Crabcake Confidential: The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel

I’ve got a pretty embarrassing confession to make: I was pretty damn excited when AMC started airing commercials of The Prisoner remake. I told everyone within earshot about it. “Man, are you going to be watching Prisoner?” I’d say. “It looks totally sweet! Watch it watch it watch it!” I planned my weekend around watching it, even flipping channels from a riveting Patriots-Colts match-up on Sunday Night Football. The special effects looked slick, and changing the setting from an island to a desert not only looked scenic, but also opened up the possibility of new twists to the original. Plus it starred Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen. You heard that right: Ian Friggin’ McKellen. The man who made Gandalf the Grey a believable parable for the Civil Rights Movement. There’s no WAY this was anything but must see TV!

And I’m not even that huge of a Prisoner fan. I’d only seen three episodes beforehand: “Arrival,” “The Chimes of Big Ben”, and the ridiculously trippy finale “Fall Out.” Plus I was indoctrinated by all “The Prisoner” pop culture references, mainly the infamous Simpsons episode where Homer ends up on … The Island. (“Why a balloon?” “Shut up! That’s why!”) There’s so much potential in a remake: perhaps we could get new, fresh resolutions to a lot of the unanswered questions in the original!

So I watched the remake and … well.. in the words of MST3K‘s The Mads: “Sandstorm. Saaaaaannnnndddstoooorrrmmmm. Deeeeeep Hurrrttttiiinnnggg.”

In the first two episodes, you get maybe 5 minutes of awesomeness (any appearance of Rover and most of Ian McKellan’s scenes) and 120 minutes of moping, “surreal” imagery that really wasn’t all that weird, and uninteresting secondary characters. I tried to like this remake. By God, did I ever try. Even after my initial disappointment, I tuned in to the conclusion on Wednesday, just to see how what the AMC series would tie it all together. I fell asleep only about 10 minutes in. Does Jim Caviezel dance to “Dem Bones” while robed judges in half-black, half-white masks cheer on? I have no idea. The Wikipedia plot summary doesn’t give me much hope, though, because the secret behind The Village sounds LAME AS ALL HELL.

At the same time, AMC launched a webcomic — I’m sorry, “online graphic novel” — to expand on The Prisoner mythos. It can be found here at the AMC site. Now, given that I hated, hated, HATED AMC’s The Prisoner, you’ve got to ask yourself: why in the world would I ever even bother to read The Prisoner webcomic? Well, I was partly driven by due dilligence and partly driven by morbid curiosity. I also held a small, irrational glimmer of hope, too, that there might be a chance The Prisoner webcomic could surpass the TV show as the standard bearer for the modern day Prisoner canon.

Let me present you the following Batman-based analogy (which, for the record, is the best kind of analogy). Remember when Batman: The Animated Series came out? It went on the air at the same time Batman Returns hit theaters, a movie that some movie buffs retroactive claim as the artistic highpoint of the Burton/Schumacher era but was universally reviled when it debuted. So while fans were disappointed movie-wise, they could at least forgive Batman Returns because it helped spawn The Animated Series, which is pretty much THE definitive Batman incarnation of our generation.

In the same manner, I’d hoped the webcomic might usurp the mantle of the TV show to become The Prisoner status quo… perhaps leading to an animated series that will no doubt scar the minds of the little kiddies if The Misadventures of Flapjack hadn’t done that already.

Thus far, two issues out of the ten issue run of The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel have been released. The webcomic was created by Zombie Dog Productions. It boasts a fairly large staff: M. Scott Veach handles writing. Mitchell Breitweiser and Cliff Richards handle the art. Plus, there’s also a letterer, an editor, an assistant writer, two animators, and two line producers. Whew!

Sadly, while The Prisoner webcomic isn’t quite as soul-crushing as the new TV series, it’s still about as exciting as watching a grass grow.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. The Prisoner is one of the very few webcomics that decide to integrate motion. I have no complaints from a technical standpoint. In select scenes you can watch glass shatter or follow the spinning rotor blades of a ceiling fan. Click on the “Next” button, and the site glides to the page rather than the standard refresh screen. All told, it’s pretty cool. Clicking on a link to an issue brings up a loading screen (accompanied by an animated silhouette of The Village old-timey bicycle — coooool) which queues the entire 11 to 15 page comic at one time. Thus, we’re spared the terrible page-to-page lag times that define Zuda offerings.

At least Zombie Dog Productions is trying. Most comics paired with big media events feel barely more than promotional fliers. It looks like Team Zombie Dog is at least attempting to write a compelling supplemental story. Why slate 10 issues for a mini-series that was over in 3 days otherwise?

Unfortunately, The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel reads like a Prisoner fanfic… even moreso than the TV show. I mean, you follow a gal who’s called Number 18. That is totes a Mary Sue fanfic name! She’s on the run for no apparent reasons, and then ends up in The Village for equally vague purposes. We, the readers, don’t care, because Number 18 is just as much a card-board cutout of a character as TV’s new Number 6.

The comic also takes place in the AMC vision where *spoiler alert!* our world and The Village exist in separate realities. (It just now occurs to me why they waited until the end of The Prisoner miniseries to release Part Two of the online graphic novel.) While it’s not as confusing as Caviezel’s crazy scene transitions, it’s still just not that compelling of a concept. If you were going to go that direction, why not create a world that’s completely ridiculous and surreal rather than something that looks like your garden-variety suburb plopped in the middle of the Sahara? That’s how The Maxx did it, what with their Izses and floating whales and jungle girls and what not. And everyone LOVES The Maxx.

Also, like the remade TV show, the comic lacks any sense of humor. It’s deadly earnest, deadly serious … and deadly dull. For all it’s high concept, the original did, once in a while, have a sense of humor. Sure, at no point does Number Six go: “Is that really a goddamn balloon from the London Meteorological Society you’re using as a security device? Really?” But make no mistake, there are light-hearted scenes. Like that scene where Number Six gets so fed up with the radio that he stuffs it in his refrigerator. Or that memorable moment where Six asks for a larger map, and the shopkeeper delivers a larger map covering the exact same area.

You see? Just because you’re drugged and stuck on a pleasant island with a sinister undercurrent doesn’t mean you can’t crack a joke once in a while! It’s a freshman mistake storyteller tend to forget. All current sci-fi shows want to be Lost. But all the storytellers fall for a freshman mistake: they remember the overpowering air of mystery, but they forget that Hurley broke out the golf clubs when everyone got too serious.

So, thus far, The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel doesn’t quite deepen the world of The Village. Rather, it plunges you into the exact same very boring and very unpleasant world of the AMC TV show. Hooray.

The comic doesn’t work on my iPod Touch, by the way. For some reason, Apple doesn’t allow you to download Macromedia Flash. In other news, The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel is sponsored by the Palm Pre. (For those wondering: Rover doesn’t appear in the comic yet, but the Palm Pre does.) So … does this comic actually work on the Palm Pre? If it does, is this some sort guerrilla marketing with an insidious hidden meaning?

Number Two: “So, my dear Apple user. It seems you cannot read comics using your puny Safari browser. You have given up your right to be an individual. To The Village with you!”

Masked judges (representing iPod users): “I! I! I! I! I!”

Steve Jobs (dancing): “Dem bones dem bones dem… dry bones!”

{Number Two, played by the creepy Palm Pre lady, pulls out a tommy gun an massacres everyone to the tune of “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles}

Aw, hell. I think I like my The Prisoner fanfic much, much better.


Patrick McGoohan’s disapproving glare


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on November 18, 2009, in action webcomic, Crabcake Confidential, motion comic, mystery webcomic, sci-fi webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Flash eats up memory. There are supposedly developers standing-by for Apple to approve their flash-apps, but Apple seems to be sticking by its prohibition against allowing flash because they don’t want to risk its devices’ memory choking.

  2. Ugh I hate motion in webcomics. I mean it’s smooth but it’s so distracting…not to mention slow. If I wanted motion I’d watch a movie. Fail for AMC. The art is gorgeous…but you’re right. Story is boring and…bland? I have no idea what’s going on…I don’t care about seriousface chick…. Laaaame!

  3. Motion comics aren’t comics. They’re animation. It’s like saying Hammerman was a motion comic.


    • To be fair, though, that is a bit of a flawed analogy. “Hammerman” didn’t have word balloons or a “Next” button (the combination of words and visuals and the control over time being the top two parts of the definition of “sequential art” as laid down by Scott McCloud). Also, “Hammerman” had rapping shoes, playing it beyond animation and into the realm of epic mythology.

  4. Just a loyal reader who wants to correct you about The Village. It’s never stated definitively island, just that sea is at one side to it and in the other directions are forest and mountains. Why they changed it to a desert is beyond me.

    • That’s true. The last episode implies that it’s a seaside locale, but frankly everything in “Fall Out” was so insane that you could take nothing at face value. (Then again… Britain IS an island… so you could make a legit claim that “The Prisoner” took place on an island after all?) I guess the “island” thing is one of those items that entered popular culture even though it wasn’t ever 100% verified. Like how “The Prisoner” shows up on a lot of lists entitled “Best TV Shows Set on an Island.”

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