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Superheroes, Mutants, and Immunity: HIV/AIDS in Comics
July 10 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pmFree
From the death of the Incredible Hulk’s sidekick to AIDS-related complications and the metaphorical Legacy Virus affecting Marvels well-worn symbol of oppressed communities, the X-Men, HIV and AIDS have entered into the storylines of the world’s most popular superheroes. However, there are numerous, and sometimes controversial, references from mainstream comics. The depiction of HIV and AIDS in superhero comics of the 1990s illustrate the complex identities of characters grappling with the disease, as well as anxieties over the illness in contradiction to more realistic and honest representations of HIV and AIDS. Although it was revealing for popular fantasy to illustrate HIV and AIDS in mainstream comics, it distorted the diverse representations of ethnic, gender, and sexual identities of the minority and marginalized groups affected by the disease.
“Superheroes, Mutants, and Immunity: HIV/AIDS in Comics” will be presented as a panel discussion, exploring HIV and AIDS references from mainstream comics and what that means for audiences living with the disease. Specifically, it will challenge whether the comics reflect or deflect the real world issues, attitudes, and interactions of the HIV epidemic. This study of comic book superheroes in real world society is important, as many of these characters have widespread prevalence today. While the superheroes were demonstrating their powerlessness in the face of illness, panelists will also consider the ways the underground was exploring more complex representations. The panel will revisit popular narratives and characters alluding to HIV and AIDS, and unpack how they are represented in the present day.
Panelists will include: Phil Jimenez, a New York City-based DC Comics artist and writer, and former partner and caretaker of Neal Pozner, who passed away from AIDS-related complications; Ramzi Fawaz, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has written extensively on comics and AIDS; Trina Robbins, comics artist and writer and an early and influential participant in the underground comix movements, who won a Special Achievement Award from the San Diego Comic Con in 1989 for her work on Strip AIDS U.S.A., a benefit book that she co-edited with Bill Sienkiewicz and Robert Triptow; Margaret Galvan, Assistant Professor of visual rhetoric at the University of Florida, will co-moderate the event with Paul Sammut, curator of the summer 2020 comics exhibition and sequential design and illustration scholar at the University of Brighton.