HIV and AIDS in comics

At the weekend I reread a comic my sister dug out from years ago called Jo.

Written in 1990 and set in Switzerland, the heroine gets a nice new boyfriend, who is terrified he might have HIV. Jo suggests they both get tested together but while Laurent is healthy she is HIV positive. Running off to live with her boyfriend, Jo and Laurent have three years of happiness and success before Jo developes AIDS and (spoiler) dies in a matter of months.

The contrast between this story, the contemporary comic Pedro and Me and the much more recent Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story is striking.

Jo Derib cover  Pedro&MeWinick BluePillsPeeters

Again Pedro Zamora was diagnosed at 17 in 1989 and he also died within five years. The comic follows his stay in The Real World: San Francisco  which seems to have been an earlier version of Big Brother (lots of cameras but they were allowed out) where he was room mates with the author. The book describes Pedro’s life and his dedication to educating people about AIDS.

Blue pills on the other hand, was published around 2001 (in English in 2008). Again a Swiss book, Frederick Peeters’ partner and her four year old son have HIV. The difference is that as of 2012, Cati is fine and the son is 15.

Interviewed in 2008

At the same time, there was a fatalism: that’s my life, that’s the way it is. Ultimately it’s not that bad because we have the medication, we have money; in the end, it’s not that serious. I felt lots of things all at once. It’s hard to explain.

And interviewed in 2012

Cati’s son is going to be 15. With the evolution of treatments, I can say that fear has almost disappeared from our lives.

So progress.

The last example that I’ve remembered from graphic novels is one that I always found quite moving. It brings home the effect of an epidemic in a way that, being born in the right place and time, I’ve never experienced in my own life. From Neil Gaiman‘s The Wake, speaking to a character who is really 600 years old, and again set in the 1990s:

You know when I first met you I thought you were gay.

Why? Because I’m British?

No. Because so many of your friends are dead.

Women’s day at Islington Comic Club part II, Kate Beaton

It turns out I had good book by Kate Beaton in my to-read pile: Hark a Vagrant. I had already come across one link from tv tropes (my source for good webcomics) but that one link wasn’t enough to stick. However, thanks to the library now I’ve read the book and it’s great fun.

Sticking with the theme of women’s rights this is one of my favourite posts because in just the first two panels Kate sums up everything I remember from reading the Double Helix. James criticised Rosalind on irrelevancies (she would have been quite attractive if she put up her hair. This she did not do). He certainly wasn’t a friend of hers,  yet refers to her as ‘Rosie’ all the time. So insulting.

RosalindFranklin by Kate Beaton
RosalindFranklin by Kate Beaton

This then ties in further to a recent article in New Scientist. Who really decoded Down Syndrome by showing that it was was caused by an extra chromosome 21? Marthe Gautier did all the preparations, growing cells from patients in tissue culture (setting up the first in vitro tissue culture lab in France on the way). Jérôme Lejeune took the photos and published the work, getting all the credit. Quite a fair division of labour.

International Women’s day at Islington Comics Club

As it was international women’s day on March 8th, the following Islington Comic Club featured a number of comics by and about women. It was pretty disappointing to see the tiny number of books by  women and it prompted me to review my own reading, in which women authors are equally sparse.

Shaenon K. Garrity has actually written a whole short story on this theme,  well, women in gaming rather than comics, The Perils of the Lady Gamer.  I highly recomend it (and it’s quite short, you can read it in five minutes).

This has prompted me to list all the comics I know by woman authors, I recomend all of these.

Is that really it? I’m going to have to go through the list of what I’ve read. I’ll add more if there is more.