Patrick McGoohan died yesterday.

Known to a generation as Number 6, or, failing that, as John Drake from Danger Man (aka Secret Agent in the US). For a more recent role, check out his star turn as King Edward “Longshanks” in Braveheart — a brilliant performance. He’ll be sadly missed.

I’m not sure there was ever a Danger Man comic (perhaps UK’s TV Comic had a strip, but I can’t recall), but there were comics of The Prisoner. They just never got published.

Marvel Comics picked up the rights in the mid-70s, which, being the best part of ten years after the series’ demise, seems a little odd. Perhaps it was off the back of a re-screening of the show. On the other hand, it was something of a trend to adapt 1968 properties at that time: 2001 and Planet of the Apes were both at Marvel then. The project was handed to writer Steve Englehart and artist Gil Kane, who produced the required pages.

Stan Lee reviewed the work and was unimpressed. Rather than cancel, he offered the project to Jack Kirby. If anyone could take a slow-moving, intellectual exercise and turn it into an action-packed Marvel comic, surely it was he. So, dutifully, Kirby took his shot.

He wrote and pencilled 17 pages; a complete book by that era’s editorial requirements. He then handed the work to his inker of choice, Mike Royer, to finish up the pages and letter them. Royer completed around 5 pages and a few stray panels, before Marvel pulled the plug once more. Having tried twice, and found the results less than satisfactory, Marvel quietly dropped the project. Neither version has ever been published.

Kirby’s is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the first epsisode of the TV show (“Arrival”), and lacks action — which probably what sounded its death knell. Interestingly, and unusually for him, Kirby attempted a likeness of McGoohan, and is reasonably successful. The comic looks good and is faithful to its source, but it’s difficult to know where Kirby would’ve taken it over the long term. That Kirby was attracted to The Prisoner as a concept is, however, not that surprising: he was, at the time, growing bored with comics and was striving to inject his books with intellectual themes. This ultimately led to Machine Man, which, if read in a certain light, is nothing but an intellectual discourse on the nature of life, and the right of an individual to be an individual.

One has to wonder whether the struggles of Aaron Stack — Machine Man — were borne out of the aborted Prisoner…

©2008 Marvel/ITC/respective copyright holder