prisoner of the parakeets

2           does anyone know where ‘prisoner of the parakeets’ was originally published: it was reprinted in the last ever issue of strange adventures (# 244) with a new seventies cover.

for anyone unfamiliar with the strip this is a story involving a meteor, an atom bomb, a scientist in a boat + a flock of parakeets, unfolding (from memory) over six pages, + concluding with a neat come uppance for the villains.

fans of tight economical story telling (anyone who read ‘by his bootstraps’ by anson macdonald when they were young) ought to want to track this down as it is a supreme example.  + obviously the other reason is that the concept of writing a plot revolving around someone being held prisoner by parakeets must surely be in the top twenty all time great concepts for comic strips.

feel free to post a reply if you can think of any of the others


according to wordpress to date 33 people have found this article – most of them presumably on the way to one of the more interesting ones on either side of it

luckily one of those people read it + offered the following advice: there’s a website

which allows users to input dc story titles as the search parameters + will output where they were published, etc

    Prisoner of the Parakeets

    Strange Adventures #52

    Writer: John Broome
    Penciller: Henry Sharp
    Inker: Bernard Sachs

    Cover by Murphy Anderson

redrawn for #244

which is useful to know.  also, things happen to a random timescale on the internet


          addendum nov 2015

having also now received a scan, some images + a few points appear below

re tightness + economy: the story in fact plays out over only five panel pages (the first is a splash page) with events taking place at an amazing rate of acceleration: parakeets building a city in two panels at the top of page five, developing a language in the middle + coming up with a plan for taking over the world at the bottom of the same page

                  (c) DC 1954

part of the reason this strip sticks in the mind (apart from the sheer mentalness of it) are the visual images.  an automatic function of inverting the expected relationship between two of the elements in an image is to generate a sense of fascination in the viewer

                    (c) DC 1954

although giants have been done elsewhere (eg gulliver) + human / animal roles have been reversed as well (eg planet of the apes), this inversion of reality a) gives us both at once + b) represents the oddest choice of giant animal in the history of publishing

giant spiders, lizards, insects etc are the obvious candidates – why select a small bird.  they’re basically still cute even when they’re large – they can’t spin web, they have no venomous bite – even in a small typeface the list of frightening things parakeets can’t do would stretch from here to the moon

suspension of disbelief

the script requires a species which can issue a credible threat to conquer the earth – that’s unlikely with any size of parakeet.  we know the parakeets are evolving mentally as well but if we stop at any point whilst reading this to think about how they might actually go about enslaving the whole of humanity surely we would all draw a blank (notice the parakeets don’t get around to mentioning what their plan is either)

the reader, enjoying the story, would like it to hold together so he or she takes the scientist’s + the parakeets’ words for it that the human race is in danger: fundamentally that is what makes this strip so effective

ultimately the reader’s appreciation of it involves being aware of what he or she knows in the back of his or her mind (parakeets should not have been cast as the villains) + choosing to believe what he or she is told in the story (humanity must be saved from them) simultaneously

see the article about krypto elsewhere on this site for a similar (the same?) issue concerning silver age dc comics in general working on two levels


although the adjective surreal may completely correctly be applied to this strip the surrealist art movement does not feel like an influence on prisoner of the parakeets: there is no apparent subtext, or attempt at depicting dreams, or evidence of art speaking to the unconscious mind or whatever else the surrealists were up to.  if there is an influence it might be alice

(alice meets the blue caterpillar by john tenniel 1865)

what with her size relative to rabbits, dormice, etc + their comparatively non threatening status.  but this also is a long way from 1950s US popular culture + tenniel’s art is even further distant than the surrealists’

prisoner of the parakeets looks like one of those things 20th century industrial artforms produce once in a while: a random combination of ingredients which integrate perfectly + sparkle permanently

(c) DC 1954


This entry was posted in silver age comics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s