character he co-created in 1941 with Joe Simon) and went about mostly creating new characters.

Beginnings: Steve Englehart, 70, a one-time writer at Marvel, described the origin of The Prisoner project in a post on his website.

“I plotted an adaptation of the first episode, and Gil Kane handled the art (with Joe Staton providing his layouts),” Englehart wrote. According to the scribe, it was put on the shelf by Marvel. (Kane died in 2000, at the age of 73.)

“Sometime later, remembering they’d paid for the rights, they got Jack Kirby to do an issue,” Englehart wrote. “I always thought Patrick McGoohan looked like a Kirby character, with his nice brow ridge, but apparently they didn’t like Kirby’s version and it, too, went on the shelf.”

Kirby themes: Charles Hatfield, in a detailed article on the Two Morrows website, said the original Prisoner series, starring Patrick McGoohan, was a great match for Kirby.

“It’s not hard to see why The Prisoner appealed to Kirby,” Hatfield wrote. “Indeed, the series’ concept, which Kirby glossed as ‘an individual’s stubborn attempts to wrest freedom from subtle but oppressive power’ makes perfect sense within Kirby’s oeuvre. Its paranoiac, Orwellian premise dovetails with the dystopian future of Kirby’s OMAC (1974-75), as well as the Orwell riffs in Kirby’s ‘Madbomb’ saga in Captain America #193-200 (1975-76).” (OMAC was one of the titles Kirby created at DC in between his stints at Marvel.)

Pages from Kirby’s one issue of The Prisoner has been seen before online, including the Forces of Geek website.

Still, this year is the the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner being shown in the U.S. Also, Kirby’s original work has been getting renewed attention thanks to Marvel Studios movies that rely heavily on Kirby-created characters.

Marvel’s next movie is The Black Panther, which is being released next month. The title character was introduced in a 1966 issue of The Fantastic Four by Lee and Kirby. The film version of the character was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

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