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My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
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My Friend Dahmer (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Derf Backderf (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9028618,201 (3.84)61
"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 [this story], 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."--Amazon.com.… (more)
Member:mcandre
Title:My Friend Dahmer
Authors:Derf Backderf (Author)
Info:Harry N. Abrams (2012), 224 pages
Collections:Your library
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My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (2012)

  1. 20
    The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (jen.e.moore)
    jen.e.moore: True stories by friends of serial killers.
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English (82)  French (4)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
Being a non-fan of Derf's strip The City, and having liked but not loved his autobio stories in Trashed, I was happily surprised by his original tiny version of the Dahmer story: it had a raw personal feeling that I hadn't seen him go near before, and his drawing style, which is kind of mannered and knobbly, suddenly seemed perfect for a story about teenage ugliness. In his foreword to this book-length version, Derf says he hated how the shorter comic turned out; I think it was fine, but his instincts about what was lacking were accurate and this really is a better, fuller story. As a straight biography of the young Jeff Dahmer, it's pretty good; as a character portrait of someone who's descending into awfulness and is aware of it, it's very good; as a study of high school and rural adolescence, it's great.

I don't think I've seen any high-school fiction or nonfiction that really gets the non-linear scale of outcastness the way this does— the complicated relationship between people like Derf's friends who are more or less socially competent but not interested in much outside their own circle, people like Jeff's prom date who are "low-caste" in an ordinary way, belligerent weirdos like the huge crazy guy who everyone thinks will become a serial killer (but who ends up just living with his mom and yelling at people from the front yard)... and someone like Jeff who's very clearly messed up, and not in a cute or sympathetic way, but who has enough ugly creativity and desire for connection that he can be adopted as a "friend" by people who don't actually like or respect him. Again and again in the book, Jeff acts out in a way that the others know on some level is really creepy, but they love it because he's unpredictable, shocking, apparently unconcerned with anyone's approval, sort of a rebel if you ignore how obviously miserable he is. Derf and his friends, who are otherwise unremarkable, distinguish themselves by being the guys who can appreciate (or ironically "appreciate") Dahmer— like being the only fans of a really awful punk band.

This is an especially big deal when you live out in the sticks, and Derf is at his best when he's showing the texture of life in this kind of quiet middle-class suburb-beyond-the-suburbs, where you take the beautiful wilderness for granted, you don't see anyone unless you deliberately go to their house, and the height of teenage entertainment is to get some beer and drive around all night. The book is also a nicely specific period piece: the aforementioned stiff-but-bulgy drawing style is well adapted to the personal style of '70s teens, and Derf points out aspects of school culture that we might think of as timeless but aren't, like the schools becoming overcrowded for the first time when the Baby Boom really settled in.

The weakest part of the book, I think, is the narration. The ideas it conveys are good ones, but I find Derf's prose clunky and obvious when he's explaining stuff, and there's a lot of that; it's not enhanced by the bland computer lettering either, or the superhero-comics-style habit of putting lots of words in boldface if they might have any spoken emphasis. On the other hand, his dialogue is excellent, and so is the writing/directing of all the non-verbal parts. The scene where Dahmer's "friends" watch joyfully as he does his best to freak out everyone in a mall in the most self-humiliating way possible is just a couple pages with about a dozen words, but it's beautifully observed and paced, conveying both "this is cool" and "this is horrible" all through character with no explanation required. ( )
  elibishop173 | Oct 11, 2021 |
Yes, I understand that Dahmer was a terrible person, but everyone in this story is (and they're all drawn ugly). ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
I wasn't sure what to expect, going into this. I'd had it highly recommended to me, but didn't even flip through it prior to purchasing it. I took it on faith, based on that recommendation.

Really glad I did. This is not a book I would have picked up on my own, because, out of context, the art simply would have turned me right off.

Instead, I experienced the art and the narrative together as I went through the story. And I've got to say, as horrifying a being as Dahmer was, this story does something I was completely not expecting.

It humanized Dahmer for me.

I was that outsider in school. The one that would make a fool of himself for a little bit of positive attention. The one who's parents were more concerned with everything that wasn't me. I few slips of DNA strands, and I might have been Dahmer.

I don't say any of it absolves him of all the hate and scorn that was quite rightly heaped upon him, but it does cast him in a different life. The boy inside the monster.

Excellent story. ( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
Dark and frightening. A deeply unsettling story. What happens to the social outcasts we went to school with? They don't all end up like Dahmer, thankfully, but it does make me wonder about some of the kids I went to school with. ( )
  Enno23 | Aug 15, 2021 |
You must read this. Especially if you don't care for or are unexperienced with graphic novels. It's as good as they get. ( )
  Smokler | Jan 3, 2021 |
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"You went to school with Dahmer, the serial killer?"

CRUNCH (Abrams ComicArts, 2012)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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 [this story], 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."--Amazon.com.

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Checklist category/categories: Graphic novel or comic strip that became the basis for a live-action feature film or television show
Title: My friend Dahmer
Author or Creator: Derf Backderf
Publisher and number of pages/length of time: 224 pages
Year of publication/release: 2012
Your brief response to the title - This true story follows Derf as he goes to school with and interacts with Jeffery Dahmer, a serial killer, years before his crimes.
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