President’s Day: The Return of “Prez”!
President’s Day….that day where I have the day off, and as a result, usually draw Zombie Chief Executives and superheroes in conflict with one another. It is pretty cathartic, but at the heart of it, it speaks to the past, and not to the real worry that I currently have…the future. To be honest, I am pretty concerned about the future of the world.
We have created an “on demand” society, and one that is consequence free. Someone close to me always calls this “the generation that will let the lights go out” because they feel that there are no obligations and responsibilities. A second and third notice to pay the power bill have nothing to do with the idea that you might actually have to pay it.
Public schools support this kind of thinking. A student can fail every single class, and he or she will still be promoted along to the next grade with his or her peers. They won’t have the units they need for graduation or culmination, but they are socially rewarded despite not “paying their dues.” This continues through the whole system, creating some real confusion in high school, when some students first discover that they aren’t graduating, or going to college…despite consistently poor grades.
“Prez,” by DC Comics, was about a different kind of teen. “Prez: First Teen President” was a four-issue comic series by writer Joe Simon (the co-creator of Captain America) and artist Jerry Grandenetti, released by DC Comics in 1973 and 1974. It followed the adventures of Prez Rickard, the first teenage President of the United States of America, whose election had been made possible by a Constitutional amendment lowering the age of eligibility to accommodate the then-influential youth culture of the baby boom. He appointed his mother, Martha, Vice President and made his sister his secretary.
Prez’s most significant collaborator was Eagle Free, a young Native American who had a deep understanding of animals. He lived in a cave well-stocked with books about them, but got most of his knowledge firsthand. Prez appointted him director of the FBI. Eagle Free wore a headband with a feather, braids, and no shirt, and was often accompanied by a menagerie of native and non-native animals. Not the most politically correct character, DC ever created.
Still…it was a surprisingly idealistic book, and set of concepts. Prez fought legless vampires, a right-wing militia led by the great-great-great-great-great-grandnephew of George Washington, “Boss Smiley” (a political boss with a smiley face), and evil chess players. He was attacked for his stance on gun control, and survived an assassination attempt during that controversy. After four issues, the series was abruptly cancelled. Several years later, Issue #5 was included in “Cancelled Comic Cavalcade” No. 2, though Prez itself predated the DC Implosion.
This is also interesting because the character also made an appearance in the animated “Brave and the Bold” Batman series. Check him out…
If that doesn’t impress…the idea that an idealistic character with a handful of appearances forty years ago still somehow has a kind of relevance…check THIS out. This summer, after the big “Convergence” event, DC is taking the “New 52” label off of their books. They are also massively restructuring their comics line, introducing 24 new No. 1 issues, in a “soft restart.” The by-then Burbank, CA- based publisher is billing this as a “bold new direction,” incorporating new ideas and some new and returning creators such as Garth Ennis, Ming Doyle, and Bryan Hitch.
Among the new books in that “bold new direction” is one “Prez” by writer Mark Russell and artist Ben Caldwell.
Yep, it is true. And the new “Prez” is going to be a teenage girl. Check out the promo art…
I’m not certain if this is a concept that can fly today. Young people, who I deal with daily, seem to feel that they have no political power. They have little understanding of the system, or their powers within it. Many of my students have a hard time finding countries on a map, or determining that California is not a country. I’m not taking a cheap shot here…I’m suggesting that an activist centered book, focusing on science fiction based political allegory and conflicts…may not speak to any sort of new, young audience.
I’m also assuming that when you do a reboot and a restructure, you are looking for new clients. Potentially young clients, that will buy your product for some time. I could be wrong. I especially dislike being cynical about young people, since my job is to cultivate them as intellectuals.
In fact, this week’s Mock Trial activities are putting into sharp focus the amount to which daytime television and “Law and Order” have damaged the students’ understanding of the judicial system. We have just rounded a corner where they understand that the Judge does NOT make the verdict decision, and that you cannot just yell “I object!”
Thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The day of this post, President’s Day, I will be having lunch with a young lady that I am very proud of. Having come through the public education system, she is now in college, and studying hard. During high school she studied abroad a bit, and saw the world outside of the United States. She has a legitimate interest in art and politics, and a vocabulary second to none.
I could not be more proud of her, or more touched that she periodically checks in with my co-teacher and me, to show us how well she is doing. To make sure we are proud of her.
You don’t have to grow up to be President of the United States. You just have to be a good, kind person.
Thinking about how happy I am to be seeing my young protege, I drew this:
Next Issue: Valentine’s Day at School…a retrospective!