DETROIT - HIV-positive after a blood transfusion, marine Brian Reace is close to death, unaware that a doctor intentionally infected him with the AIDS virus as a first step toward creating a super soldier.
Injected with an enhancement drug by the same doctor, Reace later becomes "Bloodfire" - an AIDS-infected comic book hero with a message, super powers and a body resembling Arnold Schwarzenegger's.
"AIDS is the tragedy of our generation. I wanted kids to learn through my comic book," said "Bloodfire" creator Joe Zyskowski, 26, of Dearborn, Mich. "I wanted a super hero that didn't just go out and beat up bad guys. I wanted a three-dimensional character who had something to say to all of us."
After losing his job as a third-grade teacher due to budget cuts last summer, Zyskowski created his own company, Lightning Comics. He decided he could continue educating children through comic-book heroes.
"Comic books were the way I learned to read. I wanted to show kids that AIDS is something that could happen to any of us, not just a gay person," Zyskowski said. "And that anyone who gets AIDS can be an incredibly cool person with something to offer all of us."
Most important, Zyskowski said the comic will portray the stigma that people who are HIV-positive face.
Zyskowski got help with his comic book from three Michigan artists - Julius Jackson, 19, Frank Parr, 28, and Kelli Marshall, 23.
Their advance black-and-white debut of "Bloodfire" sold out at a Michigan comic-book convention last month. The first color edition of "Bloodfire" will hit comic shops in June.