And you guys thought Bee-Man was bad.
I held back, then. You might not know it, but I figured it was a first time for a lot of you, so I stopped. I was gentle.
Well, kids, that’s now over
You know what to expect now. You know that this ride will get painful real fast. You know what you’re in for.
So let’s get this on, shall we?
Sit back, get comfy, cause this will be long
Let me state, for the record, that Joe Simon contributed to Marvel Comics waaaaay back in the day some of the finest
writing anybody was putting out. His work on Captain America back in the day ranks him amongst the upper echelon of writing nobility.
Boy’s Ranch. The romance genre he helped create
. Fighting American. The Newsboy Legion. All great works.
…and then we get to some of his later works for DC.
Joe, I love you, but wouldn’t it have just been easier to just sent a letter saying “I QUIT!” rather than churn this stuff out?
Anyway. We’ll get to Brother Power, The Geek and the Green Team later.
For now, let’s look at this dreadful release:
Yeah, that’s it. Run, run while you still can!
Okay, those of you who are left, sit with me while we crack open this bounty of Mortdom.
Our story (titled so lovingly “Oh Say Does That Star Spangled Banner Yet Wave”) begins with a nice shot of the town of “Steadfast,” which is famous for “the number of its clocks... on every steeple, in every shop and home, there was a clock..."
I’ve got news for you. If your pride and joy is being the Timex capital of the world, you’re better off going with having the “world’s third largest ball of twine.” I mean, it’s hard to be famous for something isn’t exactly in scarcity
in the world.
(The place: Mayor Bloomburg’s office, New York City
Mayor Bloomburg sits at his desk. The lights are off. A half-empty bottle of whiskey sits on the table, the cap long lost under papers. He fumbles in the darkness, and a rough scratching sound fills the air as a match flares. He lifts it to a cigarette hanging from his lips, and it can be seen that he hasn’t slept in days. His eyes are bloodshot and sunken, and his face sports several days’ worth of beard growth. His hand shakes as he takes in a long, deep breath of nicotine, shaking out the match as he does. Letters pile his desk, threatening to collapse off the edges. In the faint glow emanating from a curtained window, the mayor picks up one letter and looks at it before crumpling it in his grasp. He lets out a scream of rage and sweeps his arm across the desk, knocking the pile of letters off. He stands and slams both hands onto the desk, madness dancing in his eyes.
“…all the same…all wanting clocks. But there are no clocks. Oh, no, Steadfast has all the clocks. Nobody else can get a clock, because Steadfast is famous for it’s clocks! Damn you, Steadfast! DAMN YOU TO HELL!”)
Our scene shifts to the local racetrack, where “Prez Rickard is head of the local stock car club. His sleek racer, “The Lollipop,” is usually in front of the pack."
Okay, okay, I’ll give you guys a moment to laugh. Yes, you read that right. Doesn’t that just strike fear
in your hearts to hear that? Can you imagine how crime must’ve just stopped at the sight of Prez driving around in that car?
“Okay, Jim, pass me that there crowbar so we can bust into this jewel place.”
“Not now, you fool! Look! Coming down the street!”
“Egads, it’s Prez in the Lollipop!”
Now, if Batman had named his car that, people might’ve taken a closer look at his “relationship” with a certain Boy Wonder. That’s all I’m saying.
Anyway, after the race, we head back to Prez’s home where he “ponders the problems of Steadfast.”
Take a guess at what our young star is mulling over:
A) “The clocks are running this town. The trains are late…the factories close down early…kids are always late for school…”
B) “That South American drug trade is getting worse. I found Head Cheerleader Candace Thompson out behind the bleachers the other day, trying to chew off her own leg!”
C) “The prostitution rings are getting out of control! Half-naked women running around everywhere! Redheads and blondes and brunettes in skimpy outfits! Starting now, I’m going to devote my life to doing nothing but infiltrating these lowlife establishments, gaining their trust, and, over the next seventy years, closing them down! …now pass me that stack of one dollar bills.”
D) “Drunken, disorderly Jennifer Tilly! She needs to be dragged out onto the street, stripped and shaved!”
If you guessed A, you know just how lame this story will get.
Maybe it’s just me, but we’re talking clocks, right? Not calendars? I guess Steadfast was overcompensating in one area, and sorely lacking in another. (And somewhere, Mayor Bloomburg laughs…)
Plus, if the biggest crisis in your town is that the hardware store is two minutes fast…well…
So, back to the story (if you can call it that), our intrepid young hero sets out on a mission to conquer the forces of entropy, friction, and dying battery cells.
We skip ahead to Central City, USA (not to be confused with, y’know, the Central City the Flash fights crime in. How do we know it’s not the same town? Keep reading.)
This decrepit and dismal town is under the proverbial thumb of one “Boss Smiley.” As we watch, a group of youngsters doing a protest about the corruption that lies buried so deeply in this sweet humble city much like the cream filling of a Hostess product, a group of club-equipped policemen come along and start smacking them around!
Three men in business suits watch the exchange, and this is the conversation they have while a beating continues that would put Rodney King to shame:
Suit #1: "That’s the only way to handle those punk kids!"
Suit #2: "Wait till Boss Smiley sees this... breaking heads makes him so happy!"
Suit #3: "Ain't that the truth? Boss Smiley is the meanest, most vicious man in the world!"
Suit #2: "That's what makes him so successful!"
Now, some of you out there are wondering just what Boss Smiley looks like.
Picture a certain Wal-Mart mascot, only flesh-toned, stuck to the neck of a guy in a power suit.
Yeah, there you go.
Not exactly the Kingpin, huh? Heck, the Penguin probably sighs and shakes his head at this loser.
Anyway, Boss Smiley arrives and our three butt-kissers immediately start to point out the fight down below. Boss Smiley handles this with the kind of calmness you’d expect from your giant Frisbee-headed crime bosses, by backhanding one of the suits through a closed window to the ground below
. My guess is, they joined up for the dental plan.
(As it was once pointed out, a reader wouldn’t get to experience such violence associated with a smiley face until Watchmen came on the scene, many years later.)
"Those kids can clobber us where it hurts most... in the ballot box!" the misshapen cousin of Charlie Brown informs us. "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!" (I must’ve missed that one in Poli Sci.)
"We've got to have a candidate that can relate to those stupid kids," DC Comic’s answer to “Flattop” of Dick Tracy fame concludes. "Someone young, ambitious and pliable!"
The best scene in this whole book is when their advertising genius named “Misery Marko” (“the more miserable he is, the more brilliant he gets!”) gives this speech about a “gimmick” for politicians.
"Look back at history -- Mussolini made the trains run on time -- Ghandi stopped the trains -- Lincoln freed the slaves--!"
Kinda makes you rethink that whole deal about politicians, huh? Suppose we follow this to its logical conclusion: “Henry VIII encouraged the development of genetic engineering in embryos!” “Hitler made his mark on the production of day camps!” “Before Moses came along, Pharoah was thriving on the ‘equal opportunity employment’ program!”
So, before you can say “Freddie Prinze, Jr.” (Oh god, the implications that would have.) one goon holds aloft a newspaper spotlighting a certain red-sweatered teen’s efforts involving, you guessed it, clocks. (Slow news day, much?)
Boss Smiley and crew make a quick trip down to visit young Sir Rickard, and draw out his patriotism, hoping to bring him over to their side.
"By the way, boy," Boss Smiley asks, "...where did you get a name like Prez?"
In the strangest naming ceremony ever mentioned, we learn that "When I was born, my Mom said 'Someday, this baby will be President!' So she named me Prez!"
Gotta wonder what Momma Rickard had smoked that night, huh? Good thing she hadn’t named her son “Prison Bride” or we’d be looking at the first Vertigo title ever.
Anyway, as Boss Smiley and crew hightail it home, patting themselves on the backs for a job well done, they’re observed by a certain figure from the shadows.
No, not Batman. He’s busy with a serious threat. Like the Ten-Eyed Man, or Kite-Man.
Instead, we’ve got a young “Native American” watching. I put that in quotes since his compatriots while watching seem to be a zebra, elephant, and gorilla. Last I checked, those creatures weren’t all that, y’know, native
Skipping ahead, Prez slowly climbs the popularity ranks, making Boss Smiley more and more happy. Disaster strikes, however, when Prez sets off dynamite in what is supposed to be the construction of a major road into Steadfast. Said dynamite causes the local dam to brust (!) and the ensuing flood of water causes the forest to burst into flame (!!).
Y'know, water being so combustable, and all that. Think about that the next time someone says spontaneous combustion isn't possible in humans.
Stop looking at me like that! I swear to god, I couldn’t have made this stuff up if I had tried!
What, you were expecting Grant Morrison’s “Invisibles” here, or something?
Fortunately, our little “Last of the Mohicans” here has managed to have already prepared for such a disaster, by means of constructing a giant ark which he and his animal friends and the local populace ride out the flood of water to Boss Smiley’s construction site.
Upon arrival, the four-footed army immediately starts demolishing
the stationary earth-moving equipment, while Boss Smiley shrieks like a schoolgirl over to the side.
I swear to god, I’m not making this up.
I told you before, I’m not holding back ANYTHING from you guys from now on.
Prez follows after the escaping pack of destruction, perhaps wondering if maybe Ma-Ti of the Planeteers had finally gone off the deep end from the sexual frustration of seeing Linka and Gi run around in those little shorts.
Our crafty Indian attempts the tried and true “all you animals hide in a cave while we seal it with a boulder” gag to throw off pursuit, but it fails against the might of a man who can fix clocks and drives the “Lollipop.”
Prez figures out a way inside, and is immediately trounced upon by a gorilla and grizzly bear (!!!) which pin him down. The Indian announces that “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-“
After that introductory speech, we’re witness to some of the crudest and most crass stereotyping I’ve ever seen in a comic.
No, seriously. Look:
Keep in mind folks, this comic was published in 1973.
We’ve come a looooooong way, haven’t we?
If, for the record, there’s someone out there who wasn’t offended by this, please send me a PM with your name, age, ethnic history, religious beliefs, and any other details which might help.
I’ll see what I can do for you next time.
What follows is the stalwart Eagle Free and Prez breaking into Boss Smiley’s place of business so proof can be found that Prez’s sponsor is as corrupt as Eagle Free makes him out to be. The evidence is conveniently found in a filing cabinet, but nothing more can be done before Boss Smiley and his goons burst in.
(There, you’ve seen him now. Isn’t he just precious
(Like I said before, Joe…all you needed was a simple “I Quit.” They’d have gotten the point.)
After a bit of witty banter (see below), Boss Smiley threatens to simply remove Prez’s support and leave him back as the loser he was beforehand. “I’ll get a new candidate! Someone smart…who’ll follow orders!”
“You’re too late, Smiley!” our plucky blonde points out, gesturing to a large clock across the street tolling the hour, “It’s Election Day!”
This scene is followed, by a breathless "BULLETIN" reading as follows: "All over the country, young voters turn out to elect their peers to national office! Political machines fear that the halls of Congress will be controlled by youth!"
Makes you quiver in fear, don’t it?
The votes come in, and Prez Rickard becomes the newest Congressman for…well, whatever state it is we’re talking about.
From there, politics further spiral downhill as a new bill is passed that lowers the age qualifier to become president from 35 to 18. Guess who immediately runs for office?
see the cover image at the top of this thing, right?
"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!"
Remember, folks, this is 1973 we’re talking about here. That Joe Simon sure had his thumb on the pulse of what teenagers wanted, huh?
On the last page (that’s right, we’re almost done) of the comic, the now F.B.I. Chief Eagle Free points out that “the next issue will be even more exciting!”
Let’s look ahead, shall we?
Let’s see…we have Prez handling gun control:
(On a side note, check out Eagle Free’s little companion there. I guess even in the perfection of the DC Universe, George W. Bush finds a way in, huh?)
We have Prez handling Russia in the threat of…The Chessmen!
Prez discovers that electricity, much like Pauly Shore, is inherently evil!
And Prez battles a vampire! …on wheels, nonetheless!
So congratulations, Joe Simon, on your first character to appear in the Mort club. God knows there will be plenty more.
Actually, maybe we should just consider the entire cast of this thing to be Morts. Lord knows I don’t want to have to do a separate issue on “Boss Smiley.”
Y’know, if I have to keep digging these guys out of obscurity, you guys are going to need to start to pay my medical bills. I might not be able to handle these all by my lonesome.