On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, I sat and watched the presidential inauguration parade in hopes of feeling some swell of emotion. I waited and waited and nothing happened. I voted for Barack Obama. Maybe I already had my tearful emotional moment on Election Day. I sat in a bar half-drunk and cried out all of my emotions as I witnessed history pass before my very eyes. Maybe it was that the parade was soul crushingly boring (that was most likely the real reason why I couldn’t give a damn). Maybe I was too worried about the massive job our new president has to work through and that he might possibly fail. The economy is spiraling down and it feels like we are heading towards another depression. Also in the modern world we can’t just pick up, move west and “Grapes of Wrath” ourselves into new orange picking jobs. Foreign affairs don’t look great either. Between the Israelis and Al Queda, the Middle East is starting to look like the beginning of “Akira” where Tokyo is destroyed in a giant nuclear explosion. So with all these thoughts swarming in my head, I sat and watched CNN and I worried out of my mind.
I just wished that we lived in a world where the president’s biggest problems would be…vampires. You heard me, vampires. There was one president whose problems were vampires, robotic chess pieces, a living smiley face, and a musket-toting band of white trash radicals called the Minute Men. That president was the comic book character Prez Rickard, the first teenage president of the United States.
Prez was created by veteran comics creator, Joe Simon, in 1973 with art by Jerry Grandenett. This was the very Joe Simon that collaborated with Jack “The King” Kirby in the 1940′s and gave us Captain America. By 1973, Joe Simon was already pushing 60 years of age. It was unknown if he simply lost his mind when he created Prez, but I guess you just don’t write comics for that long without eventually coming up with something that is bat-shit insane.
The story of the first teen president started in the sleepy small town of Steadfast. A baby was born and proclaimed to be the president one day, so his mother named him Prez. He was born a blond-haired, middle class white kid, so his chances were pretty good, actually. As Prez grew up he became interested in three things: drag racing, clocks, and, oh yeah, politics. He became the head of his town’s local drag racing club, and tooled around in his pussy wagon, The Lollipop. Even though he was a teenager with a badass convertible he was concerned with the looming problems of his hometown. The town of Steadfast was blessed and cursed by its clocks. Every building had its own clock; each one unique and different from the last. The only problem was that no two clocks gave the same time and apparently everybody in Steadfast had a very low IQ and had no idea how to fix it – everybody except Prez. He wanted to fix the clocks because if all the clocks are wrong how will anyone know it was Election Day? While Prez got to work figuring out why the rest of the world functioned on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), Congress passed a law that made it legal for 18-year olds to vote and allowing 21-year olds to hold all public office. Apparently, they just couldn’t justify that 18-year olds could be drafted to war but were not given rights as adults. Teenagers everywhere hoped they would be allowed to drink at 18, but instead, they got the right to vote.
Prez would soon shoot to notoriety as he rode a wave of fame from fixing all those F’n clocks. This caught the attention of Mayor of Central City, Boss Smiley. I’m sure this wasn’t the same Central City of the famous Crimson Speedster because that would actually be cool. Boss Smiley (who looked like a deformed happy face on a regular human body) was a politician who was unpopular with the youth vote and hungered for more power. He needed a young, hip candidate that he could manipulate – he needed Prez. Prez went along with it because of his own desire to hold office – he wanted to be a Senator. Of what state, you say? Joe Simon didn’t have time for such a tiny detail; he was focused on the big picture – the big picture of getting another paycheck from DC.
Boss Smiley had the dream of placing Prez in the White House and decided that the best thing to do was to knock down an entire mid-western forest to build a highway to Steadfast. People would want to visit the town that the next president came from, after all. Boss Smiley and Prez oversaw the construction until it was halted by a band of wild animals. Wild animals like elephants, gorillas, and zebras that, apparently, schlepped their way from Africa at the behest of a Native American stereotype of a character named, Eagle Free. What could be more hip in 1973 than Indians – how about Indians that could talk to animals?
Eagle Free kidnapped Prez with the aid of a gorilla and told him that he once studied at a university but now prefers to live with the animals – “as my ancestors lived… with nature!” He insisted that Boss Smiley was corrupt and offered to prove it. Free lived in a cave (a cave with books and a science lab), but Prez still called him a “savage” because, I assume, he’s more than a little racist. In spite of having been verbally insulted by a bigoted politician that was about to plow down the forest home of his woodland friends, he befriended Prez and trained him in the ways of the forest.
With the aid of Eagle Free, Prez turned on Boss Smiley and won the Senate and then ran for the Presidency on the New Flower Party ticket and won. Eagle Free has been made FBI Chief and stood in the Oval Office, still dressed like a member of the Village People, and a shadowy figure who had been made the Vice President. At this point Joe Simon decided to go meta and Eagle Free turned to Prez and told him that they were in a comic book. Prez then looked the reader in the face and said, “Just Call me Prez…” I guess that the reader is then supposed lose his/her shit, but there was most likely a lot of head scratching going on. The most amazing thing was that it was all one issue. If it were written now, by say, Brain Michael Bendis, this would have been a twelve-issue arch.
In the second issue, Prez would take a world tour and then fight off costumed chess players from the Soviet Union who deploy robot chess-pieces to destroy various landmarks around Washington DC. In issue three he would be attacked by musket welding white trash mercenaries lead by the great-great-great-great-great-grand-nephew of George Washington. In another issue, after opening diplomatic relations with a country bordering Transylvania, Prez was stalked by a legless vampire on wheels through the halls of the White House (which is just fuckinbrilliant!). Even though Prez came through in all of these adventures in office he only lasted four issues and was sacked for years until a fifth issue was eventually published in DC’s Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2, a title that features material originally intended for series that were abruptly cancelled during the DC downsizing – often referred to as the DC Implosion. Prez would have disappeared into comic book obscurity if it weren’t for a critically acclaimed British guy.
In issue #54 of the Sandman, Neil Gaiman brought back Prez and retold his origin in a story titled The Golden Boy. All the segments were there, the clocks, Boss Smiley and even Eagle Free appears in a panel, but the tone was different. The story took on a mythic stance with sweeping tones of melancholy and infinite sadness. This was how I found out about Prez; while reading Sandman. It became my favorite story of the entire series for some strange reason. Proving that there aren’t any bad characters, only bad writers (Except the knock off Captain Marvel put out by M.F. Enterprises. That was a shitty character.). It was a story of an America we could all be proud of. Of a leader we all wished we had. Of a leader we all hope Obama could be.
Obama is now our president (for reals now) and with the state the nation is in, I believe that all Americans want him to succeed; whether they voted for him or not. I think he just might save the country, but I still think he would benefit from being able to speak to animals and fend off vampires.