My favorite comic book series is Ben Dunn’s Ninja High School, which ran from 1987 to 2009 and is currently being rebooted. For the past two years, I’ve been collecting and re-reading it. I recently purchased a rare and unusual issue published in 1992. It’s a public service comic book about sexually transmitted diseases. This issue is a fascinating artifact of sex education, comics, and American teenage culture 22 years ago.
It was written by Dr. Joeming Dunn, M.D., who is Ben Dunn’s younger brother. In addition to being a physician, Dr. Dunn is the current president of Antarctic Press, the company which published Ninja High School. Ben Dunn illustrated this issue and provided some of the dialogue.
In his preface, Dr. Dunn describes encountering similar materials at a comic book store when he was in medical school:
While searching through the boxes, I found a giveaway that talked about “safe sex”. While it pointed out the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, it did not give much information regarding the diseases. I felt that if you are going to talk about a subject like S.T.D. you should teach about it. Just not preach about it.
Dr. Dunn proceeds to do precisely that.
They encounter Rich, a one-shot character. Rich wants to brag about a recent sexual conquest, but he feels ill.
Later, a doctor examines Rich. She suspects has an STD. The doctor explains to Jeremy at length how sexually transmitted diseases work and why each of the most common ones are dangerous.
Dr. Dunn brings in scientific explanations, but ones that are reasonably understandable. There’s no moralizing that a teenager might find off-putting, just even-toned medical instruction. It’s even funny at times--well, in the illustrations, at least.
I suspect that with a few small updates, this issue could be republished today and still be useful.