The graphic novel Lost Raven ($11.99; Bluewater Comics) tells the story of Zak Raven—a lawyer who, after discovering his HIV status, takes a high-seas sabbatical. Sure enough, he becomes shipwrecked on an island full of snarky beasts, the results of DNA experiments gone wrong. Zak battles internal demons, too: In a journal, he documents his fears about living with the virus.

Lost Raven’s creator, Darren G. Davis, based Zak’s HIV worries—dating, medication, disclosure—on his own journal entries in the months following his 1999 HIV diagnosis.

“I’ve always wanted to do something with my journals,” says Davis, 39. “I wrote the book because I wanted to make a difference in the HIV world, and it was really hard for me.”

HIV educators around the globe have long used the comic-book genre to celebrate positive people’s strength and to fight stigma. But Davis says he didn’t want to skimp on the pulp.

“It’s not touchy-feely,” he adds. “It’s basically raw emotion. Plus, it has a lot of cool monsters in it.” And an uncool one, too.