Coming Out HIV Positive in the Comic Book Store
BY Jacob Anderson-Minshall
May 20 2013 4:00 AM ET
First published in 2007, but recently re-released and available as an e-book, the adventure comic Lost Raven (Bluewater Productions) stars big city lawyer Zak Raven who learns he has HIV, quits his job, and sails away from his previous life. Shipwrecked on a (seemingly) deserted island, at first Raven feels lost and alone. His isolation and vulnerability become even more apparent when he is suddenly attacked by strange creatures.
In some ways, Lost Raven (which is a one-off rather than part of a series) is actually two stories. One is the internal turmoil that Raven’s HIV diagnosis has caused — the fears about his future, his anger at getting the disease, his guilt at potentially infecting others — which plays out in a narrative drawn directly from author/publisher Darren G. Davis’ own journals he wrote when he was first diagnosed with HIV in 1999.
“I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of people living with the disease," Davis says. "I made a point to make sure that the character [was] healthy living with it.”
The second Lost Raven story unfurls in the colorful illustrations by artists Keu Cha and Sean Murphy, where the pictures show Raven at first frightened by the island’s monstrous inhabitants, then focused purely on survival and finally — after he is befriended by one creature and overcomes his own fatalism — fighting back.
Raven is presented as a healthy, muscular, square-jawed he-man. The imagery banishes memories of those wasted by AIDS but it is also quite typical for comic book heroes who always find that they have the skills, mental acuity and physical strength to overcome any obstacle.
By deliberately positioning an HIV-positive character this way, Lost Raven suggests that those diagnosed with the disease also have untapped resources and can be the heroes of their own lives. Like Raven, those with HIV are not as alone as they might think and with support, they can conquer their demons — including negative emotions and the disease itself.