Thursday, May 9, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "The Price of Jealousy" (1972)

Jealousy is expensive. You could lose your shirt...

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).

The story: "The Price of Jealousy," originally published in Two + Two, vol. 2, no. 1, January/February 1972. No author is credited.

Synopsis: Doris is a legendary lesbian, known both for her lovemaking skills and her fighting prowess. Younger lesbians, like "rich brat" Goldie, pay for sessions with her in a hotel. On her way home from a date with Goldie, Doris thinks about various subjects, including a "mad rapist" who is on the loose in the area and about her own long-term relationship with a woman named Irene. Though the two are essentially married, Doris is consumed with jealousy and doubt and worried that she can't satisfy Irene because she lacks a "pleasure pole." She's sure Irene is having an affair with a man, so when she gets home and hears a man's voice, she assumes the worst and leaves. But Doris has made a tragic miscalculation.

Wood trademarks: Character named Doris (cf. "The Loser," "Hooker by Choice"); "nest" as euphemism for vagina (cf. "Tank Town Chippie"); woman referred to as "fluff" (cf. "The Last Void," "The Fright Wigs," "Out of the Fog"); blade strapped to thigh (cf. "Filth is the Name for a Tramp," "Gore in the Alley"); walking through scary alley (cf. "Gore in the Alley"); fog (cf. "That Damned Faceless Fog"); lesbian bars (cf. "The Fright Wigs").

Excerpt: "Doris was known to have mastered every form of martial art. She could box with almost any man, wrestle, fight no-holds-barred. She had mastered judo, karate, jujitsu and savage. When she couldn't handle a man with her mitts, she carried weapons to take care of it. A stiletto in her garter, a pistol in her purse. Doris was the terror of any man who might try to take away one of her bits of fluff. But she was the darling of the dykes."

Spider-Man's debut in 1962.
Reflections: In August 1962, in the pages of a short-lived comic book called Amazing Fantasy, writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko introduced a bold and strange new character: Peter Parker, a teenager who gains incredible strength, agility, and other powers as a result of being bitten by a radioactive spider. Unfortunately, Peter misuses his incredible gift, as comics historian Don Markstein noted in his essay on the character:
It never entered [Peter's] head to become a superhero. Instead, he used his power to cash in. He became a superhero only after his not bothering to stop a crime led directly to the murder of his beloved Uncle Ben. The last line of the first Spider-Man story, "With great power comes great responsibility", has echoed down through his career, as he continued for years to try to atone for that one refusal to act.
The Amazing Fantasy series was not to be revived, by the way, even by Peter Parker. This famous story appeared in the comic's fifteenth and final issue. Spider-Man, however, became one of the great successes in comic book history, getting his own title in 1963 due entirely to demand from readers. Spidey has gone on to appear in hundreds of comic books since then, both as a lead and an ensemble player, plus TV shows, movies, video games, comic strips, and even a Broadway musical. Not to mention the plethora of toys, T-shirts, and other merchandise he's inspired over the last half century.

In January 1972, almost a decade after the publication of Amazing Fantasy #15, Ed Wood told a vaguely similar story in the pages of Two + Two, a lesbian-themed Pendulum magazine. This was another short-lived franchise, seemingly ending in 1972 and forgotten by 1973. Perhaps here, too, was the potential for another recurring character that the author could have developed over time.

While Doris technically has no superhuman abilities, she has achieved a godlike status among lesbians for her sexual and fighting prowess. And yet she, like Peter, has her priorities all screwed up. As this story begins, even though she pines for Irene, Doris is prostituting herself to a rich girl who is actually named Goldie. The symbolism shouldn't be too difficult to decode there, especially for anyone who has seen the "gold girl" sequence from Orgy of the Dead (1965). Again like Peter Parker, Doris has the opportunity to save a loved one but does not take it.

Eddie intends "The Price of Jealousy" as another story about a character's ironic punishment. Typical O. Henry/Twilight Zone stuff. But what if Doris had learned from this incident and decided to put her skills, both sexual and pugilistic, to good use? She could have become the publishing industry's first out-and-proud lesbian superhero, beating both Marvel and DC to the punch by nearly two decades! I think Ed Wood was on the precipice of something great with "The Price of Jealousy," but he didn't carry the idea to its logical conclusion. The Adventures of Superdyke could have been a sensation.

Next: "Never Look Back" (1973)