What's that? (you ask in your best William Dozier voice). A pernicious president previously punctuated by peril? To which I reply: Don't practice your alliteration on me! And to which I add, that's right, true Bull-lievers! Rocky was president of the United States...on good old Earth-712! Which, as anybody knows, is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Earth-616 (actually...counting on my hooves...it's actually only ninety-six
Panels from Avengers #147 (May 1976), script by Steve Englehart, pencils by George Pérez, pencils erased (hee hee hee!) and inked by Vince Colletta, colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by Denise Wohl
So, the question is, of course: What if you could travel to parallel worlds? The same year, the same Earth, only different dimension. Now the only problem is...finding a way back home. Which, you gotta admit, would be a cool concept for a TV series. But for the Avengers, it's a very dangerous prospect, because this isn't their world, where funnyman Chevy Chase is not America's beloved 38th President of the United States:
No...the US President of Earth-712 is...oh wait, I gave away the surprise in the two paragraphs ago. It's Nelson Rockefeller!
And he's going to a hat party, where his will be the grandest of all! Oh wait, on second glance that's the infamous Serpent Crown, one of those evil Avengersy Macguffins that can reshape the universe in the image of its wearer! So basically, it's a Cosmic Cube you can put on your head.
Wearing that cobra-chapeau, Rocky's got the United States of his world under his wrinkled, green-ink stained little thumb, until your pal and mine, that sensational synthezoid The Vision plucks it off his head in a hardball game of Political Keep-Away. Now whose approval ratings are through the roof, Nel-stone? Huh? Huh?
Rockefeller of course springs into action,
Englehart pauses to let us know that as Earth-712 falls, so does Earth-616! Or some such technobabble. Basically, all the Serpent Crowns in all the worlds are connected, which must make it easier to find if you drop one behind the sofa, but at the same time has got to be a major pain if you want to return it for credit at Marshall Field's. This, therefore, is the secret of the Serpent Crown: embarrassing black acne down the middle of your face! And, half of your glasses fall off.
As the Vision flies overhead with the captured Crown, we're reminded that this is an earth without a Richard Nixon...but with fabulous sunbathing babes in bikinis. Frankly, I'm not seeing the downside of alternate history, here.
As usual, it's Captain America who cuts through the bull-hockey to suss out just what's wrong with this universe. Without the Watergate scandal to tear this nation apart and provide Dan Ackroyd with a chance to do his killer Tricky Dick impression, this is the frightening nightmare world that would result! (But, don't forget: bikinis.)
By the way, editor Marv Wolfman (arrrrrroooooooo!) reminds us, in his best Roy Thomas impression, that if we wanna know what happened with Cap and the Secret Empire, we need to pick up a back issue of Captain America #175, and all the recent local papers to read up on the news. Make sure you head down to your local comic shop, kids, where they've got the last three years of your newspaper in near-mint condition, bagged and boarded at marked-up "Whip Inflation Now" prices!
Meanwhile, The Vizh foolishly leaves the Serpent Crown with The Scarlet Witch, who's spends the time caressing the Crown while she rehearses for her role as Gollum in The Wundagore Repertory Dinner Theater production of The Lord of the Rings.
Yep, Wanda has no history of going nutzoid and attacking her comrades. Nope, she's as level-headed as any mutant whose fictional babies were used as puzzle pieces by a demon servant of the devil while her husband was being disassembled just to see if he really had that "bobbing drinking bird" mechanism inside him. Oh, wicked Wanda! She'll never snap and mow down half the Avengers...she's too down to Earth!
By the time the next ish rolls around one month later, we've entirely forgotten what's going on, and in fact are kinda hoping Thor is in this issue. No such luck. The splash page of #148 reminds us that, oh, yeah, those Squadron Supreme yahoos are in this story, too:
Panels from Avengers #148 (June 1976), script by Steve Englehart, pencils by George Pérez, inks by Sam Grainger, colors by Hugh Paley, letters by Tom Orzechowski
Just who are these Supreme-o's? Why does Marvel keep using them? What's the joke here? Well, maybe you might recognize them if I did...this!:
That's right...hee hee hee...they're the...sigh...Justice League of America. Oh, what witty parody! What clever satire! What delicious pastriche! What...oh god...(breaks down, weeping)
Just in case you didn't realize they're a parody of the Justice League, let's peek in on...oh dear..."Lady Lark" and "The Golden Arches." They bicker and quibble about politics and society and how "dangerous" Golden...sorry, Golden Archer is. In the next panel, they find out that "Fasty," Golden Archer's ward, is a dirty stinking junkie, and in the issue after that "GA" and "LL" move to "Sea-Attul" to open a "shrubbery" shop. Oh, the hiliarity.
Meanwhile, Steve Englehart suddenly remembers he's got to keep the plot moving, so after a lot of rushing back and forth hither and thither and to a fro, we check in at the "White House"...which is this universe's version of the White House...to find Rockefeller lecture the Squadron Supreme. Apparently there's some sort of 'fiscal crisis' and the 'dollar' is getting weaker every 'day,' so that's a sure way you can tell this is set in an alternate nightmare universe where black is white and up is down and giraffes are Thompson's gazelles:
Then, suddenly, Rockefeller pulls off a rubber mask and he's The Beast! Whoa! I did not see that dramatic turn of events coming!
All's more or less well that ends well as the Avengers regroup to escape back to their world, but not before George Pérez gives us a shot of Nelson Rockefeller tied up and in his underwear. Oh, thank you George. Thank you so very, very much.
So! I hope you've learned your lesson from all this, folks. If you don't vote, you just might wind up with a rubber-headed mutant as your president in a world full of sunbathers and then Kevin Smith of Earth-712 will think he can write a Golden Archer comic book. So don't let that happen. Instead, vote for the good guys just like you smartly did in November. It's a hard road ahead, but it's nice to have hope in this grand country of ours, a nation where anyone can dream of growing up to become President: