Author: written by Rene Jenson, drawn By Rich Jenson, cover by Brent Boates
Publish Date: 1975
Publisher: Last Gasp
This underground comic, about a female amputee and her lovers is featured in Paul Gravett’s book The Leather Nun and other incredibly strange comics and was displayed as part of Comica 2008 in the concourse gallery at the ICA in London.
It is hard to get hold of, but a friend of mine, Roz, who deals in rare books and maps tracked one down and delivered it to me in a plain brown envelope!
This little comic raises so many issues I hardly dare say anything about it for fear of committing some grievous faux pas and getting shouted at by disability activists or feminists. However, although I’m not that well read in the relavant social theory espoused by either of those schools, I am broadly liberal and pro-equality, so if I say something crass please forgive me.
In some ways refreshing, in others intriguing and strange, and published in the pre-Aids era, this comic is at times a little hard to relate to, portraying a world different in several ways to our post millenial, postmodern one. This is a hardcore comic about a woman who loses a leg in an accident, then gets dumped by her prat of a fiance, because he doesnt think she’ll be able to “keep up” with him and his friends. Luckilly there is a sexy amputee hospital volunteer on hand to show “victim” Lyn that her life is not over and a new world of sexual adventure awaits her. From the off, Sheri and Lyn are talking sex. Lyn moves in with Sheri and is introduced to a round of orgies involving amputee couples, and men who “dig” “amp chicks”. Lyn learns that most of Sheri’s friends make loads of money working for a “call girl” company that caters for guys who like having sex with women who are missing parts of their anatomy. Rather than finding her sex life over, suddenly every man Lyn meets is anxious to “ball” an amputee, and her liasons are graphically displayed, over and over. The men are all well endowed and, indeed, engorged to even greater proportions by having an amputee in their clutches. Lyn gets a handsome insurance payout (she also beds the insurance broker) and buys a big car, and the close of the comic finds her being invited to an orgy by the car salesman.
All liberating stuff. The message is not just that amputee women (is it OK to still call a person who has lost a limb an “amputee”?) still have a fulfilling sex life, rather that they have a better sex life than women who have all their limbs, and these non-disabled women are usually terribly jealous, cos all the guys are after “foxy amp chicks”. This comic was written at a time when social theory wasn’t as developed in the areas of disability studies and I wonder about the impact it must have made. Growing up in the UK in the 70’s, my recollection of people with missing limbs (often as a result of thalidomide rather than trauma) was one of hideous looking artificial limbs, stigma and collective pity. I suspect many people may have found hope and encouragement in this comic.
Yet, looking at it now, thirty-plus years after it was produced, it has its unsettling side, presumably reflecting cultural attitudes of a time of general sexual emancipation, but without the acknowledgement of the power structures that might be at play. Surely there were career options for Sheri’s pals outside the sex trade? Is catering for the desires of non-disabled men who “dig” disabled women empowering or laying onesself down to be exploited? What about men who pray on women they see as vulnerable? What about “wannabees”?
Sure, this is fantasy rather than social realism, and just because its about “serious” issues like amputation and body image doesn’t necessarilly mean it’s meant to be taken too seriously. There again, in the 1970’s I was growing up in the rainswept industrial north of England and so I don’t actually know whether it was normal, in the States, to attend several poolside orgies per week, mabe it is an accurate portrayal of the times.
The key fact that legitimatises this comic is that it was written by a woman who had lost both legs in a car accident and illustrated by her husband. The overall tone is light hearted, funny and encouraging in a “screw you, its MY body” kind of way. It’s not ALL sex: the comic also talks about fashion, shoe and glove exchanges and mobility issues, as well as flagging up the general populations underestimation of the abilities of people with missing limbs.
A second issue seems to have been planned, but I’m not sure if it was published. I will investigate further. meanwhile, please comment on what i have written, especially if you have read it!