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The Prisoner

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
Fantastic Four: The Power and the Pride The Fantastic Four
The Power and the Pride
Fantastic Four #84-87
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
Inker: Joe Sinnott
1969

 

The Fantastic Four find themselves captives of Dr. Doom in a small Latverian village where no one is truly free.

 

Read the summary of these issues at SuperMegaMonkey

 

Didja Know?

 

This study is of the storyline in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four #84-87 (1969), which includes an homage to the concept of the Village in The Prisoner, in which the heroic quartet are trapped by their arch-nemesis Dr. Doom in a Latverian village filled with his obedient, fearful subjects. Artist Jack Kirby was well-known to be a huge fan of The Prisoner, and even wrote and drew an entire first issue of a Prisoner comic book for Marvel which was never published (see my notes about this aborted comic in my study of "Arrival").

 

I have borrowed the title "The Power and the Pride" from the final issue of the story and assigned it as the most appropriate for the entire 4-issue storyline studied here.

 

The Fantastic Four is a superhero team in the Marvel Comics universe, made up of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), his wife, Susan Richards (Invisible Girl), Susan's brother, Johnny Storm (Human Torch), and Benjamin Grimm (the Thing). At the time of this storyline, Susan Richards has taken a sabbatical from the team to care for her and Reed's newborn son, Franklin, and her place on the team has been filled the Inhuman woman named Crystal, who is currently Johnny's girlfriend.

 

Didja Notice?

 

Fantastic Four #84, "The Name is Doom"

 

The story opens with the Fantastic Four (FF) leaving the Himalayan Mountains in a gyrosphere after completing an adventure of the previous few issues of the comic. 

 

Page 3 describes the country of Latveria ruled by Dr. Doom as existing in the Balkans. The Balkans are the nations of the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, though Latveria is a fictitious nation. In The Prisoner, the Village is hinted at being in a few different locations, never quite confirmed, but none of the locations were in the Balkans.
Latveria Europe w/ Latveria marked
Rendition of Latveria (from Wikipedia) Europe with Latveria marked (from Marvel Wiki)

 

On page 4, a citizen of Latveria attempts to escape the country via an ancient, hidden tunnel deep within the catacombs of Castle Doom. He makes it all the way through the tunnel and onto a rocky, cliff-face shoreline on the open sea. But, Latveria does not have any borders on the sea according to the official Marvel Earth map, as seen above! At the time the story was written in 1968, of course, no such firmly established locations on the globe had been established for the Earth of the Marvel universe.

 

The Fantastic Four is given a mission of investigating a secret army being built up by Dr. Doom in Latveria by S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division), a fictitious intelligence agency of the U.S. government.

 

On page 14, the Thing remarks that he's going to blast one of Doom's flying weapons back to Yancy Street. Yancy Street is part of the neighborhood Ben Grimm (the Thing) grew up in in Manhattan; the street is fictitious, though inspired by the real world Delancey Street there.

 

As the Thing gazes out the window of the room he wakes up in in the primitive Latverian village, he exclaims, "It's like somethin' outta Ol' King Cole!" This is a reference to the old British nursery rhyme "Old King Cole", known to exist since at least the early 18th Century.

 

As Reed, Ben, and Johnny emerge from their lodgings on page 19, they are greeted by a large welcoming gathering of the village's citizens, prompting Reed to exclaim, "It's like something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta!" W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) were a popular English writing duo of operattas (comic operas) in the 19th Century.

 

On page 19, the mayor of the village is wearing a large, flower-shaped pin on his lapel, somewhat reminiscent of the numbered badges worn by citizens of the Village on The Prisoner.

 

On page 20, a small marching band led by a bass drummer is seen playing in celebration of the FF's arrival in the village. A similar small band was seen numerous times playing in the Village of The Prisoner.

 

To prove to his teammates that they are prisoners in the village and not guests, Reed makes an attempt to dash across the village border and is stopped by a stun blast from an automated sentry (somewhat similar to the automated Rover guardian of the Village on The Prisoner).

 

Fantastic Four #85, "Within This Tortured Land"

 

On page 3, Ben asks the village security force, "Who d'you creeps think yer talkin' to--a blasted Yancy Streeter??" Ben is referring to the Yancy Street Gang, who are known to criticize and play insulting pranks on him, seeing him as a traitor to his former neighborhood.

 

On page 4, a waiter approaches the FF and tells them their lunch is ready, provided by their generous sovereign. But, just minutes earlier (last issue), they were told breakfast would be served in half an hour!

 

On page 5, Dr. Doom is seen sitting in an ovoid chair, surrounded by a round, high-tech electronic desk as he observes the FF walking through the village. The chair even lowers itself to a room below on page 6! This is similar to Number 2's office in The Prisoner.

Doom's office

 

On page 7, Dr. Doom wonders aloud to his chief scientist, a former Nazi called Hauptmann, what his long-dead Führer would have given for an army such as his? This obviously refers to former Nazi leader and German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, ironically still secretly alive in the Marvel universe, his mind transferred into a succession of cloned bodies since the end of WWII and operating generally as the super-villain called the Hate-Monger.

 

On page 13, the FF are rendered unconscious by sedatives secretly added to their food or beverage, just as occurred to Number 6 a time or two in The Prisoner.

 

On page 14, the FF are subjected to hypnotic programming, again as occurred to Number 6 a time or two in The Prisoner.

 

Fantastic Four #86, "The Victims" 

 

On page 2, two village residents are seen riding in a small, motorized vehicle similar to a Mini-Moke, used as taxis in the Village throughout episodes of The Prisoner.
mini-mobile Mini-Moke

 

As Dr. Doom's robot army advances on page 3, one of the villagers begs for protection from the FF, saying, "You're the Fantastic Four...the only ones to battle Dr. Doom and still live to tell of it!" Actually, by the time this story was written, a number of other super-heroes and teams had successfully survived battles with the good doctor: Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and the Avengers, to name just a few. Of course, Doom, as the absolute dictator of Latveria, has likely kept information about his own failures and defeats from his subjects.

 

The FF's super powers which had been blocked from their use by a couple of sessions under Dr. Doom's hypno-persuader device are already beginning to return as the robot army attacks, even though it has seemingly only been a matter of hours (if that) since the last hypno-session. Nor are the FF terrified of the thought of violence as they were immediately after their last session. It seems that Doom's device is not very potent at all!

 

On page 10, Ben jokingly tells Johnny to, "Sing it again, Tiny Tim!" This is a reference to the American singer called Tiny Tim (Herbert Khaury, 1932-1996), who was at the height of his popularity when this story was written.

 

On page 15, when Reed comes to Ben's aid against an attacking robot and identifies himself to his groggy friend, Ben responds, "Well, I didn't think ya wuz Spiro Agnew!" Agnew (1918-1996) was the Vice President of the United States under Richard Nixon from 1969-1973.

 

Page 16 reveals that Dr. Doom has two gigantic cylinders of explosive material underneath the village, which he uses to blow up the entire hamlet in an attempt to destroy the FF after they defeat his robots. This may be a nod to the underground missile/rocket hidden underneath the Village that blasts off and triggers an evacuation of the Village in the final episode of The Prisoner, "Fall Out".

 

Fantastic Four #87, "The Power and the Pride" 

 

On page 1, Ben refers to the fleeing villagers who have been victimized by their monarch, Dr. Doom, as "poor shnooks". Schnook is a Yiddish term that is a more affectionate way of calling someone a schlemiel.

 

On page 3, Ben hurls a gigantic chunk of the village's clock tower towards Castle Doom, shouting, "Geronimo!!" This is an American exclamation made by a person about to make a big jump.

 

On page 5, Dr. Doom shouts at Hauptmann, "Silence, you snivelling jackanape!!" The term "jackanape" is properly "jackanapes", and refers to an impertinent person.

 

On page 6, Dr. Doom announces what will be his pièce de résistance against the FF, his own concerto played on a piano rigged for hyper-sound. Pièce de résistance is French for the main dish of a meal and has come to additionally mean the most noteworthy feature of an object or event.

 

On page 18, the FF bust into a gallery of stolen artworks in Castle Doom. One of the statues seen here appears to be a representation of the four-armed Hindu god Shiva.

 

Passing through the art gallery, Ben laments, "Not even one pin-up of Raquel Welsh (sic)!" Raquel Welch is an American actress and was a worldwide sex symbol in the late 1960s-70s.


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