Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prez #4

Prez #4, February/March 1974, DC Comics
by Joe Simon & Jerry Grandenetti
inker: Creig Flessel
Blogger's note: Entry for Monday, February 18, 2008.

The meaning of Presidents’ Day becomes much more perceptible during an election year. As we celebrate past presidents, we contemplate our future leader, and we hope the nobility of one thought and the gamble of the other reconcile into a palpable hope for things to come. John McCain and Barak Obama are their parties’ frontrunners, and in coming weeks, their respective stances on the issues will come to define them. How do they feel about the war in Iraq? What are their positions on immigration? Do they experience successfully balancing a budget? Are they equipped to deal with a vampire invasion in the White House?


Okay, perhaps that last “issue” isn’t a pressing matter in today’s turbulent world, but for Prez, the First Teen President, the matter became an incredibly pressing matter after his good will effort in Moravia inadvertently cursed the dark neighboring nation of Transylvania. Ah, perhaps I should back up a bit. In the 1970s, DC Comics published a series called Prez, starring Prez Rickard, the most coincidentally named character in comics and the country’s first teenaged president. Issue #4 doesn’t provide the usual origin summary typical of Silver and Bronze Age comics, so ‘70s DC was pretty daring in assuming that a new reader -- like me -- would just easily accept a kid in the White House. The way folks talk about Barak Obama’s age and experience, you’d think we were facing the possibility of a teenaged Commander in Chief for real.

But I digress. So, yes, Prez Rickard is “the Prez,” and his right hand man -- er, man-child -- is Eagle Free, a Native American and “Chief of the FBI.” (I’m still pondering if “Chief” is the best title for such a character. Was “Head of the FBI” unavailable?) In this issue, Prez and Eagle oversee U.S. aid to the barren Moravia, but the new canal accidentally drains the water supply of the neighboring Transylvania, which decides to retaliate by infiltrating the White House with a legless vampire hidden in a violin case-like mini-coffin. When the Secret Service deflect the invalid vampire, Transylvania takes their revenge a step further by nearly bombing America with a cache of rabies-infested bats. Fortunately, Eagle Free can speak to animals and he commands a legion of kamikaze birds to bring their plane down. The ramifications of their birds-first policy don’t fall on deaf ears, though, as in the end Eagle asks Prez the hard-hitting question, “If Transylvania surrenders, do we send American dollars to build her up again, as we have done with our vanquished throughout history?”

I don’t know what’s more hilarious -- this issue’s campy context, or the creators attempts to infuse a comic about a teenaged president attacked by vampires with some degree of political viability. Indeed, when Prez reports the rabies attack to Congress, they call him crazy and demand a federal investigation. One of the old codgers asks, “What have you kids been smoking, anyway?” While this sequence appears satirical, demanding attention to the dichotomy between established politicians and America’s youth, its outrageous context doesn’t encourage readers to laugh with it, but at it.

Then again, if this title was intended as one in the humor genre, perhaps I’m not too far off. Of course, when I’m flipping through back issues, I’ll be on the look out for Prez, if only to get the whole story, and a more comprehensive impression of DC’s intentions with such a lofty concept. Comics could use a little levity like this from time to time. Heck, American politics could, too. So, this election season, while we look to past presidents to help us pick the best one for our future, let’s not forget the ones that didn’t actually exist. Hey, who would have time to quibble over petty partisan issues when vampires are attacking our homeland with bat rabies? Prez might be what our ailing country really needs!

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