Fasten your seatbelts folks, it’s going to be a bumpy night…
Prez #1, August-September 1973
“Oh Say Does That Star Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”
Teenager Prez Rickard, so named by his mom who predicted he would “be President some day”, lives in the little town of Steadfast. Steadfast is unusual in that every building there has a clock — and every clock shows a different time! Confusion reigns, until one day young Prez decides to fix them all. His main reason for doing this is ultra cool: if the clocks are wrong, how will anyone know when it’s Election Day?
Hmmm, good point… say how wrong are these clocks???!!
Meanwhile, in Central City, USA (this doesn’t appear to be the same Central City the Flash zips about in), also known as “Slum City”, Mayor Boss Smiley is “the meanest, most vicious man in the world!” He’s also got a smiley badge for a head.
No, I’m not kidding. Check this out:
Anyway, Smiley is angry. He’s not popular enough with the kids. As an amendment has just been passed allowing eighteen-year-olds to vote and run for Congress for the first time, Smiley wants a candidate who he can manipulate. “Someone young, ambitious and pliable!”
He goes to see his cousin, Misery Marko, the advertising genius — who just happens to live on a psychedelic ship docked in his own private harbour, Pollution Cove. It seems Misery thinks best when he’s unhappy. And living in the shit hole he does, it’s no wonder he’s unhappy. A lot.
Misery conceives an ad campaign to put Prez Rickard in the Senate. Prez is by now famous as the “teenager who makes clocks run on time!” and Smiley and Misery decide to have him stand on that ticket. After all, as Misery points out: “Our candidate has to have a gimmick! Mussolini made the railroads run on time — Ghandi stopped the trains — Lincoln freed the slaves — …”
Smiley and his sycophants go to see Prez, and quickly convince him that running for the Senate would be a cool idea.
Returning to Central City in his motorcade, Smiley lobs a lit cigar out of the window setting the forest on fire. “Haw haw”! shrugs Smiley. A Native American in traditional garb, including a feather in his headband, runs out of the trees and puts out the flames. He then stands with his menagerie as they watch the motorcade retreat. His menagerie is a little odd, to say the least: I bet you didn’t know there were monkeys, gorillas and elephants living wild in the mid-West, huh?
Boss Smiley decides it’s high time that the forest made way for a super-highway leading directly to Steadfast. People are sure to want to go there as it’s “the home of the next PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!” Coincidentally, Smiley also owns the construction company to be awarded the contract. Wotta guy!
Several weeks pass, and the campaign to install Prez as a senator is in full swing. One duty Prez is called on to perform is the launching of Smiley’s super-higway project. Prez pushes the lever and a series of explosions rack the area. A nearby dam bursts, flooding the forest. The indian and his furry chums jump into a boat and ride the flood waters right to where Prez and Smiley stand. “It looks like Noah’s Ark!” shouts Smiley.
The animals attack the digging machines and run away.
It’s possible that Smiley is commenting on the creators of the comic at this point…
Prez volunteers to chase after the fleeing mob. He soon catches up, but is grabbed by the gorilla! The Native American introduces himself as Eagle Free. He lives in a cave full of books and scientific equipment. This doesn’t stop Prez referring to him as a “savage”.
“Yes,” replies Eagle Free, “I am little more than an animal — but in many ways, animals are superior to man!”
It transpires that Eagle Free spent some years studying at university, but now prefers to live with the animals — “as my ancestors lived… with nature!” We can probably be grateful that he’s not a naturist — trust me, in this comic anything would be possible! He claims that Boss Smiley is corrupt, and offers to show Prez the error of his ways. Eagle Free then trains Prez in the ways of the forest. Prez becomes like unto a teenage Tarzan, able to swing from trees, run with the deer and commune with nature. All this happens in one panel, which is quite impressive.
Finally, Eagle Free decides Prez is ready. The pair steal into Boss Smiley’s offices. Papers reveal that Eagle Free is telling the truth: Smiley is corrupt. Gasp! Prez is shocked. Just then, Smiley’s security arrives and a fight ensues. Boss Smiley is so angry at this turn of events that he decides to renounce Prez and get a new candidate — someone who will “take orders!”
But, it’s too late. The clock strikes midnight: it’s Election Day!!
Prez is elected to the Senate, and, after the youth of America gain a majority in Congress, an amendment is passed to lower the age required of a Presidential candidate.
Prez runs for office on a New Flower Party ticket. And wins!! Prez Rickard is the President of the United States of America!
On the final page, we learn that Eagle Free has been made FBI chief — though he continues to wear his tradional garb, even in the Oval office. An unidentified man standing in heavy shadow has been made Vice President. Eagle Free then announces that they are in a comic book, and Prez turns to address the reader directly…
Like, where do you start, man?
A totally, totally bonkers comic. Is it a satire? Is it a comedy? Political? A call to action? A rallying cry for the nation’s youth? Is it supposed to be subversive? Is it the book the comics industry was crying out for? Strangely, it’s all of these — well, except for the last one obviously…
Creator and writer Joe Simon was one half of the Simon and Kirby powerhouse creative partnership of the Golden Age. Together they created Captain America, Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion, The Guardian, Stuntman, The Fighting American, Boys Ranch, The Fly, and on and on. Alone, Simon created… er… Brother Power the Geek, The Green Team, the Outsiders, and Prez. Now you know why Kirby is considered a genius.
In many ways, Prez echoes the earlier Brother Power comic. It’s written by an older man hoping to appear hip to a modern generation, and aims to highlight their concerns. Like the Geek, Prez discovers adults are corrupt and comes to, uhm, believe that children are the future. Throw in the clocks, the eco subplot and the truly inept Eagle Free character, and you’ve got a comic that’s impossible not to love. It’s even got a gorilla. Yay!
The art was by long-time Simon collaborator Jerry Grandenetti.
You know, when old fart fans like me tell you they don’t make comics like they used to — it’s this sort of thing we’re talking about.
Images ©2011 DC Comics