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Prez was cancelled after #4, but the unpublished #5 appeared in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2: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