It was G.W.F. Hegel, if I remember right, who wrote that the Owl of Minerva flies only at dusk. He meant this as a commentary on the Self-Understanding of the World Spirit in History or some such Deep Important Germanic Thing, but here I’ll just apply it to dirty comic books instead, and how you don’t really know the significance of something when you first encounter it.

It was in a dingy used bookstore, in a decaying New England industrial town, that I encountered in my late teens a truly bizarre-looking comic book called The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist. I opened it up and found…a pretty young woman being forced to strip at gunpoint by a Nazi (hmm, Erosblog familiar theme there, then tied to a helicopter. Well, I thought, that’s certainly different.

helicoptering and reflecting

But I could deal. I mean, I was eighteen and in college and all sophisticated about sex, right?

Well, wrong. I think I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that in Episode III our heroine Phoebe is killed, and in Episode IV her corpse is stolen by a cult of necrophiliacs…but somehow later on she is resurrected by an Eskimo shaman and then she proceeds to have a endure a series of perils and humiliations that take her all over the globe. She is converted into a makeshift torpedo by some gay white-slaving submarine pirates:

because dynamite is always the obvious solution

She is captured by shoe fetishists:

Where\'s the fourth boot? It\'s a mystery

She is enslaved and abused by Asian communists:

Saturday night at the House of Culture

And so on. There is a mad tattoo artist and a guild of lesbian assassins, among other things. Feeling somewhat disturbed, I didn’t buy the book, a decision I regretted for years thereafter, because copies of The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist would prove very hard to find in subsequent years.

But what I didn’t realize then is that Phoebe is satire, and absolutely brilliant satire at that. (ErosBlog’s astute readers will have picked this up from individual panels already, of course.) She was written in the mid-1960s by Michael O’Donoghue who would later go on to comedic glory as a writer for National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live. She was drawn by Frank Springer, who would go on to a future as a distinguished artist at Marvel comics. And her adventures were first published in Evergreen Review, one of the most daring serious publications of its day (so much so that it was once denounced by Gerald Ford on the floor of Congress). Everything that O’Donoghue can think of is a target here, from old Perils-of-Pauline like movie serials to James Bond movies. Needless to say, the optimistic consumerist culture of the postwar United States is well skewered.

life goes on

Indeed, by the end, O’Donoghue is even satirizing himself and his own bizarre sense of humor.

Phoebe meets her maker

If you can ever get a copy of Phoebe, treasure it, because there’s really nothing like it. I read it now and wonder how I could have missed all the obvious jokes.

I suppose the answer is just too obvious. Because I was eighteen years old and this a comic book whose heroine spends about eighty of its ninety pages naked, that’s why.

Afterthought: If you are an eccentric billionaire looking for a project with which to make your mark on the world, please consider financing Phoebe as a movie. Thanks, and now back to your regular ErosBlog programming.

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