by Lew Stringer


Comics have always been swift to latch on to any new trend in order to boost their sales. The innovations of other media have been a particularly beneficial area to "borrow" from. Early comics in the 1900's used the patter of music hall comedy sketches as an influence in their strips and gags. Some comedians, such as Dan Leno, actually found themselves depicted in the comics, as did silent screen stars, such as Chaplin and Ben Turpin, when cinema blossomed years later. Comics featuring popular celebrities helped benefit both parties; they ensured a comic's sales, and kept the performer in the public eye. Later, stars of the "wireless" became the new trend for comics like Radio Fun, but it wasn't until the advent of television that so many of these media connected comics proliferated.

By the 1960's, many TV based comics flooded the market, from the excellent TV Century 2t to its less spectacular sister paper, Solo. Curiously, despite the numerous detective based TV series around at the time, no one publication was willing to gather them into a single comic. Thus "The Avengers" appeared in TV Comic, "The Saint" in TV Tornado and "Danger Man" featured for a while in Lion.

Perhaps because none of the spy/detective series appeared in one umbrella title, the strips were relatively short lived and perhaps went unnoticed b most of each series' fans. The "Danger Man" strip took up two pages in Lion for only a few months in 1966. Although the photo-realistic artwork , by the Spaniard Jesus Blasco, was spot on in its renditions of John Drake, the same cannot be said for the uncredited scriptwriter. The very last episode (issue dated 3rd, September 1966) has our usually cool hero grooving away to a fab band whilst uttering the fab gear phrase: "Yeah, YEAH!"

Another "Danger Man" strip appeared in the Ranger Annual 1967. This time by a different artist, illustrating the strip in a grey wash. Typical of the times, the strip was uncredited. It featured Drake using all kinds of gadgets to thwart foreign assassins.

So much for the sad plight of John Drake in British comics, which rarely remain very faithful to the series they adopt (with the exception of the Anderson shows). An article in Book and Magazine Collector No.77 revealed more about "Danger Man" in print, but also notes that "The Prisoner" never appeared in a comic strip, which isn't entirely true!

Back in 1968, a weekly humour/adventure comic entitled Smash! regularly featured a two page strip called "Charlie's Choice" which concerned a boy with a TV set whose character's came to life! The artwork was by the late Brian Lewis, who was equally adept at both humour and straight illustration, which made him an ideal choice for the characatures that the strip presented. The stories were uncredited, but were very lighthearted so as to appeal to readers unfamiliar with whichever TV show "got the treatment" that week. During the course of its run, Charlie encountered many TV stars of the day, from Napoleon Solo to Emma Peel, not to mention historical figures such as King Arthur and Robin Hood.

In Smash! no. 109 (dated 2nd, March 1968) Charlie is watching "The Prisoner" and, feeling sorry for "the poor twerp", sets Number Six free by shaking him out of the TV set! A sequence of traditional comic slapstick follows, before Number Six eventually flees to the "sanctuary" of the TV set after mistaking Charlie's bubble gum bubble for Rover. The strip is simple and formularised, and contains none of the sophistication of the TV series, relying instead on a basic "fugitive on the loose" theme. Number Six does, however, bark his defiant "I am a free man!" exclamation during the story.

The strip ends with Number Six back in the Village, uttering a disdainful "Bah!". A week Ii "Charlie's Choice" dealt another TV character, and The Prisoner was never mentioned again. It is doubtful that publishers would acquire copyright permission to likenesses or themes in the strip. Their defence, if ever questioned would most likely be that "satire", which has allowed magazine to do so many pare over the years. Smash! was not a TV themed comic, so is unlikely to have attracted attention of TV fans, hence not many Prisoner devotees knowing of this rarity. "Charlies Choice" continued in Smash! until 1969, when IPC Magazines took over the comic and turned it a boy's adventure weekly. A pity, because with an ongoing number of tv shows to satirize, Charlie's Choice could have run forever.

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