Comic Book Superheroes & HIV: Who Is Immune and Who Isn’t?
Instances of sexually transmitted diseases or infections are seen typically as laughable occurrences in pop culture. Many comic books incorporate immunity into the characters’ mythology to explain why characters do not contract STDs like HIV despite repeatedly engaging in risky sexual encounters and innumerable blood-flowing battles.
Which of these heroes and characters did you know have an STD or have immunity to them?
- The Hulk – Marvel Comics
The Hulk is a Marvel character who came about when Bruce Banner, a nuclear physicist, was mutated into a being with incredible strength after exposure to gamma rays during a failed U.S. Army research experiment intended to create super soldiers. When Banner is The Hulk, he is transformed into a huge green, monstrous “man” with massive strength and a super healing immune system that resists viruses and diseases, including STDs.
- Jim Wilson – Marvel Comics
Jim Wilson, a recurring character in Hulk comics, is a friend of Bruce Banner, and the nephew of Falcon (Sam Wilson). He is a man living with HIV and is not a superhero and has no powers. During an angry mob’s protest against allowing an HIV-positive boy to go to school, Jim is badly injured. Upon The Hulk rushing Jim to the Mount for medical help, Jim requests that Hulk attempt to heal him with a blood transfusion (because of Hulk’s superhuman healing ability). Hulk pretends to try to perform the transfusion, but knows better than to actually go through with it after previously turning his cousin into the She-Hulk after giving her his blood. Jim passes away in his weakened state.
Source: Marvel Wikia
- X-Men & All Mutants – Marvel Comics
Some X-Men and mutants have the ability to regenerate their bodies quickly, making them heal at superhuman speed. For these characters, this power makes them capable of warding off disease and viral infections. It is assumed that mutants (including the X-Men) cannot contract typical earthly illnesses and diseases, so they are all considered immune.
- Mia “Speedy” Dearden – DC Comics
Mia “Speedy” Dearden is a teenage runaway and former child prostitute who becomes the Green Arrow’s side-kick and a member of the Teen Titans. Mia doesn’t possess any superhuman powers, but is a very skilled archer and practices martial arts. She takes antiretroviral drugs to help manage the virus and was well received by the Teen Titan members upon joining.
Source of images: Comic Vine
- Extraño & Jet – DC Comics
Both Extraño and Jet are members of DC’s New Guardians, a superhero group formed by the Guardians of the Universe. The New Guardians’ series ran from 1988 to 1989 before being cancelled. Extraño is a gay magician from Peru with the ability to levitate, form energy blasts and use sorcery. Jet is a Jamaican woman living in Great Britain when she is recruited to be a member of the New Guardians. She has the power to control electromagnetic energy. After being recruited to be members of the New Guardians, Jet and Extraño both contract HIV during a fight with Hemo-Goblin, a vampire with AIDS.
- ShadowHawk – Image Comics
Paul Johnstone, a lawyer and district attorney, grew up in the mean streets of Harlem. Paul becomes a vigilante after being assaulted by mobsters who inject him with HIV after he refuses to let some of the gangsters in his trials off the hook. He becomes ShadowHawk as a way to spend the rest of his life fighting injustices. ShadowHawk eventually succumbs to the virus.
- Captain America – Marvel Comics
Steven Rogers became Captain America after being injected with Super Soldier Serum (SSS). The serum gave him not only superhuman abilities like enhanced senses, speed, endurance and strength, but also gave him enhanced healing, disease resistance and alcohol immunity. It is the addition of disease resistance that makes Captain American immune to all STDs, including HIV.
- Midnighter – Wildstorm Universe (D.C. Comics)
Status: HIV-positive briefly before becoming immune
Midnighter was part of a created top-secret team of superhumans called StormWatch created by Bendix. He lost all recognition of his previous average human life and gained powers like battle precognition, enhanced endurance, speed, strength, hearing and combat skills. Midnighter also has enhanced healing, a super-immune system and the ability to adapt environmentally, even allowing him to live in the vacuums of space. This openly gay character once contracted HIV and defeated the virus in 6 weeks thanks to his healing abilities and super-immune system.
- Northstar – Marvel Comics
Status: Northstar does not have HIV and it is unlikely that he is immune to the virus, but he adopts a daughter with AIDS.
Northstar, also known as Jean-Paul Beaubier, is an openly gay superhero who is part of team Alpha Flight. He is the twin brother to Aurora, another superhero. His powers include flight, incredible superhuman speed, endurance and the ability to generate atomic bursts. Northstar does not have HIV/AIDS, but adopts an abandoned infant girl that he finds after a fight who does. The baby passes away weeks later from AIDS, driving Northstar’s ambition to rally for the fight against HIV/AIDS using his status as both an openly gay man and a celebrity.
Bloodfire – Lightning Comics
Brian Reace was a Marine severely wounded in battle. To save his life, he was given a blood transfusion and unbeknownst to him, an injection of Super Enhancement Formula and the AIDS virus. Reace lives and takes on the identity of Bloodfire, a super soldier with AIDS and blood that ignites (his hands do, too!). The comic series and publisher were created by Joe Zyskowski, a former elementary school teacher who “wanted a super hero that didn’t just go out and beat up bad guys. [He] wanted a three-dimensional character who had something to say to all of us.”
Many people think that they are impervious to STDs including HIV, but the fact is, we aren’t superheroes. There are more than 100 MILLION cases of STDs in the U.S. alone. Be a hero in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases– go get tested!
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