Beth Ross is back on the campaign trail! Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell’s brutally satiric 2015 Prez series is getting repackaged for a brand new edition, with a new story, updated dialog and plenty of additional bonus content. It’s an auspicious and politically timely reunion, centered around a unique book that plenty of DC fans missed the first time around, so we stole a few minutes to speak to Russell about his (at the time) genuinely surprising break into DC Comics, his perception and identity as a writer, and the ’70s character due for a refresh that continues to elude him.

Prez was your very first comic project for DC back in 2015. What is it like revisiting that early work?

It’s sort of like looking at old pictures of yourself from high school, and you do it trepidatiously, because you try to limit the number of invitations to humiliation you experience in life. But I was pleasantly surprised when I cracked it back open for the first time in years. There were parts where I was reading it, and I thought, “Okay, yeah. That was a different writer, I was a different person then.” But there are also parts where it’s like, “I can see why I kept going. I can see why I thought I could do this!” And it is probably as close as you come as a writer to reading yourself as a reader: forgetting something or putting it in your drawer for seven, eight years, and then pulling it out and reading it for the first time. I have to say I was very moved by it. It was not a bad experience for me, and I’m really glad it’s getting a second life.

I’ve got to know what that pitch meeting was like. How did you come through the gates with a reinvention of a concept from the 1970s that was canceled after four issues?

Well, I had never even heard of Prez. So, they came to me with it, which is doubly weird because I had never written a comic book before. But Marie Javins was new at the time at DC, and she had been tasked with finding a creative team for Prez because they wanted this comic to be rebooted in conjunction with the upcoming election. She was putting together a team, and I knew her sort of through a friend and I’d written a couple of books, and so she reached out to me and said, “Would you be interested at all in writing a comic book?”

I thought that was just such an unexpected, out-of-left-field offer that I felt like I didn’t really have a good reason to say no. It felt like, for better or for worse, I should take this opportunity. So, I said yes, and I sent her a one-page pitch of what my vision would be if I wrote this and she seemed to like it. So, they ran it up the flagpole and at every stop I kept waiting to have the rug pulled out from under me where somebody would go, “No way in hell will we publish this.” But it never happened. Up until the point they started printing out the issues. Then I thought, “This must be real then.”

Since Prez, you’ve built a reputation for blending political satire with comic and cartoon tropes, like in The Flintstones, The Snagglepuss Chronicles and Lex Luthor/Porky Pig, a personal favorite. Do you consider yourself a political cartoonist?

Oh, no. I don’t consider myself a cartoonist, really. And I don’t even consider myself particularly political. I feel like I’m a writer, and I write about the things that are unnerving me. I write about the things that are damaging me at the moment, which will sometimes be politics and will sometimes be more personal and more metaphysical. I write about science a lot, too. But I don’t really like to think of myself as one thing—one flavor of writer. I don’t think of myself as a satirist or a science fiction writer or anything. I just feel like I’m a writer who tries to write about the most important thing I have to write about at that moment.

You mentioned that Prez launched because we were in the shadow of an election cycle, and here we are again in a political landscape similar in some ways but very different in others to the one of 2015. With a teen president standing in contrast to the oldest candidates who have ever run for the office, how would your take on Prez be different now?

Well, I think Prez was written back when we imagined that having an amateur as president would be a good thing, which, you know, that probably requires some revision. But what I would keep is the idea that the youthful energy of this country has been effectively locked out of the political process for a long time and that’s essentially what we need. What we need is the people who are invested in the future to be making more of the decisions about the future.

Tell us about the new material. What can readers expect in this new collection for Prez?

The new collection has the six issues as well as the Catwoman: Election Night special which we did in 2016, plus a six-page new story that Ben and I did specifically for this collection. There’s only so much you can do with six pages, but I’m happy with it.

I feel like the main thing is that it’s all recollected and reformatted in a way that’s more appealing to YA and younger readers. Also, they let me go through and change the lettering on it, so some jokes that didn’t make sense anymore, or have been kind of dated, I was able to take out. I was able to take out any of the references to Twitter. Maybe tighten things up a little bit, maybe add balloons where I thought there needed to be balloons. So really, the biggest new thing about this collection is the old stuff, because that’s all been re-lettered. I went through the script and changed a lot of the lines.

I wanted to discuss some of those possibilities you left on the table after your Prez run. Some of the major themes in these stories concern the humanity of artificial intelligence, and, if I’m not mistaken, a queer or even trans allegory in the character “Tina,” formerly known as “War Beast.” What were you cooking over there?

I think that Tina was my existential hero. And I think that what matters about us are the things we choose for ourselves—the identities that aren’t just handed to us or forced upon us. The only sort of true test that we’re alive is our ability to reject our original programming, which I feel like I’ve certainly had to do in my life, and I feel most of us have had to do to some degree or another. Tina had to do it in a much more radical fashion than most of us, and I think what I was trying to say was this is ultimately worthy of respect. This is ultimately what makes you a living human being, is to craft your own identity.

You’ve already reinvented one ’70s staple. So, it’s my journalistic responsibility to ask for the fans, what are your plans for the 2020s reboot of Brother Power the Geek?

You know, it’s funny, I never heard of that one either! But when I was writing Prez in 2015, they were saying, “Oh, you know what you should do next?” So, I don’t know. I’m open to anything at this point in my career. It’s just about what inspires ideas. I think about that one kinda hard.

Prez: Setting a Dangerous President by Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel. You can also read Russell and Caldwell’s original Prez series in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.