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November, 1, 2004
Issue #1041 of 1282
Issue: Vol. 2, No. 4
Date: Feb. – Mar., 1974
Publisher: National Periodical Publications, Inc. (DC Comics)
Cover Artist(s): Penciled by Jerry Grandenetti; inked by Creig Flessel
It's a special Tuesday Election Edition of Oddball Comics! This funnybook starring Prez, the first teenage president of the USA, really sucks, but in a good way! No matter who is now the president elect, there’s a legless “Vampire In The White House” who’s a bigger bloodsucker than any politician! Once again, the great Joe Simon strikes! (And don’t forget to vote today!)
This funnybook, starring PREZ -- the first teenage president of the USA -- really sucks, but in a good way! No matter who is now the President Elect, there's a legless "Vampire In The White House" who's a bigger bloodsucker than any politician! Once again, the great Joe (CAPTAIN AMERICA) Simon strikes! And once again, Oddball Comics proves itself to be your favorite PREZ dispenser!
After co-creating Timely/Marvel's "Captain America" with Jack Kirby in 1941, Joe Simon and his burly partner switched publishers and co-created "The Sandman", "The Guardian And The Newsboy Legion" and BOY COMMANDOS for Marvel's competition, National Comics. After working for themselves and others (including co-creating THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN for DC and THE FLY for Archie, among others), the Simon-Kirby team temporarily split up. During this period, Simon edited a line of "Harvey Thrillers", which included TOP SECRET, BIG HERO ADVENTURES, DOUBLE-DARE ADVENTURES, UNEARTHLY SPECTACULARS and THRILL-O-RAMA, Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT and Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's FIGHTING AMERICAN. Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Simon resurfaced at DC, creating or co-creating such Oddball series (all quite brief) as BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK; "The Green Team" and "The Outsiders" in FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL, SANDMAN and CHAMPIONSHIP SPORTS. But none of Joe Simon's projects - with or without Jack Kirby - were as memorably Oddball as PREZ. And no issue of PREZ was as Oddball as this, the final one!
Like BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK that preceded it, PREZ was an attempt by Joe Simon to directly appeal to the "new generation" of teenage comic book readers. Reportedly inspired while viewing WILD IN THE STREETS -- a 1968 exploitation flick about a teenage rock star/dope dealer who's elected President of the United States after the voting age is lowered to 14 -- cartoonist Joe Simon came up with the classic Oddball Comic known as PREZ.
Wearing a modified version of the U.S. Presidential Seal on his red sweater (hmmm, is that even legal?), 18-year-old Prez Rickard was billed as the "first teen president", first appearing in DC's PREZ No. 1 (August - September, 1973). He received his first name because Prez' mother firmly believed that someday her son would grow up to be the president of the United States. At 18, Prez gained public notice by repairing all the clocks in his hometown of Steadfast. This eventually led to his election to the office of the country's Chief Executive, even if his campaign was engineered by the corrupt political honcho "Boss" Smiley (whose head resembled one of those "smiley face" buttons) and his ad exec cousin, "Misery" Marko. Despite their manipulation, Prez was immune to these weirdos' corrupt influence, and went on to become one of this nation's finest leaders. His best friend was Eagle Free, an animal-loving Native American youth who he appointed as the chief of the FBI. Although decidedly Oddball, this series employed some surprisingly experimental storytelling, with some pages containing more than a dozen panels. Unfortunately, PREZ' original run under Joe Simon lasted for only four issues. However, Prez Rickard also appeared in the final issue of the original run of SUPERGIRL, No. 10 (September - October 1974), SANDMAN No. 54 (October, 1993) and his own "Vertigo Visions" special cover-dated July, 1995.
This issue's three-chapter, 20-page "Prez" cover-story, "Vampire In The White House", was edited and written by Joe Simon, penciled by Jerry Grandenetti, and inked by Creig Flessel. It begins with this hyperbolic introduction (lettered with mechanically-produced rub-on "transfer-type"), delivered while a government employee files papers into a cabinet drawer labeled "Code Name -- DRACULA -- Confidential":
INTRODUCTORY NARRATIVE CAPTION:
IN THE WHITE HOUSE VAULTS THERE IS A SECRET FILE THAT WILL NEVER BE OPENED TO THE PUBLIC - IT CONTAINS SWORN AFFIDAVITS OF EYEWITNESSES TO A GRIM INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT, SO BIZARRE - SO FANTASTIC - THAT IT THREATENED TO DESTROY THE PRESIDENCY ITSELF - HERE, FOR THE FIRST TIME, YOU WILL READ ALL THE INCREDIBLE FACTS AS THEY HAPPENED!
Then, in one of those two-page spreads that Joe Simon seems to be so fond of, the story shifts to the European republic of Moravia -- where the government officials wear garlands of garlic around their necks to ward off vampires! There, Prez Rickard and Eagle Free (the chief of the FBI) attend a special ceremony to open a "miraculous canal" - funded by the USA -- to irrigate the country's crops. As Prez and Eagle Free board Air Force One - re-named "The Freebie" - they discuss the ramifications of their mission:
It is a gratifying experience, my Prez seeing the faces of those people. A billion is a small gift indeed for making an ally and friend!
Actually, it isn't a GIFT, Eagle Free…The water will enable Moravia to build up her economy. They will pay us back at the rate of $34.60 per year!
As their "superjet" flies toward America, the pair looks back and notices a dark cloud hanging in the sky over an area adjacent to Moravia. Speculating on its origin, Prez and Eagle Free return to the White House, where Martha, the Vice President, plays Ping-Pong with Red China's Chairman Mao! But when they realize that the State Department mistakenly sent a pair of Nigerian interpreters, Prez takes Martha's place against Mao, while Eagle Free communicates with his delegates in "Indian sign language". That night, after an exhausted Prez goes to bed, the city is enveloped by an eerie darkness, one that even unnerves Eagle Free's animal friends. Silhouetted against the full moon, the shape of a giant bat can be seen approaching the White House. The Native American FBI chief races to join his Presidential pal, only to find him waking in reaction to a familiar sound effect:
Wup - wup - wup - wup - wup - wup --
I had the strangest dream, Eagle Free! Giant bats invaded the country!
But instead of a giant bat, the UFO turns out to be a bat-shaped helicopter of Transylvania Airlines - Holy Copycat, Batman! -- from which a snarling werewolf emerges! As it attempts to lunge toward the first teenage president of the United States, military personnel form a human shield, struggling for hours to keep the hairy interloper from getting its claws on the longhaired Chief Executive. But as the sun rises over Washington D.C., a gradual transformation transforms the wolfman into a Nixon-esque human being named, appropriately enough, "Mr. Wolfman" (no relation to comics writer Marv Wolfman, I assume), an ambassador from Transylvania. Carrying a coffin-shaped suitcase, the fanged foreigner explains:
Transylvania is a monarchy bordering on Moravia - and your country, sir, has caused great distress to our people! The CANAL to Moravia, sir, has emptied our lakes and reservoirs! We DEMAND that it be DESTROYED!
When Prez refuses to cooperate, Ambassador Wolfman declares a state of war between Transylvania and the United States Of America. But what's really shocking is that he claims that he's been authorized to deliver this ultimatum by his country's leader, Count Dracula himself! While Prez and Eagle Free discuss the possibility of the King Of The Vampires existing in our modern-day world, Chapter 2: "Wheeling Death" begins. Prez calls for an emergency meeting of his cabinet, where it's determined that, because Transylvania is directly beneath that dark cloud they spotted from The Freebie, US intelligence knows nothing of the Balkan country's troop strength or weaponry. An elderly bookkeeper interrupts the meeting with a somewhat shocking revelation:
I DID find an account of Transylvania in this ancient volume from the Library Of Congress! It seems, gentlemen, that our enemy is a land of vampires!
Later that night, while Prez sleeps, we see that the coffin-shaped suitcase carried by Ambassador Wolfman has somehow wound up in the President's study. In an agonizing, 13-panel sequence, the coffin's "living" contents slowly emerges - it's Count Dracula! - but the vampire lord is missing his legs! Crawling onto a squeaky-wheeled amputee cart, the legless bloodsucker slowly, purposefully rolls toward the slumbering Prez' bedroom. Clambering onto Prez' bed, the murderous vampire anticipates the imminent demise of the First Victim:
COUNT DRACULA (thinking):
He sleeps peacefully - while my people cry for a drop of water! What irony! Before the sun rises, the President Of The United States will be one of us…THE LIVING DEAD!
Suddenly, Eagle Free - accompanied by a flock of white doves! -- comes charging into Prez' bedroom (something he seems to do on an alarmingly regular basis):
THE VAMPIRE! I WAS THINKING OF THAT STRANGE SUITCASE - AND SUDDENLY REALIZED IT WAS - A COFFIN! And the wolfman wasn't carrying it when he left!
A clever deduction, red man. But it will do you no good. I am, as you see, INDESTRUCTIBLE! Seven times I was stabbed with a wooden stake through my heart…and seven times I have risen from the grave - I have been tormented - and CRIPPLED - BUT THERE IS STILL ENOUGH OF ME LEFT TO DESTROY YOU BOTH!
Still riding atop his little cart, the King Of The Vampires launches himself at Prez' neck:
HELP ME, EAGLE FREE! THE THING HAS THE GRIP OF A BOA CONSTRICTOR!
As the bare-chested FBI chief joins the fray, Dracula avoids him by ascending to a crystal chandelier that hangs overhead. That's when Eagle Free pulls out a strangely familiar-looking symbol:
WHAT'S THIS? A NAZI SWASTIKA!
WRONG, DRACULA! THIS IS A CROSS! THE INDIAN HOOKED CROSS! THE GREAT SPIRIT WILL STIRKE YOU DOWN IF YOU ADVANCE BEYOND THE SIGN!
Instinctively repelled by the ancient symbol, Dracula drops to the floor and hastily rolls away on his wooden cart and out the door. As Chapter Three: "Suicide Mission" continues, Count Dracula zooms across the White House lawn and into the waiting Transylvanian bat-copter, which immediately takes off into the darkened sky. The next morning, Prez and Eagle Free conduct a meeting with Mr. Kobush, the Moravian ambassador, who reveals that the Transylvanians "have concocted a plot so horrible that it defies belief". Although the Transylvanians have only one aircraft at their disposal, they plan to release a cargo of rabies-infected bats over the nation's capitol, striking down thousands of Americans! Soon, Prez calls for "the most memorable session of Congress in the nation's history":
And so, members of Congress…I request that I be granted these emergency powers to thwart this vicious attack!
Gentlemen, do you really expect sane men to BELIEVE this incredible FANTASY?
What have you kids been smoking, anyway?
This time you've gone too far, Mr. President!
I suggest that you've been hallucinating!
I demand a FEDERAL INVESTIGATION of this administration!
Like a column of falling dominoes, the pressure of public opinion mounts up on the young Prez, threatening to topple his new administration under the pressure…
Subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, Prez Rickard struggles to come up with some way to stop the bat-shaped Transylvanian jet before it can infect Washington D.C. with a plague of rabies:
I have an idea, my Prez! We'll launch a KAMIKAZE ATTACK on the Transylvanian jet.
A suicide attack? Like the Japanese used in their way? Eagle, that's crazy. Besides, the military won't send out any planes --
Not planes, my Prez. BIRDS! My birds!
BIRDS to down a JET?
To speak privately, the two teenagers are driven via limousine to the Potomac River, where, minutes later, they take a handily hidden canoe to Eagle Free's "nature headquarters". There, in the FBI chief's teepee, they conduct a bizarre ritual over his feathered friends:
In Japan, before the kamikaze suicide missions, Shinto priests would conduct a ceremonial farewell party to celebrate their entrance to paradise…I shall do no less for my brave birds who are about to give their lives for our country'
It's kind of weird, Eagle Free…Birdseed in place of sake wine!
Minutes later, tearful Eagle Free releases his flock of doves into the air; they immediately head straight for the Transylvanian aircraft, While Count Dracula and Ambassador Wolfman bicker among themselves, Eagle Free's bird-buddies commit full-blown mass suicide like winged lemmings:
Never before in the annals of war has there been a confrontation such as this - a bat-shaped jet with its cargo of deaf, approaching America's shoreline - with nothing to stop it but a swarm of - birds! Then, the meeting - The birds swarm into the jet intake - The plane shudders in mid-air…The brave birds jam the metal fans that suck in the oxygen needed to miss with the fuel. Without oxygen, the motors sputter and cough - And grind to a halt - The plane snuggles for altitude - and dies! The bat-shaped messenger of death splashed to a watery grave --
Later, back in the safety and comfort of the White House, Prez Rickard and Eagle Free take a moment to wrap up this story's loose ends (more or less):
The Coast Guard has sighted a mysterious plane crash, Eagle One. The nation is secure.
But YOU are not yet out of peril, my Prez. There is still a federal court inquiry to be faced.
Well, I won't be the first president to go through that hassle,
Eagle Free. All I can do is tell my story and hope the court believes it -
There is one thing that disturbs me, my Prez. If Transylvania surrenders, do we send American dollars to build her up again, as we have done with our vanquished throughout history?
Build up Transylvania? THE LAND OF THE LIVING DEAD!!!
Also included in this issue of PREZ are the following features and advertisements:
- "Are you ready for a Daisy B-B Gun? Your parents have ways of knowing.", an inside-front-cover ad for "Daisy" air-rifles, "The B-B Gun every boy dreams about."
- "Daredevil Stunts - Wild Action!", a one-page ad for the "Turbo Tower Of Power deluxe thrill set" auto and motorcycle racing set from "Kenner".
- A one-page house-ad for various DC Comics, illustrated with covers for: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD; THE PHANTOM STRANGER; G.I. COMBAT; KORAK, SON OF TARZAN; WONDER WOMAN; OUR ARMY AT WAR; THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY; KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH. (It's interesting - and rather sobering -- to note that WONDER WOMAN is the only title represented here that is still being published.)
- "KARATE - Judo - Jiu-Jitsu - Savate - The TOTAL Self-Defense System", an ad for mail-order martial arts instructional courses from "Universal" of Detroit.
- A page sharing ads for "Six Full-Color FREE Iron-On Transfers" (featuring awful art, apparently swiped from an ARCHIE comic) from "Super Values" and for THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE, a groundbreaking weekly magazine/newspaper with an "all-star line-up" reprinting such syndicated adventure-oriented comic strips as PRINCE VALIANT, THE SPIRIT, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, TARZAN, BUCK ROGERS, THE PHANTOM and many more. (This ad was illustrated by MFG's editor/publisher, Mike Tiefenbacher.)
- A two-page ad for "Country & Western Classics" on records, cassettes, reel-to-reel and 8 track tapes from the "E-C Tape Service". ("E-C"? No wonder EC Comics' editor/writer/artist Al Feldstein wound up as a popular painter of western artwork!)
- "Never Finished High School?", an ad for mail-order instructional courses from the "Wayne School".
- A DC house-ad for FIRST EDITION No. 1, a "super-size" tabloid reprint of ACTION COMICS No. 1, which had recently "sold for $1800!"
- "Fun & Low Prices At Most Of These Fine Stores!", a one-page ad for an odd variety of children's items, including a three-wheeled "Cheetah", a slot-car racing set, various "soft-vinyl" animals (including "Alfie Alligator", "Fang Snake", "Kimo Polar Bear", "Skipper and Sport Kangaroo", "Squirrel Monkey Family" and "Tommy and Tammy, the turtle twins") - and a steel-frame pool table.
- A DC house-ad for three upcoming "100 Page Super Spectacular" issues of: DETECTIVE COMICS; SUPERMAN; and YOUNG LOVE.
- "Mail To The Chief", PREZ' letter column.
- A page of mini-ads for a variety of practical jokes and goofy gizmos from the "Johnson Smith Co."
- "Ideal Presents The Exciting Adventures Of Evel Knievel, Daredevil Stunt Cyclist", an inside-back-cover ad for the Evel Knievel-based action figure, vehicles and accessories from the "Ideal Toy Corporation", drawn by the great Murphy Anderson.
- "Another Adventure With The Ready Rangers", a back-cover ad for the "Ready Ranger Mobile Field Headquarters" set from "Aurora Products Corp."
ODDBALL Factoid - Although this was the final officially published issue of PREZ, a fifth "Prez" story - originally prepared for the fifth issue -- appeared in DC's legendary in-house, black-and-white Xeroxed "publication", CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE No. 2!
For more from Scott Shaw!, visit his Web site at http://www.shawcartoons.com/.
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