Book Name: My Friend Dahmer
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang
Writer: John Backderf (Derf Backderf)
Artist: John Backderf (Derf Backderf)
Release Date: 2012
In mid-1970s, in Bath, Ohio, just outside of Toledo, a monster was growing in Revere High School. John Backderf and his friends didn’t know that the guy they had formed a club around would plotting a murder and dismemberment. The Jeffrey Dahmer Club celebrated and circled around the weird, strange man. As Dahmer slipped deeper and deeper into his problems, the Jeffrey Dahmer Club found him more and more entertaining. After Dahmer became a serial killer, John Backderf looks back into the Jeffrey Dahmer he knew and how it relates to the monster he became.
John Backderf is a writer and illustrator who writes under the name Derf and Derf Backderf. My Friend Dahmer is published under Derf Backderf and released in March 2012 after being published as a large comic in 2002. The comic was nominated for an Eisner Award and turned into a one-act play.
The book is an interesting attempt of a guy trying to make sense of his past. The group treated Dahmer as a mascot and an outcast. As portrayed by the book, he was never really party of the group, but they enjoyed playing with him. There is obvious questions of if anything could have been done to stop or prevent the monster Dahmer became, and I’m sure the book also makes Backderf question if he had any part in Jeffrey’s transformation.
Jeffrey Dahmer is an interesting character. He was already an alcoholic in high school, and there were obvious signs of problems, but no one seemed to do anything. He wandered through life just on the edge of cracking and the closest he could get to acceptance was a group of kids who were mocking and teasing him at the same time. Backderf’s account of how the group paid Dahmer to take his weirdness to the mall shows how Dahmer was willing to do anything for acceptance. Backderf reveals it was at this time that his mind started to sour to the idea of Dahmer and their games. Once college came Dahmer was tossed off and forgotten, until he was revealed as a serial killer in 1991.
Derf’s art style is a strange combination of Harry Crumb and Mad Magazine style. It is very expressive but very simple at the same time. It is also interesting where Backderf includes art that he made in high school of Dahmer…It helps really verify the reality of what he is saying and how Dahmer was part of his life.
My Friend Dahmer is a bit of misnomer…It doesn’t really feel like a friendship. The book however is an interesting look at a very disturbed person from the people who possibly knew him the best. Backderf does include a nice glossary where he shows how he researched the events and used it to give “behind-the-scenes” moments into Dahmer’s life. It is disturbing, but not bad enough that you can’t read it…it is more sad and shows how a monster can be formed.
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