Anyone who thinks that comics are a lightweight medium, best left to adolescent tales of absurdly-muscular heroes battling mutants or giant robots bent on destroying Earth or bald archvillains, need only look to Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned by Judd Winick to have that belief shattered. Winick, of course, first entered the public eye as a cast member on the third season of MTV’s The Real World. This was the season set in San Francisco, and while it is mostly remembered for the fireworks involving that horrid roommate Puck, this book instead focuses on the friendship that developed between Winick and roommate Pedro Zamora, who already had AIDS during the show’s filming and died from that disease’s complications a short time after filming.
Winick writes about how, being a “bed-wetting liberal”, he tried to put a brave face on the fact that he would be living with a person who was HIV-positive; and yet, when the time came he was still fearful of the prospect: “When I thought of living with someone who had HIV, I envisioned living with the AIDS virus walking around on two legs.” This frank admission contains the theme of Winick’s book: how he confronted those fears, dealt with those all-too-common stereotypes, and at the same time formed a deep and rewarding friendship. The book is not a collection of Real World anecdotes (although there are some of those), so those looking for an extension of the show’s voyeuristic qualities will be disappointed. Winick’s story begins before the show (and, he wisely informs us, so does Pedro’s) and the story of their friendship goes on after the show was over — and even well after Pedro Zamora’s death. Pedro and Me is funny, sad, and moving. It is a testament to the potential of comics as a medium.
(Judd Winick is currently a writer and artist for DC Comics.)