My Friend Dahmerby Derf Backderf
You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer—the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper—seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had/i>
You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer—the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper—seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides. In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche—a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.
Praise for My Friend Dahmer:
“A well-told, powerful story. Backderf is quite skilled in using comics to tell this tale of a truly weird and sinister 1970s adolescent world.”
“Anyone who opens My Friend Dahmer to satisfy a morbid curiosity, and likewise anyone who expects to find no more than a cynical publishing venture here, is bound for disappointment. It is a horrifying read, yes, not so much for what it reveals about the sad early (and inevitably terrible) life of Jeffrey Dahmer, but because of what it reveals about the bland emotional landscape of Middle America, in this vision a petri dish for psychoses in many degrees and forms.
Backderf’s odd stylization, with figures that look like organic robots, is a perfect vehicle for this conception. His graphic approach is grotesque, droll, and it rags on reality as masses of kids knew and still know it.
Lots of books exist about the agonies and cruelty of the adolescent high school experience, but few so compellingly bring us straight into that soulless environment, showing the ways it can shelter, allow to burgeon, and, at the same time, be completely blind to real madness.
It wasn’t easy reading this book, but I’m glad I did.”
—David Small, author and illustrator of Stitches, a National Book Award finalist and #1 New York Times bestseller
“Stunning. Horrifying. Beautifully done.”
—Alison Bechdel, author and illustrator of Fun Home, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist
“My Friend Dahmer is a brilliant graphic novel and surely ranks among the very best of the form. Like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, the book plumbs a dark autobiographical mystery, trying in retrospect to understand actions and motivations to piece together the makings of a tragedy. Like Charles Burns’s Black Hole, it’s a starkly etched portrait of the horror of high school in\ the 1970s. Comparisons aside, My Friend Dahmer is entirely original, boldly and beautifully drawn, and full of nuance and complexity and even a strange tenderness. Out of the sordid and grotesque details of Dahmer’s life, Derf has fashioned a moving and complex literary work of art.”
—Dan Chaon, award-winning author of Among the Missing and You Remind Me of Me
“Just when you think you know all there is to know about Jeffrey Dahmer— one of the most notorious criminals of the past century—along comes My Friend Dahmer, which adds significantly to our understanding of this rare form of psychopathology. The graphic novel format helps the reader appreciate the adolescent mind-set of Dahmer’s high school classmates. Although none of those who grew up with Dahmer expected to hear what they learned on July 22, 1991, when he was caught, no one was really surprised, either.
This unique book allows the reader to listen in on the fascinating reminiscences of those who watched the developing mind of a future serial killer.”
—Louis B. Schlesinger, PhD, Professor of Forensic Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
“It’d be so easy to pigeonhole and think that the reason you can’t stop reading My Friend Dahmer is because it offers a voyeuristic peek inside the monster. And it does. But as it turns its self-aware eye on the boy who doesn’t belong, the real magic trick is how equally hateful and sad you feel for the monster himself. This one’s still haunting me.”
—Brad Meltzer, author of Identity Crisis and The Inner Circle, a #1 New York Times bestseller
“As someone who walked the halls of Revere High School with both Backderf and Dahmer and was there from the beginning, I am astounded by the accuracy and truthfulness of this portrait. I know of no other work that so clearly shows the teenage days of an American monster, long before the rest of the world heard of him. Mesmerizing.”
—Mike Kukral, PhD, Revere High School class of 1978, Professor of Geography, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, author of Prague 1989: Theater of Revolution
“If you want to read a heavy story about a disturbing teenager, My Friend Dahmer will certainly quench your dark little desires. But this book is about a lot of other things that matter much, much more: the institutionalized weirdness of the suburban seventies, what it means to be friends with someone you don’t really like, a cogent explanation as to why terrible things happen, and a means for feeling sympathy toward those who don’t seem to deserve it.”
—Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
and The Visible Man
“A solid job. Putrid serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s origins are explored in this fine book. Dig it—it’ll hang you out to dry.”
—James Ellroy, author of My Dark Places and L.A. Confidential
- Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Derf Backderf has been nominated for two Eisner Awards and has received a host of honors, including the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for political cartooning. His weekly comic strip, The City, has appeared in more than 100 newspapers over the past 22 years. Backderf lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
I picked this book on a whim because I was currently enrolled in a scientific illustration class and while working on an assignment using the ink medium and I liked the art work and knew a little of Dahmer's story. In high school, all of us know that kid that is more than just a bit off. In college, there even seemed to be more of them. They pass by giving off a constantly odd vibe not only in conversation but in behavior as well. Multiple times, it seemed as if a chance to intervene and change the future might be possible, but this story is not one with a happy ending. If anything it provides a gripping and methodical account of the mental decline of a very lost soul.
Imagine one of your high-school friends turned out to be a notorious serial killer. This is exactly what happened to Derf Backderf who went to school with Jeffrey Dahmer and befriended the quirky teen. Backderf documents in stunning detail the early life of this pre-killer, including such gems as a fan club he created for Dahmer while in school. This intimate portrait is fascinating and avoids sensationalizing Dahmer and his monstrous misdeeds. What Backderf presents is a trouble teen and his own struggles in finding answers why Dahmer became who he did. I normally don’t review graphic novels, but once in a while one comes along that transcends all boundaries and My Friend Dahmer is exactly that. A gripping portrayal of high-school misfits who struggle to find their own identities. Highly recommended.
What makes this graphic narrative so disturbing is not the nature of Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes—the book covers Dahmer’s adolescence, the period that preceded his first homicide, which began his killing spree—but the gruesome implications of Backderf’s illustrations and the accompanying narrative. As he tries to contextualize Dahmer’s perversion within suburban Midwestern culture, Backderf finds himself returning to the same question—the question that makes Dahmer a tragic figure: why didn’t any of the adults in Dahmer’s life pay attention to the many signs that he was developing into a serial killer? Backderf recreates, to the best of his ability, the story of Dahmer’s—and his own— adolescence as they grew up and attended high school together. Backderf does not excuse himself from his own scrutiny. He was, however, just a teenager like Dahmer. As Backderf himself asserts, right up until the time he begins killing, Dahmer’s story is tragic, and the adults in his life are largely responsible for permitting Dahmer’s mental illness and perversion to escalate into a bizarre explosion of torture, murder, and cannibalism.
Without a doubt the best graphic novel I've ever read. If you're looking for something gory/gruesome to satisfy your sick desires, this is definitely not it. Better yet, this is a profoundly deeper peek at a facet of Dahmer's life only a handful mingled in- a story shown in edgy, dark shades matching up to the edge of the author's unique, raw style of illustration.
Really interesting insight into Dahmer from a high school friends point of view. On top of that, the illustrations in a comic form were the first I've read like that and kept me wanting to read more.
The author saw Dahmer start to unravel while they were in high school together. In light of recent tragedies, his story is a cautionary tale to be heeded.
A look into what high school was like for a serial killer. It really only shows what Jeff Dahmer was like in high school but the graphics and story do a nice job. Easy read, maybe an hour, a nice change between other novels.
An interesting read. Didn't put it down until it was finished, including all the extras at the end. Was disappointed in Barnes & Noble, however, for not specifiying the Nook devices it would work on. Bought it & it wouldn't open on my Nook HD+. Good thing I still have my old Nook Color & it worked on that!
very good read, great art.
Exactly what it promises to be.