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365 Reasons to Love Comics #74

Joe Simon Week: part four! If you thought yesterday’s was weird, then prepare yourself. Today’s feature is the strangest political fiction of all time– and one of the greatest comic runs to come out of the 70’s.

3/15/07

74. Prez

Prez 1.jpg

This comic was too awesome to live. Written and created by Joe Simon and drawn by Jerry Grandenetti, it lasted twice as long as Brother Power– a whopping four issues.

“This is the story of the most powerful man on Earth. He is not a superhero, but a teenager who becomes President of the United States. It is not a true story. Not yet, but someday it may happen. And the history books of the future may read like this story of– Prez!” So sayeth page two. Man, I wish our history books read like Prez. I might have an interest in history if that were so.

Prez is the story of Prez Rickard, a young man named so because his mom really wanted him to be president one day. Their town of Steadfast has a problem with the clocks– none of them are on time and there’s a constant chiming throughout the place– so Prez decides to do something about it. He fixes them all by hand, drawing the attention of Boss Smiley, bizarre, tyrannical mayor of the polluted Central City, where the fascist police beat the crap out of the hippie youth. Also, he reads Batgirl:

Prez 4.JPG

A walking, corrupt emoticon, Boss Smiley decides to use a new amendment letting anyone eighteen or over to run for Congress to put his own man in the Senate. They take off to Pollution Cove to brainstorm for ideas, and come up with the perfect candidate: Prez Rickard.

Unfortunately, Prez’s idealism proves too much for Boss Smiley. The young man teams up with a Native American kid named Eagle Free to expose Smiley as corrupt. Then he becomes elected president, and the rest is history. Eagle Free becomes FBI director and Prez’s mom becomes vice-president.

Future issues dealt with the ridiculous Chessking and the Russian Queen who get into a live game of human chess that’s filled with sabotage and madcappery; Gregor Washingston, the deranged descendant of George Washington, and his maniacal counterfeit cavalry who dress like Revolutionary War soldiers and try to kill our hero; and, of course, a legless vampire. Because you gotta have legless vampires. On wheels, no less.

Prez was cancelled after #4, but the unpublished #5 appeared in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2:

Prez cancelled.JPG

Prez also guest-starred in the final issue of the 70’s Supergirl solo series, but that was it until Neil Gaiman resurrected him in the pages of Sandman #54 (drawn by Mike Allred– man, Gaiman and Allred love Simon characters). There was also a Vertigo Visions special about Prez by Ed Brubaker and Eric Shanower. With that creative team, you’d expect it to be great, but I don’t think it was very good. Maybe you’d disagree.

Prez, however, remains a fantastic concept that definitely deserves a comeback in our crazy political times. C’mon, it’s the story of an idealist teen president of the USA– it’s rife with story potential, even if one doesn’t delve into the weird and the ridiculous like the Simon version did in a spectacular fashion. If one did, it could run for years and years without missing a beat. I’d much rather see a new attempt at a Prez series than yet another Batman mini.

I know who I’d throw money at to write the new adventures of Prez: Garry Trudeau. Oh yeah. What do you think, dear readers?

Prez: The comic so frighteningly brilliant, it had to be killed. That won’t stop me from shouting from the rooftops about how great it was, though. Prez was as offbeat as comics come, but with a sharp and zany script from Simon and gorgeous, expressive art by Jerry Grandenetti, it was a damn fine comic book that came out in a decade filled with brilliant-but-cancelled comics.

You can also read about Prez at Don Markstein’s Toonopedia site.

17 Comments

Totally in agreement. Prez was gonzo fun.

The guest shot in Supergirl, by the way, is bizarre. I don’t think it was ever referenced again because they would have to admit that in the DC universe the Executive Branch was run by an 18 year-old.

They held onto that 5th issue of Prez for a long time– Cancelled Comics Cavalcade came out four years or so after that issue should have been published. But then another comic in that CCC was an issue of Kamandi…that would have reprinted (with a framing sequence) an issue of Kirby’s Sandman from about the same vintage as Prez.

Joe Simon was and is a great and very fun creative force in the and definitely deserves the props. You fellas should give him a holler at his website

SimonComics
http://www.simoncomics.com/

He may not know how awesome a lot of people think his creations are … and at 93 y’all might not have much longer to tell him.

And about Prez? 100% agreement on all points. I’d buy this over ‘Trials of Shazam’ anyday.

werd.

-f.

Were *any* of the Vertigo Visions any good? The idea of Vertiginous reimaginings of DC characters was a good one, but “hey, let’s reimagine,” without a story idea, doesn’t seem to be enough.

I was at a house party once, and one of the guys there had only read one comic, and that was the Sandman issue with Prez in it. The whole night, and I mean, from 9PM until 7AM, he would periodically come up to me and say, “You know what’s fucked up?”

“What?”

“Prez Rickard, man.”

“Huh?”

“Fucking Boss Smiley, man.”

“Huh?”

“You don’t know, man.”

“Don’t know about what?”

“Prez Rickard, man.”

“Fucked up.”

“Fucked up.”

All night.

Sounds pretty screwy. I like screwy.

Did it ever deal with the fact that the Constitution prohibits anyone under the age of 35 (I think) from becoming President?

Well, the book came out around ’73/’74, and the “18 year olds can vote” amendment had just hit in ’71, so Prez seemed to take place in a world where the younger guys voted younger people into Congress, who changed the Contitution to let 18 year olds run for president. Because obviously, young people care about voting.

an 18 year old becoming president isn’t the worst law broken here…it’s that his VP is his Mom! The President and Vice President must be from different states!

I’ve seen a lot of worlds and I’ve fixed a lot of worlds. This one may seem like it has its share of problems but it’s nothing that can’t be solved by good people just doing the right thing. Mr. Simon and I have to be off now but we’ll be keeping you in our dreams.

Were *any* of the Vertigo Visions any good? The idea of Vertiginous reimaginings of DC characters was a good one, but “hey, let’s reimagine,” without a story idea, doesn’t seem to be enough.

The problem with early Vertigo was that they jumped on practically everyone who’d ever appeared in a ‘mature readers’ comic, so Prez, Brother Power, Black Orchid, Kid Eternity, Phantom Stranger etc all suddenly got given series’s or one-shots regardless of whether there were any good pitches around. Vertigo has grown up a lot into its own niche since then

that Sandman Prez issue isone of m favourite stories from that title.

StephenSanders

March 16, 2007 at 7:11 am

I thought the Vertigo Prez one-shot was a nice little comic. It was a tale of really messed-up generation X-ers trying to sort out their s%$£. Its probably the most dated comic of its era as the ghost of poor old Kurt Cobain hangs over the proceedings but its heart was definitely in the right place.

Our teens sure had come a long way since the early seventies.

But hey! I think having a new teenage Prez as the president in the DCU would be a great development. I thought that having Lex Luthor in 1600 was a masterstroke insofar as DC could show the president of the US being a devious self-serving villain and not have to worry about being arrested by Homeland Security goons! Meanwhile over in 616, poor old Captain America had to salute and fawn as if old draft-dodging W was in any way deserving of a WWII veteran’s respect.

So Prez for President in the DCU! People need some ray of optimism these days. Even if the world we live in is waaaay messed up, at least in Superman’s world those in charge of the US would be at least trying to do the right thing. There’d still be plenty of shadowy extra-government spooks and self-serving vested interests for both Superman and Prez to deal with.

“The President and Vice President must be from different states!”

Not quite. Electors cannot vote for both a president and a vice-president from their own state. So Hillary Clinton could pick Elliot Spitzer as her running mate, for instance, but New York’s electors could not vote for Clinton AND Spitzer; they’d have to vote for someone else for one of the jobs. Same thing with the electors from Prez and his mom’s home state. It’s a hurdle to getting a president and VP from the same state, but a very large one rather than an insurmountable one (especially if Prez was from a small state).

Actually I thought Brubaker’s Prez one-shot was decent – a lot better than a lot of that early Vertigo stuff

I found a copy of Prez #1 a couple years ago and it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever bought. I wish I could find the other issues.

The Kirbydotter

March 17, 2007 at 9:49 am

I’m a big fan of DC’s Bronze Age.
It was a very creative era for DC.
They tried almost everything.
Once or twice.
Most new things didn’t last long.
Even some of their best stuff didn’t last very long.

I’m sorry to say this for Simon’s fans, but the worst ideas from that era were Joe Simon’s stuff.

He had been disconnected from the comic book media for too long, and was certainly not connected to that generation of young reader. His ideas of what was hip were caricatures of the hippy mouvement and ideals.

The only Kirby stuff I don’t like from the DC Bronze Age was his single collaboration with Joe Simon on Sandman.

Kirby and Simon were the best of the 40’s. I love Simon inks on the Kirby art of that period. But when Mainline failed and they parted, Simon lost his magic touch… Just as Stan Lee lost his when Kirby left Marvel… Strange coincidences…? I think not.

The only Prez I’ve read was the Sandman story, which I thought was one of the best issues of the entire series.

I saw the Vertigo one-shot in a back-issue bin once, but I didn’t pick it up, because I refuse to buy anything called “Smells Like Teen President”.

Just, as a general rule.

Gaiman took a silly 70’s idea and turned it into a brilliant Jesus allegory!

As for how he got elected, 18 year olds got the vote, they got a law passed that let 18 year olders be in Congress, which then passed the amendment letting the president being 18. Or something like that….been many many years since I read all that.

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