Prez #3 cover

Prez #3, Dec-Jan 1973-1974

“Invasion of America”

The White House is besieged by an army garbed in Revolutionary uniform. A missile crashes through a window into the Oval Office, and a small man climbs out. He is Baron von Stomp, who identifies himself as a Washington Minuteman. The army outside is intended as a demonstration against Prez’s proposed Bill to Outlaw Firearms. Prez is warned that “We citizens who have an inalienable right to bear arms…” will not stand for it, they will “rise up and smite” President Rickard.

Baron von Stomp

Prez ponders this as von Stomp leaves.

Later, Gregor Washington, descendent of George,  masses his troops at Valley Forgery. Like the Revolutionary Army some two hundred years earlier, the men are cold, hungry and demoralised as they stand in line for their monthly stipend. Gregor grows increasingly angry, he’s waited so long to act even his wooden teeth have begun to sprout buds.

Gregor Wshington Prez

At the White House Prez is briefed by Eagle Free, Native American head of the FBI. They know Gregor is desperate but starved of funds—something that Prez knows not to take lightly. Nonetheless he decides that he will sign the gun control Bill in the morning: “It is more important than ever that we outlaw the sale and possession of firearms.” However, as he draws the curtains, a gunshot rings out and a nation prays for its President.

Prez #3

Seizing on this opportunity, Gregor orders the forgery of one dollar bills using a new foolproof method. Using this counterfeit cash, Gregor is soon able to feed, clothe and arm his troops  once more, and he orders them to march on Washington.

Prez has survived the bullet, and grows concerned that there will soon be a bloodbath unless Gregor can be stopped. Eagle Free meets with Gregor under a white flag, and offers terms of a truce: their differences can be settled through hand-to-hand combat—Gregor against Prez, man to man. Gregor accepts. However, once Eagle Free has left, he orders man mountain Sergeant Hood to take his place in combat.

“Gregor” and Prez go head to head in a dance of fists. The bigger man quickly gains the upper hand, but Prez lashes out from the floor with one last desperate blow. “Gregor” falls. Prez leaps onto him and seems ready to kill the prone man, when Eagle Free grabs him. “His death would serve no purpose — !” Prez comes to his senses.

The real Gregor orders his men to attack. “The Revolution will proceed!!” he cries.

It’s all out war. Army against army. Tanks against muskets.

Prez stops the war

Seing this, a tearful Prez runs into the middle of the battlefield, and stands directly between the opposing forces. As he atempts to stop the fighting, Gregor lassos him and drags him away. Sergeant Hood pulls Gregor from his horse and knocks him out, saving Prez’s life. It transpires that Hood was an undercover FBI agent all along. Gregor surrenders and his taken away.

Prez addresses Congress

The next day at the Capitol, Prez addresses the combined Houses of Congress. He’s decided against the firearms Bill, he tells them, “…this day I have passed from callow youth to a mature man. I have learned from this tragedy that force cannot be met with cool phrases, love… or flowers…”

Later that evening Prez and Eagle Free wonder who was the would-be assassin. Eagle Free is afraid that they will soon find out.

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An interesting, and quite brave issue from writer Joe Simon and artist Jerry Grandinetti. Gun control, of course, remains a very hot topic of debate in the US to this day. I think Simon plays a reasonably fair hand, eventually seeming to decide that arms are a necessary evil. He is however, keen to make it clear that pacifism isn’t an easy way out, and that those of that persuasion are not cowards. Prez acts in an extremely brave, almost foolhardy, manner when attempting to stop the fight. He then goes against the wishes of many of his young supporters by scrapping the firearms Bill, and they shout him down in Congress.

Simon was 60 years old when he wrote this. I’m not sure that the young turks then entering the comics field would have written it quite the same way—especially as Vietnam was still raging—but it provides for a fascinating counterpoint. I’d far rather see this than an old man trying to be hip, which was often the problem with a lot of Simon’s output at the time.

So, with its third issue, Prez finally has something relevant to say. Sadly, it wouldn’t last long.

Images ©2011 DC Comics