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Comic Book / Prez (2015)

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Prez is a comic book series published by DC Comics. It debuted in 2015 as part of the DC YOU line, and was created by writer Mark Russell and artists Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales. It is a re-envisioning of the short-lived 1970s series of the same name.

The year is 2036, and America is dominated by vested corporate interests and shallow social media. Beth Ross is a teenager in a dead-end fast food job who, during her fifteen minutes of social media stardom ignited by a viral video, becomes a popular write-in candidate for the Presidential election. The two major parties' maneuverings to knock each other out of the race work a little too well, and to the horror of everyone, including Beth herself, Beth wins the election. Now she has to figure out how to steer America in a better direction while fending off attacks from Washington's entrenched political elite, led by Senator Thorn, and the nation's corporate string-pullers, led by the CEO of Smiley Industries.

The first six-issue miniseries ran from 2015-2016, with a trade paperback collection titled Prez: Corndog in Chief. A second miniseries was rescheduled several times before being canceled entirely.

This series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Celebrity: Beth becomes an overnight sensation thanks to a video of her uploaded to the web. She then becomes President after a whole lot of people cynically write her in as a candidate in an election where the two other candidates managed to wreck each other's campaigns.
  • Adaptation Expansion: This version goes into considerably more detail than the original about how, exactly, a teenager ends up President, and what kind of teenager might make a good job of it.
  • Art Imitates Art: The main cover of issue #1 is a parody of the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware, with Beth as Washington.
  • Author Tract: The series is full of Take Thats at the post-2000s, pre-Trump U.S. political landscape, re-imagined as a post-Trump world. note 
  • Automated Automobiles: The CEO of Pharmaduke is chauffeured around in a computer-controlled driverless car, which Drives Like Crazy.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: The costume at the House of Corndogs features a hat shaped like a cartoon puppy adorned with notices like "Ask About Today's Specials!". In a subversion, Beth later admits that the puppy hat was the one thing about the job she actually liked.
  • Become a Real Boy: War Beast, an experimental military robot who eventually came to regret its existence as a killing machine. After some contemplation, it now identifies as a female named Tina.
  • Black Comedy:
    • This sort of humor is peppered throughout the series, largely in the form of 'horrific event is reported and then immediately used as an opportunity to shill for a product'-style jokes. See also the People Zoo.
    • The debate scenes between the two initial candidates are parodies of very real problems with political debates and the public perception of them, but ramped up to the point of making the reader laugh at the horribleness of it all.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Sickstarter", a crowdfunding site specifically for people who can't afford their sky-high medical bills.
  • Burger Fool: Beth's job at the House of Corndogs, complete with humiliating hat shaped like a cartoon puppy.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The vending machine that can produce, almost instantly, any cut of meat you want from any animal it has the DNA for in its databank. Beth uses it to save the day when one of her friends has a heart failure with no compatible donor hearts available.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: In an early scene, Beth attends a history class at Paris Hilton Community College and makes some insightful comments about how the Roman Empire fell because of its own complacency, foreshadowing that as president she will be faced with a nation heading in the same direction.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Smiley and the other members of his cabal are underhanded moguls who only care about getting money by any means they think they can get away with.
  • Crapsack World: Other than United States under corporations' control to the point where they can run for political office and turn poor people into billboards, half of the world is experiencing environmental collapse, conflicts (including United States' intervention), and having their refugees in United States turned into part of a People Zoo.
  • Cyberpunk: Pretty much a hilarious take on its elements of MegaCorp, dysfunctional society, and Crapsack World. But Beth's administration might make it Post-Cyberpunk.
  • Decided by One Vote: The electoral college vote results in a tie between the two major party candidates (with Beth, the outsider candidate, winning a single state), so the election goes to a vote in Congress. As the result of the vote isn't final until one candidate gets a majority, one of the state delegations hits on the idea of casting its vote for Beth and seeing which of the major parties will offer a better deal to get them to change it. This tactic is rapidly adopted by other delegations, pushing up Beth's vote and briefly horrifying the political fixers with the prospect of a complete political unknown being elected accidentally, before the rise halts with Beth one vote short of the necessary majority. And then Delaware, having decided that neither of the major party candidates is particularly desirable, chooses to take a chance on the unknown and deliberately casts one more vote for Beth, ending the election with her as winner.
  • Eagleland: The entire nation becoming extreme Type 2 (Corrupt Corporate Executive, War for Fun and Profit, and Taco Drones) with Beth trying to make it more idealistic Type 1.
  • Easily Elected: Beth becomes a popular write-in candidate for the Presidential election after featuring in a viral video despite being underaged (she's 19 when Presidential candidates can't be younger than 35), and manages to win the election without campaigning because the other two major parties end up maneuvering each other out of the running.
  • Fiction 500: How rich is reclusive trillionaire Fred Wayne? His corporate headquarters is Delaware. That's not a typo — he owns the entire state outright, and the only people who live there now are him and his employees and their families.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The American response to rising sea levels caused by global climate change is the Habitat Allowance for Lost Farmland And Sinking Shoreline — HALFASS.
  • Gender Flip: In this continuity, the titular teenage president is a girl named Beth Ross rather than a boy named Prez Rickard.
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile: The logo of Smiley Industries, and thus also the holographic mask worn by its CEO.
  • Immoral Reality Show: Parts are shown of a popular game show in which contestants face extremely dangerous challenges for a chance to win money. Many of the contestants are driven by desparately needing the money to deal with some crisis such as crippling medical bills. In one clip, a contestant hesitates over the final challenge — which involves deliberate self-mutilation — before going through with it, only to be informed that he just missed the time limit and will be going home with nothing.
  • Improbable Hairstyle: TV anchor Amber Waves has a different bizarrely-high-maintenance hair style every time she appears.
  • In-Series Nickname: Since the viral video didn't identify her, Beth becomes internet-famous as "Corndog Girl".
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Beth's first step into fame comes when one of her co-workers uploads an embarrassing video of her and it goes viral.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: Smiley delivers a motivational speech to his employees rounded off with a burst of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World". Afterward he turns to an aide and points out how inappropriate the music choice is.
    Smiley: What's with the exit music? You ever listen to that song? It's all about death and crack-babies.
  • Kent Brockman News: Provided by news anchor/talk show host Amber Waves.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A senator sponsors a bill that will relax zoning restrictions and allow one of his big corporate sponsors to build their highly-polluting industrial processing plants wherever they like, regardless of the effects on the surrounding area. He goes to bed with a feeling of a job well done, and wakes up to find that someone has bought up the land next to his house and is building a highly-polluting industrial processing plant. (In this case, karma is getting a helping hand from eccentric trillionaire Fred Wayne.)
  • Left Hanging: Due to the cancellation of the second volume, we may never know what was behind that door in the last panel, or what Rickard did to make so many enemies, or whether Boss Smiley will ever interfere directly with Beth's presidency.
  • Meaningful Name: "Amber Waves" is a phrase from "America the Beautiful".
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Beth's vice president and political mentor is a congressman named Preston Rickard, who "was almost president once"; he's drawn to resemble a middle-aged version of the original Prez.
    • Smiley was originally a corrupt political fixer who first noticed Prez when he developed a way to get his hometown's clocks running on time, and realized it was a fantastic gimmick for a candidacy; here, his company effectively "sells" time as an intangible commodity by making everything as cheaply and quickly as possible.
    • The headlines that scroll along the bottom of new broadcasts include numerous shout-outs to more famous DCU series.
    • Fred Wayne may be one; he is, after all, an incredibly rich, eccentric billionaire running a company named WayneTech in a DC book.
    • The bible Beth is sworn in on at her inauguration is clearly visible as a copy of Mark Russell's Bible-inspired graphic novel God Is Disappointed in You.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Smiley heads a cabal called the Build-a-Burger Group.
    • The character Beth appoints as her science advisor is an expy of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
    • The guy she gets to be Secretary of State looks and talks suspiciously like Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
  • Nominated as a Prank: This is how Beth's candidacy starts. Somebody starts a satirical online campaign promoting her as a write-in candidate. Due to the major parties shooting themselves in the feet with their own political chicanery, she ends up actually getting selected as the next President of the United States.
  • Non-Human Head: In this version, Smiley is the avatar of a corporation that has been granted legal personhood, a man whose individual identity is hidden behind a holographic mask representing the corporation's logo. Several other such avatars appear in the series as well; some have the heads of cartoon animal mascots, or more abstract symbols including a communications satellite and a missile.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever it was that made Congressman Rickard such a political pariah.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Boss Smiley and his fellow corporate cads try to get a bill passed that will enable them to copyright the DNA of any living creature. Beth coerces them into allowing her to repeal it by having trillionaire Fred Wayne obtain the rights to their DNA and demand they either pay him the royalties they owe him or die.
  • People Zoo: The Global Warming Village, a museum about the history of climate change that includes 1200 refugees living behind bars in The Theme Park Version of their former homes.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: In issue four, Senator Thorn derisively refers to Beth as "Punky Brewster". Beth doesn't understand the reference.
  • Playful Hacker: A group of Anonymous hackers who are partly responsible for getting Beth on the ballot in the first place and later save her from an assassination attempt while playing around with the White House's security systems.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: Boss Smiley in the original comic quite literally had a smiley for a head! While he was no less ghoulishly corrupt, it made him a little hard to take seriously. This version has a human head, but does sport a holographic smiley mask. And as a bonus, the expression on it doesn't change throughout the series, making him all the more eerie since we can't read his emotions.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The strange behavior of the Delaware representative in issue 2 goes unexplained at the time, but gains a new significance with the revelation a few issues later about Delaware's unique political situation.
  • Sequel Hook: The final issue of the first miniseries ends with Beth announcing to her team that, now they've got their feet under them, it's time to start getting proactive, and an enigmatic shot of a locked door in Fred Wayne's research lab.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signs of Disrepair: A scene where a senator suffers the ill-effects of a dodgy law he helped pass prominently features an electronic sign that would say "Welcome to Hello Farms" if the light bulbs in the last half-dozen letters were working properly.
  • Symbol Face: In this version, Smiley is the avatar of a corporation that has been granted legal personhood, a man whose individual identity is hidden behind a holographic mask representing the corporation's logo. Several other such avatars appear in the series as well; some have the heads of cartoon animal mascots, or more abstract symbols including a communications satellite and a missile.
  • Take That!: Makes criticisms of American Political System, Society, and even Foreign Policies.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Russell, in an interview on the Off-Panel podcast, admitted he imagined this set up in a, back-then fictional, post-Trump America.
  • World Half Full: America is administered by Sleazy Politicians with elements of Corporatocracy, and half of the world is experiencing massive upheaval and (also no thanks to American intervention) environmental collapse, but it isn't a hopeless world as Beth is able to get competent experts and repair damages to the system one by one despite the odds stacked against her.