Recently we took a trip through time to see how the Navy fucks. But what to do with this fleet of men newly empowered to romance gentle blondes? Before too long, it was apparent that we had failed to protect these living weapons of seduction; the Great Pox was upon them. That’s why The Naval Institute of Health commissioned The Return of Count Spirochete, a primer in how venereal diseases spread, and why syphilis is their Vlad the Impaler.
Put on your learning condoms, and begin silently mouthing the word moist; we’re going on a sexual adventure called learning.
Our cartoon begins where most sex ends: with Death! The Grim Reaper is hosting an awards show for atrocities, and it is now, he quips, “the climax of the evening.” Sure, it’s a yuk-yuk joke, but it’s better delivery than James Franco had that one time he was Grim Reaper. Our hooded host announces The Fourth Horseman Award, presented to a panel of plagues who are awfully judgmental, considering they’re not actual judges. They are:
Smallpox: His overbite barely distracts from the fact that he looks like a Rice Krispie treat.
Diphtheria: A moleman.
Tuberculosis: Definitely a pederast, but also looks like a blackmailer in a Chandler novel.
Scarlet Fever: A perpetual winner at the AVN Awards, Scarlett Fever is—wait, no, this is a spotted piggie.
Common Cold: A real jabroni.
These nominees(…?) question VD’s victory in our penicillinous age—more specifically, why should we fear Count Spirochete the Syphilis Vampire?
But: drama! No sooner does Death lay out the case than Gonorrhea shows up to object that he infects 2 million Americans a year!
Wow, that’s an impressive number—and this is 1973, America’s least sexy year: bell bottoms were at their peak, only a few barber shops operated illegally as speakeasies, and the oil crisis had crippled our hookup economy after the last bus at 6 p.m. Even Elvis, the national symbol of our desire to gyrate our hips on crying hound dogs, had donned a ceremonially unfuckable jumpsuit and withdrawn to his volcano base in the remote Pacific.
There were only 106 million Americans who should have been having sex back then; if the clap infected 2% of them, just imagine how dangerous sex was before the rise of Disco People.
Grim isn’t hearing these objections, though. Yes, Gonorrhea is prolific, he says, but “More people die of syphilis than all other communicable diseases in the United States.” Fascinating! If strangely ominous, considering HIV was just about to film its breakout role.
But it was also intellectually dishonest, since only one year prior the U.S. Government, producer of this film, had concluded its four-decade experiment, The Tuskegee Crime Against Humanity. Pathogens are gonna patho, but The Feds were Count Spirochete’s Renfield, clearing a genocidal path through official channels.
I…I have no jokes about that level of evil, so let’s return to this film’s Saucy History of Rotting Flesh, Vol. I. Come on, don’t look so sad. It’s not all AIDS and racism. Did I mention the cartoon moleman yet? I really think we can still have a fun time. Look right here, I wrote down: “More like Diph-shit.”
Anyway, leaving aside the sponsors of this awards ceremony, Death cannot stop gushing about his buddy Syphilis. Hitching a ride on French mercenaries in the late 15th century, the Count traveled the globe via their “camp followers,” a.k.a. Hooers on the Hoof.
Our hooded host lets us know this with a wink, cheekily noting that “other types of conquest […] scarred, crippled, killed,” and ate your horny grandparents’ brains.
Lustily, the specter of annihilation describes the “unbroken, moist, intimate, skin-to-skin contact” that spreads these two illnesses. While Gonorrhea looooves the urethra, any mucous membrane will do. Men will know his burning rage by the leaky pus on their spigot, while women are craftier, and conceal the clap even from themselves like it were ovulation. Why can’t you just tell us how you’re feeling, ladies?
So of course by now you’re curious about how Gono-Goblin blinds babies. “How are fetuses being bent and broken in this comedy article?” you ask. Well it turns out that the uterus can smear the baby’s eyes with disease while it’s beginning the wondrous journey of life—
Good lord, I…I thought this would be a cartoon telling sailors to wrap it up. I have a whole page of jokes written about “men overboard” and “life preservers.” It was going to be a resonant pun in French! How am I supposed to win back the French readers after their army’s noses fell off? Please let me stop, Mr. Brockway, you can keep the money, I—
Conventional penicillin won’t stop it? Accelerated development? Only effective cure? I—yes, I understand.
A cartoon vampire with a sword, that’s what I thought we were getting into, dear reader. I am so sorry about this midden heap of fetal tissue. Just trust me, we have to keep going for… *gulp* all of humanity.
The good news is that Dead Blind Baby Syndrome is often avoided by the disease sterilizing the fallopian tubes and whatever their testicular equivalent is. The…sploot chute? Does that sound right? No, clearly it’s something scientific, like the cumduct. Whatever it’s called, hey: free sterilization for U.S. readers looking to save thousands on personal health care.
Like Clap-Devil, Count Spirochete can be passed on from mother to child, but don’t worry; more often it just kills them in the womb. *g-g-g-gulp!*
Upon invading a foreign body, Count Spirochete establishes a headquarters, a painless chancre where he may lie in his native soil and plot ways to murder babies and laughter. Men, he prefers your dick, but don’t overlook the left hook of facial syphilis. Really, any warm, wet abrasion will do: really bad news for those of you exploring knifeplay with your Renaissance mercenary boyfriends.
That’s when it’s time for Phase II: Operation Super-Duper Infiltration – The Morpheus Protocol. See, syphilis is known as The Great Imitator, because it can look like many other diseases. This film portrays it as Bela Lugosi, when in fact, it’s Lon Chaney.
But it is vampirical in that it loves your blood (and lymph nodes, which are the most famous nodes that you have no idea what they do). It spreads throughout your circulatory and lymphatic systems like it’s the really good part of ‘Salem’s Lot when the whole town just vanishes. This is when—
This is when you’re most likely to see umbilical infection of unborn babies, who will likely be stillborn due to congenital syphilis.
Anybody? The A-aristocrats? No? *sigh*
For two years, Count Spirochete will pop up in your body as a “rash, sore throat, fever, bald patch, and sores” before he achieves total system dominance. Confronting him in his castle, you will seek to stake him with a penicillin shot, but you feel his hot breath on the nape of your neck or inside your uterus. You are now blind, crippled, insane, and dead, all at once. You are strigoi mort, the syphilis that walks.
While Gonorrhea is tough to beat on its own, says Death, vanquishing Count Spirochete requires either a Weapon X-grade healing factor or antibiotics.
The count flees to Death’s sick-ass Castle Grayskull, but the embodiment of ultimate truth consoles him: the US is too repressed to brag about having sex to their doctors. At the time this film was made, it would be several years before antibiotic-resistant strains became a problem, so the biggest threat to sexual well-being was the stigma of thinking you might be unclean. Americans only began to admit having sex after President Kennedy visited Dr. P.C. Hughes to boast about skindiving Marilyn Monroe.
Let’s take a look at some of the other superstars gracing our Syphilis walk of fame. Why here’s…
Wow, Bobby Kennedy too! Look out, Marilyn!
And guy who was still frying ants with a microscope in high school! He gave syphilis to…your friend’s mom, and that explains a lot about your friend’s learning disability! She passed it on to… Chamber of Commerce secretary who’s really rediscovering himself after the divorce! Who else?
June & Johnny! Cool sunglasses girl who looks mean but is just smarter than the stupid small town she’s stuck in for another year! The swinging couple and the swinging couple they just gave the syph to! And these two people but you’ll never guess which one slept with a French mercenary! “OH GOD BARBARA PLEASE LET ME EXPLAIN WHY, THE PLUME UPON HIS SALLET WAS RESPLENDENT!”
Yes! Yes, all have been turned in Count Spirochete’s genitally undead army! Bring on more children of the night–figuratively speaking of course! Doing laps around this sexual victory parade, it’s…
Guy whose dune-buggy gets him laid, like, all the time!
Far out, gang, I don’t think we talk enough about how prevalent dune-buggies were in all the non-hippie parts of ’60s culture. The bouncy chassis turned these hydrodynamic fuck vehicles into livery service for syphilis.
So there you have it. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor about your dalliances with the French and other syphilitic races, like the Belgians, Swiss, Algerians, Moroccans, Congolese, and of course, three-quarters of Quebec. Help is available. Unless your partner owns a pike, ranseur, or plançon à picot, in which case it’s safe to assume your baby is already blind.
Brendan once proved why Thanos will never get syphilis.