On the Cover
Robert Walker is the creator of this month's cover image, taken from his comic book series O+Men, in which a cast of nine superheroes battle the life-threatening virus: AIDS. After working as an illustrator for retail giants Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger and for major comic book companies such as Marvel and DC Comics, Walker decided to turn his talent toward a cause close to his heart. "HIV and AIDS are important issues to me," he says. "Even though I'm HIV negative, I know a lot of people who've been infected and defeated by the virus. More education of the public is needed—this epidemic is huge and continues to grow."
His comic books are sold in the United States and internationally, and include the O+Men Positive and O+Men Negative issues, which consist of 20 pages of story and illustrations followed by useful information on HIV and AIDS. This includes myth dispelling, testing locations, events, and interviews with physicians and HIV experts. The superheroes are of all ethnic backgrounds, and, with characters like Agony, an African American ballerina, and Memory, a female Asian punk rocker, are meant to connect with all readers, empower those who are infected, and show that all demographics are susceptible to HIV.
The series has received an overwhelmingly positive response since it began in May 2007. Walker was recently honored by the magazine HIV Plus, as one of the leaders of today who are "working to ensure the fight against HIV rages on."
HIV and AIDS organizations order the comic books to use in support groups and to hand out to individuals. Because there is some explicit content, Walker suggests that the comics not be given to young children. But he says, "Nurses can definitely give these books to people over 12 years of age who are interested in comic books, especially teenagers, anyone who's sexually active or abusing drugs, and to those who need HIV and AIDS awareness, education, or support."
A Jacksonville, Florida, native, Walker hopes one day to start a nonprofit organization to support HIV and AIDS awareness in his adopted home of Harlem and in the Bronx in New York City. For more information, including a link to an interview with Walker on National Public Radio, go to www.omenplus.com.
senior editorial coordinator