Award Date

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Marcia Gallo

Second Committee Member

Greg Hise

Third Committee Member

Andy Kirk

Fourth Committee Member

Barb Brents

Number of Pages



This study examines the representation of the AIDS crisis and People with AIDS (PWAs) in comics produced by mainstream publishing companies in America. Between 1988 and 1995, mainstream comic artists at DC Comics and Marvel Comics used their art to offer social commentary on the crisis. This commentary focused primarily on social issues like violence against PWAs and social ostracizing instead of the critiques of the Reagan Administration and medical institutions found in similar comics produced by activists in the queer communities. They provided education and advocated acceptance through their character’s actions and dialogue as well as in their own responses to letters from readers. Furthermore, mainstream comic creators described their art as starting points their readers could use to discuss the AIDS crisis, despite the years of activism for gay men and lesbians. An analysis of the comic art reveals a lack of social consciousness and personal experience on the part of the creators. Whether intentional or not, they played into stereotypes about people of color and gay men as well as promulgated misconceptions and fear about AIDS. The result was a series of comics that erased queer activism during their attempt to help People with AIDS.


Comic Books; HIV/AIDS


United States History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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