www.ambiente.us AUGUST / AGOSTO 2008
A Superhero in Ink
by Herb Sosa
As a self taught illustrator who has worked for both Marvel and DC, Robert Walker has inked his own path in
the Comics business. First launching his own company Digital Noixe Productions and a book called Delete
in 2004, Walker followed this huge undertaking and its success with the book O+Men in May of 2007. His
own chiseled physique, shaped by years of martial arts, resembles one of his superheroes. His O+men
resemble nothing the Comics world has ever seen.
O+Men features an array of HIV-positive
superheroes: Nightcry, a white gay guy
('an edgy Batman'); Burn, a lesbian; K-Oss,
a black bisexual jock; Precious ('a Paris
Hilton type'); Goth, a former drug user;
Agony, a black ballerina; Eros, a male
model; Slumber, a Dominican man ('a
Freddy Kruger type'); and Memory, an
Asian female punk rocker.
I originated from Jacksonville Florida and
came to New York as if called to the city
knowing that there was something more
for me here in New York that I could
accomplish rather than stay in Florida,
My Mom tells me I was drawing at a very
young age probably around 6 or 7 .
Cartoons and comics have always
seemed to be a part of my life for as long
as I could remember. There has always
been a connection to create images
that were larger than life, whether they
be human or alien, the idea of being
something more than what we are has
always fascinated me. Strength, power
and destruction and the ability to find a
medium in which all three can exist
seems to be an unending quest both in
the comic world and in real life.
HS: What advice do you have for a young LGBT person wanting to get into the publishing business?
RW: My Advice, If you have an undying hunger and passion for anything, just do it! My passion (The publishing
business ) is “A BUSINESS”. Keep that in mind, because you must have a full spectrum of knowledge and
understanding of what publishing is all about. It goes way beyond just the passion and creative process.
Make sure you create a circle of business partners you can trust and most of all rely on to bring out the best
in you. Always remember to have a plan “b” just in case case your initial ideas don’t come to fruition. Finally,
have fun, don’t loose focus as to what drives you to create and inspire. Publishing is a canvas of expression
and ideas. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself, be vulnerable. Truth is often the most vivid color you can ever
use to express yourself to others.
HS: How has, if at all, being African-American and/or Gay, played into your career?
RW: That’s a BIG question…to be honest I’d like to say it didn’t have any bearing on my ability to create and
do what I love doing, but in actuality the story lines I develop and the characters I create come from a place in
me that reflect the world and the perspectives of what I have seen and have even become. Being an African
American and being Gay are two very extreme situations. From my experience being African American was
really an issue in the comic book industry. The comic book world have always been the "old boys network" in
the major companies that I worked for. I would always feel that African American artist or writers never really
were as strongly pushed or supported as others in the industry. Also, African American or minority characters
were far and few in between in the comic world. If a minority character was created he/she would never be in
the power status of Superman, Hulk, Thor or many other heavy hitters. Also, the gay issues in comics were
nonexistent till recently. Now gay is allover the place in comics, but a lot of times I think it's used as a niche
instead of really developing a character to really complex and really living a gay life. I remember when
HIV/AIDS were a huge issue in America/world, major comics in the industries were really timid to touch on it.
There were a few side characters that died from it in a few issues but really didn't target the issues. I
remember marvel tried to do a storyline that simulated HIV/ AIDS with a virus called "the LEGAY" virus in the
marvel universe. Only mutants would get this strain and die from it. I thought this was a joke and a failed
attempt and ridiculous way of trying to hit on the issue of AIDS. I felt that it exploited the issue of HIV/AIDS to
make a story rather than educated people about HIV/AIDS awareness . Hence, the creation of DELETE and
the O+MEN started to mentally manifest through me to become a reality in the world.
HS: What does you mom say about O+ Men & your work today? Does she or other family members read it?
RW: My mother and family have been such an important factor in my own artistic development both creatively
and spiritually. The idea that I could make a difference in this world came from the support and love of my
family. I feel the subject matter of my books are more important and relevant to me. What makes them happy
is that I am doing something that gives me a sense of purpose and comes from a place true to myself.
Drawing was always something they encouraged and wanted me to do. I was always know as the “artist” in
the family, I have to say, my artistic roots stem from both my parents who had such an awareness to style,
colors and creativity even music and food. It was a part of them and it is very much a part of me and will
always be something that was passed on and I could never truly call my own.
The journey from the conception of the idea to today
The idea to create superheroes with HIV came to me after coming to terms with my own family member
death and watching so many people in my creative circle seem to disappear from this devastating illness. It
was in the late eighties when HIV/AIDS was uncompromising and seemed to rise up in the world like a
monster. I was very familiar with this sort of story line before, A monster with no conscience, very much like
so many of the comic books I have read and helped draw. But somehow watching in the shadows as real life
unfolded in front of me seemed so unconscious and safe. I needed to do something, I needed to react and
remind people of how to defeat the monster of HIV/AIDS, of how not to fear it but more importantly to
recognize it and come to terms with its place amongst us. The realization of making the larger than life
heroes of the comic book genre succumb to HIV seemed so relevant and vital in showing the comic book
audience that fiction can imitate life and in actuality is already doing so. I wanted the pages of my books to
cause awareness by not only educating but connecting with an audience that sometimes thinks they too are
Are you an avid comic reader otherwise?
Yes, very much so...I like seeing the development of familiar characters and storylines being transformed
and shaped for a world that seems to always want more from their heroes. Besides Hollywood 's take on
what makes a good movie, its great to see the creators of both the new and old superheroes find ways to
keep the visual elements of a comic book fresh, vivid and alive for each generation turning its pages. Not only
do I read the comic books, I love watching the movies and cartoons that are created, upgraded and
integrated using animation from all over the world. Tuning in on Saturday morning cartoons here in America
is like watching a spectrum of creativity from all corners of the world come together and interact all with the
inevitable goal of making kids go WOW!
What's your target audience?
Is this also an effort to spread awareness specifically amongst kids?
"What is my target audience?”… I'm asked that question quite often, and in actuality I cannot give you a
specific age number, but I’d rather say, whenever an individual is aware of his or her own sexuality. Not that
my books are solely based on sexual content but more importantly I think I try not to stray from sex and
sexuality and recognize it as a force to be reckoned with. Ideally, heroes always save the day, but when the
day is over and the heroes are faced with there own immortality, how then do they react and thrive? As far as
awareness amongst kids, I would like to think that I could connect with kids of all ages, using comic books
not only to entertain but also enlighten. It's an extraordinary time to be alive, technology seems to be capable
of doing almost anything its wants to. But my vision would be to have my books shared round the world in
places where technology doesn't seem to matter as much as life itself.
HS: What about TV, the big screen or action figures? Any of this in your future?
RW: I would love to see my books made into movies. Yes! Push the education of tolerance and HIV/AIDS
awareness in the entertainment industry! I'm all for it! The storylines of superheroes saving the day with
super powers and arch enemies, have been told and retold, but why not tell the story in a new way, to
educate. Why not go deeper, put a new face on HIV/AIDS. Put a new twist that will have the capacity to reach
an audience that needs to be spoken to, educated, entertained and saved all at the same time. My storylines
may be darker and unfamiliar, but the light of awareness they shine may last longer than any special
Hollywood affect. It would take a special director to dare himself, challenge him self to tell the story of my
characters. The intricate layers they cope with go far beyond the outside forces of just monsters and evil
mutant villains. It’s that internal struggle that need to be shown in a larger than life sort of way. The
combination of de-constructing power while building strength ties in so beautifully with the true meaning of
just how fragile we really are even though we sometimes feel invincible. Its a universal story that needs to
be told for a new world were numbers don’t lie and life is lost in the crossfire of the young who still seem to
think they are untouchable to something so unforgiving as HIV/AIDS. That’s why I created these books, that’s
my vision, to redefine what we know, the same way HIV/AIDS has done to sex. Eat your heart out George
Why superheroes as characters?
That’s and easy question, I chose superheroes as the characters because superheroes are invincible; they
are larger than life expressions of how we wish we could be and sometimes feel. I practice martial arts,
Kraa Maga, one of the things I love about its teachings is that things are not what they appear to be. Anything
can be used as a weapon. A battle isn't over until it’s over. Well for Superheroes, I thought about de-
constructing the whole concept of what heroes are made of, and redefine them in a new world with new
issues. I wasn't afraid to present superheroes with something the world might not recognize as having HIV,
but numbers don’t lie. Death and HIV/AIDS go hand and hand when it comes to uneducated individuals that
just weren't aware of the facts of this disease. But like anything new and different, at first we may have to
squint our eyes to see it, but eventually we have the ability to open them and see the complete picture.
HS: Describe some of your characters and what makes each unique. Are any of them based on people you
RW: NIGHTCRY is a character that has super human unstoppable powers that only surface within the
shadows of the night. He’s the leader of the OMEN. A gay man who once led an instant gratification type
lifestyle until HIV put the breaks on all of that and gave him a reality check like no other. HOT (originally called
Burn) Is an ex-stripper as well as being a lesbian. She is an extremely sexy sort of type vixen who at one point
in her life became infected through a dirty needle while battling her own drug addictions. Now she has the
ability to control and manipulate fire in all its strength and forms. GOTH, A reckless sort of dark child, who did
anything and everything and never cared about the repercussions of his actions. He can’t even determine
how he contracted his HIV status, because he doesn't remember. What’s worse is he doesn't care. His
powers are based on the fact that he can never die. He can harness the characteristics of whatever has
attempted to kill him, but always be able to defy death. PRECIOUS; An agile superhuman force to be
reckoned with, Her strength is beyond comprehension yet she embellished such a low self esteem in so
many ways that the word ironic defines her existence. Once blinded by love, her first boyfriend infected her
through unprotected sex. She now lives in such denial she refuses to even mutter the word positive in her
own thoughts. AGONY; A battered woman who’s decent from grace was spawned from an abusive husband
who not only stole her voice but also her spirit. She’s an extraordinary premier dancer that became infected
due to her husband’s appetite for ramped, nameless sex. She now possesses the powers to inflict the
deepest sense of despair, pain and mind distorting manipulation. EROS: He is the pretty boy of the Omen
circle. His chance encounter with HIV came about while he was involved in a long term relationship. It
happened in a moment when luck had turned its back on him and a single act of negligence turned into a
lifetime of regret. His extraordinary good looks and sexual appeal are the basis of his strength. He can utilize
the power of attraction and reshape it into an extreme channel of telekinetic energy. SLUMBER born with the
misfortune of having HIV, yet despite this infliction he managed to excel in the art of Krav Maga, a form of
extreme martial arts and self defense. His ability to manipulate the subconscious mind and transport himself
into the dreams of his victims allows him to transpose their thoughts into what he envisions they should be.
MEMORY; Fighting in bloody street brawl, this brash runaway teen was left with more than just bruises and
scars. In an instant her status had changed to positive and she now found herself up against a new enemy
with a 3 letter name HIV. Her powers to go back in time so as to influence the present are limited, especially
when it came to rewriting her own fate. K-OSS; The jock of the crew, a fine tuned athletic specimen of a man
that makes the girls come running, as well as a few of the boys (keep that bit of information on the down low)
Playing the field took on a whole new meaning at one time for this foot ball star. Now the games changed,
and automatically there’s an instant team disadvantage whenever you playing against HIV. Amplified,
heightened states of awareness are the foundation of his powers. A chaotic onslaught of confusion and
distortion involving all human senses combine together to leave the enemy contorted and perplexed.
HS: Which, if any of the O+men, most closely resembles you personally? Why?
RW: Well, I would say the characters on the O+MEN resemble many different people from many different
backgrounds around the world or will. I would definitely say Nightcry, slumber, Hot, and Eros have definite
glimpses that remind me of my personality; but also Agony, GOTH, and K-OSS as well. All of these
characters derive from my imagination, but I also believe that this book was destined to become a reality in
the universe and it chose me to be the vessel to make that happen. So, for some reason I guess the
universe saw my being for this creation (O+MEN) to happen. Hence, Many of the characters may resemble a
lot of my personality as well as others out in the world. We all are connected if we look deeply; so the O+MEN
will resemble all people.
HIV/AIDS is that image that is hard to see at first, but like any disease, like any monster, it has its weakness
and strength, it can be conquered, it can be handled, it can be recognized by seeing it in a way we might not
have thought or seen before. My way is Superheroes and comic books. - Robert Walker
HS: What about you personally. Are you involved? Does your partner get the comics business?
RW: I've been involved with my partner for a couple of years; He gives me so much love and support. To be
honest, he’s not as much a comic book fan as he is a cartoon fanatic. But he knows what my vision is. He
knows what I want to accomplish with my books. A lot of time goes into the creative aspects of developing
each book; He’s the right kind of energy to have around because he does graphics arts on the side. So he’s
very aware of the process of creativity. We try to catch all the super hero genre movies, and he’s always the
first one to say “You’re going to be up there someday.” We got something special; mind, body & soul. After all
is said and done, and the pages are all drawn, and the ink has dried, it’s good to have somebody to turn to,
to hold, and just be.
HS: What about the fame & notoriety that has come with your success? How do you and those around you
cope with it?
RW: Well, it’s been happening more and more, I've been
to so many different types of gatherings, on panels and
featured in all sorts of publication. People recognize
me but don’t quite remember my name as much as
they do my face and even my body. That’s alright
with me, The die hard comic book readers ask me
for my auto graph, which make me feels really
good, but also reminds me of how far I came from
once being that little kid that grew up in Jacksonville
Florida with a dream and a couple of Spider man comic
books. I am humbled by the whole experience thus far.
I've been told my books have made an impact in
peoples lives, People write to me regularly with
stories from there hearts, So many uplifting
ones so many not so wonderful ones. My
demographics are so broad and range
in all ages, I’m glad to be out here,
doing this, making a difference. It
matters more than words can ever
convey, again I am humbled by it all.
HS: Any books signing or events in
Miami ? We would love to see you
RW: Actually I plan to make it there
when the cold winter months come
here in the big apple. I will be
promoting the 1st issue of the
ongoing regular series of the
O+MEN in Dec. My Ideal signing
would be on the beach with a
straw hat, sunglasses and
lemonade in hand with fit bodies
enjoying the atmosphere. What
a way to spread HIV/AIDS
HS: What is next for you? Any new projects you want to share with us?
RW: Yes there is. You'll find out soon enough.
New York City – Gotham city
Jacksonville - home
Kraa Maga - power
HIV/AIDS – the arch enemy
Men – tangled complexities of flawed perfection
Ink - blood
Success – Awareness
Favorite item of clothing – my Gucci underwear
Favorite Food – king crab legs
I want to be remembered... – as making a difference
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