The O+Men comic book series features the HIV-positive superheroes Nightcry, a white gay guy ('an edgy Batman'); Burn, a lesbian; K-oss, a black bisexual jock; Precious ('a Paris Hilton type'); Goth, a former drug user; Agony, a black ballerina; Eros, a male model; Slumber, a Dominican man ('a Freddy Krueger type'); and Memory, an Asian female punk rocker. After working for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, creator Robert Walker launched his own company, which premiered O+Men in May 2007. On the eve of the second issue's debut, scheduled to be published in February, HIV Plus spoke with Walker about his characters and work.
Where did your concept come from?
I created O+Men because I wanted to do something that used my talents to raise awareness of HIV--especially among young adults, who have such a high new infection rate--as well as to educate myself more about it.
Who are the O+Men?
They represent the diversity of people with HIV--but I didn't want to glamorize them. They're not invincible, and they have problems. Some may die, but still, they're heroes. They have a lot to offer the world.
What does the title mean?
I picked the name O+Men for a few reasons. It was a bad omen that the U.S. government didn't pay attention to the disease early on. I added the plus sign to the name for being HIV-positive but to also add a positive sense to the word, and I wanted to highlight the team members [by setting off the Men].
Why did you become an activist?
When AIDS came on the scene in the 1980s, I lived in Jacksonville, Fla. I was really young. My brother died, but no one said what he died from. Looking back, I realize that he had been looking sicker and thinner for a long time. My mother and father knew my brother was HIV-positive, but it was something they kept hush-hush. Coming to New York City when I was 18, I also started to meet a lot of people with AIDS. People have mixed up ideas of how you get HIV. I had a 40-year-old gay friend who didn't know that HIV was found in semen. There's still a lot of na'vet' about the disease.
Visit CyberDelete.com for more about future issues of O+Men. You can e-mail Robert Walker directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments and suggestions.
[Editorial Note: Because of a production error, the credit for the photograph of Robert Walker was omitted from the Ask & Tell layout for this issue. Walker was photographed by Joseph Moran.HIV Plus regrets the oversight.]