Issue: Vol. 1, No. 1
Date: Aug. – Sept., 1973
Publisher: National Periodical Publications, Inc. (DC Comics)
Cover Artist(s): Designed by Joe Simon; penciled and inked by Jerry Grandenetti
Joe Simon has co-created – with Jack Kirby -- some of the greatest character and comic book series of all time, including CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE BOY COMMANDOS, “The Newsboy Legion”, FIGHTING AMERICAN, BOYS RANCH and the entire genre of romance comics! But Mr. Simon also has the distinction of having spawned some of the oddest Oddball Comics ever published…and near the top of that dizzying list is PREZ, a series that may have lasted only four issues…but what crazy issues they are!
PREZ #1 features the introductory story “Oh Say Does That Star Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”, written by Joe Simon and drawn by Jerry Grandenetti, a cartoonist who drew many horror and war comics in his career, but rarely anything that approaching the uniqueness of PREZ (although his Golden Age Will Eisner-esque “The Files Of Dr. Drew” series certainly came close!) Here’s the introductory caption that kicks off this issue’s three-chapter story:
This is the story of the most powerful man on earth. He is not a super-hero, but a teenager who becomes the 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!
In Chapter One, “The Clocks Of Steadfast”, we first meet Prez Rickard (whose mother named him that because she hoped he would someday become President!), a blond teenager who’s the head of the town of Steadfast’s local stock car club. When he wins the latest race, it becomes clear that no one in town really knows what time it is – because every clock in town (and there are thousands of ‘em) is set to a different time! Soon (in “March, 1971”, no less) the Ninety-second Congress of the United States ratifies the eighteen-year-old vote! Prez poses a question:
One thing bothers me – if the clocks aren’t on time, HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN IT’S ELECTION DAY?
Anxious to do something about their town’s time-keeping problem, Prez single-handedly fulfills his promise to set Steadfast’s clocks right – one timepiece at a time! In Chapter Two, “Boss Of Slum City”, we meet Slum City’s totally corrupt political mover and shaker, Boss Smiley -- “the meanest, most vicious man in the world” -- whose round, ever-smiling face looks just like the so-called “smiley faces” that appeared on buttons, stickers, posters, t-shirts and other faddish paraphernalia of the early 1970s. (Check out that photo of Smiley posing with President Richard M. Nixon on his desk!) Since the streets of Slum City are full of mobs of young people who are demonstrating against Boss Smiley’s crooked regime, he decides:
These kids can clobber us where it hurts most – in the BALLOT BOX! Ain’t you heard that the eighteen-year-olds have the vote now? They’ve even passed an amendment that lets the kids run for congress! We’ve got to have a candidate that can relate to those stupid kids. Someone young, ambitious and pliable!
Boss Smiley and his stooges visit his cousin, Misery Marko, an “advertising genius” whose ad agency is aboard a bizarre ocean liner that’s anchored in Pollution Cove and decorated with pop art and a gigantic bust of former Vice President Spiro Agnew! Marko, “who sent four presidents to the White House” and who built Boss Smiley “into the political leader of the entire central nation” agrees to handle the election campaign of his cousin’s candidate, whoever he might be. Prez Rickard’s clock-correcting actions attract Smiley’s attention, who Marko compares to Mussolini, who made Italy’s WWII railroads run on time. Soon, Boss Smiley and his entourage visit Steadfast to meet Prez. Before you know it, Prez has eagerly agreed to Smiley’s offer to back him for a seat in the Senate! In Chapter Three, “Eagle Free”, Boss Smiley and company are on their way back to Slum City via limousine, when one of his entourage flip a lit cigar butt into the nearby woods. It quickly starts a fire, but before it can become a forest-threatening blaze, it’s extinguished by Eagle Free, the Native American protector of a vast animal sanctuary. Soon, Boss Smiley pushes through plans to build a super-highway to pass through the forest that harbors Eagle Free’s wildlife preserve, leading to the tiny town of Steadfast! Several weeks later, Boss Smiley’s campaign to elect Prez Rickard to the Senate is in full swing, and Prez is set to appear at the ceremony to launch construction of the road to his hometown. But rather than blasting open the ground where the highway will run, the explosive charge that Prez detonates weakens the nearby dam. Before its floodwaters can wash away Steadfast, Eagle
Free and his animal friends show up to rescue the town while destroying Boss Smiley’s construction equipment. As Eagle Free and his critters depart, Boss Smiley orders Prez to follow, who tracks them to their secret (but lavish) headquarters in a nearby cave.
My name is Eagle Free…I live here in this shelter where my forefathers lived for thousands of years – before the white man came to poison the forests, the streams and the air –
Eagle Free opens Prez’s eyes to Boss Smiley’s evil plans and shares his secrets of nature while training Prez in preparation for their upcoming mission against Boss Smiley. One night, the duo infiltrate the political boss’ skyscraper headquarters; rifling through his files, they discover damning evidence of Boss Smiley’s corrupt system of power and influence. But suddenly, they’re ambushed and overcome by Smiley and his goon squad! Smiley confronts Prez:
I had a hunch this bird would be trouble!
We’ve uncovered your whole rotten scheme, Smiley – I’m MY OWN MAN from now on! You can believe this, Boss Smiley…if I ever get into office, I’ll see that you’re THROUGH! You won’t be able to fix a TRAFFIC TICKET!
You’ll never get the chance, boy! I’m RENOUNCING you – I’ll get a NEW candidate. Some smart…who will TAKE ORDERS!
But Smiley’s plans immediately become moot when the “bonging” of a nearby clock tower suddenly interrupts him. It’s midnight – which means it’s also Election Day! Prez wins the Senate seat, then goes on to an even greater victory:
After the youth of America gained a majority in Congress, they voted an amendment to the constitution which would lower the required age of the President from thirty-five to eighteen – Senator Prez Rickard, running on the New Flower Party ticket – upset both the Republican and Democratic candidates to win the presidency after a truth-and-love campaign which polarized the generations.
The story winds up with this somewhat bizarre sequence in the Oval Office of the White House:
Here is the new Funk and Wagner history book, Mr. President – I thought you’d find it of interest.
That was a quick history. They sure didn’t wait for us to ACCOMPLISH anything, did they? I guess the old order is not too happy about LOTS of things, including Eagle Free as F.B.I. chief and YOU as my Vice President --
Yes, I know…This is a small SAMPLE of the opposition we can expect from the OVER-THIRTIES! In fact, there is already a movement to IMPEACH you, MR. PRESIDENT!
We’ve heard of that conspiracy – and we know that it is connected with a plot so ingenious, so sinister that it could destroy the world! It is unprecedented, Mr. President, but we – you and I – must go out into the night to challenge these forces! Talk about history, the next issue will be more exciting than anything ever recorded.
You mean the next history book?
I mean the next issue of this comic book, Mr. President.
Just call me PREZ…By the way, I’ll bet the reader can’t guess who my Vice President is…
ODDBALL Factoid – Jack Kirby always maintained that his longtime partner Joe Simon is one of the greatest comic book cover-designers of all time! (And in my opinion, he’s certainly one of the oddest!)