In conjunction with Prism Comics, the preeminent website for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) comics and creators, every day this month I will be detailing one good comic book/graphic novel with LGBT themes.
Here‘s an archive of the featured works so far!
Today we look at one of Judd Winick’s earliest comic book works.
Pedro and Me is Winick’s tale of the friendship he struck up with AIDS educator Pedro Zamora when both men were cast members on MTV’s The Real World in Season 4 of the show (set in San Francisco).
Probably the number one thing you take away from reading this graphic novel is just how heartfelt the whole thing is – Winick really manages to dig in deep and tug on the heartstrings, but never in an offensive, over-the-top manner. He simply slowly reveals information about everyone involved until you care about everybody, so that you are practically weeping when we get to Pedro’s tragic passing from AIDS at the far too young age of 22.
Winick’s characterization work is spot on, including a particularly good job handling his own characterization. He shows an uncanny knack for self-examination in the comic, including some not-so-flattering depictions of himself, like his initial reaction when he learned he was going to be living with someone with HIV – how suddenly his super liberal ideals were tempered by his actual feelings when he actually meets someone with HIV. Very good stuff.
It is striking how much of an influence that one season of Real World had on Winick – he met Pedro, but he also met his future wife, Pam Ling, on the show. The book details the beginning of their relationship, too. It’s noteworthy to see just how different Real World was as a show back then – someone like Ling would never be on the show nowadays – she was too busy with a “real” life to interact much with most of the cast members, while the current show stresses cast member interaction.
I remember someone, when this book came out, noting that the book is probably most powerful if you read it all in one sitting. I think that’s probably accurate, so just bear that in mind if you ever read it.
Winick’s artwork sometimes doesn’t fit the style of the book, as a few of his characters seem oddly cartoonish (while at other times, his cartoonish artwork really helps get across the story, particularly in scenes with Pedro), but for the most part, his work is fine. It doesn’t really HURT the story ever.
The storytelling is quite excellent – Winick paces the comic beautifully. I think he even mentions that Pedro helped him work on this skill – it shows up here in full effect.
So yeah, this is a beautiful and poignant comic book – one of Winick’s finest comic works, if not his finest.