I review Derf’s My Friend Dahmer for the Comics Journal. Click below to read it:
“A graphic novel memoir based on Ohio cartoonist Derf’s high school memories of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and backed up by interviews, outside sources, and copious end notes, My Friend Dahmer began in 1997, in the comics anthology Zero Zero, and continued in 2002 as a 24 page, self-published comic of the same name. That 2002 Eisner-nominated one-shot was a perverse twist on autobio comix — an exorcism of Derf’s pent-up, creeped out memories about Dahmer’s terrible, potentially fate-sealing formative years. The pamphlet version is loose and visceral, even for Derf, whose style — stretched-out, heavily-inked, almost primal illustrations of middle American life — in books like Trashed and Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, already feels nervous and off-the-cuff.
Some of that original, reckless purity is gone in this vastly expanded, redrawn, and researched version. But the move towards objectivity also affords Derf the chance to turn a wacky, messed up anecdote (“you know, I went to high school with Dahmer”) into the definitive piece of literature on the notorious murderer. With all the Dahmer data he could find, and a head full of memories he can’t shake, Derf tries to connect with the young serial killer in-the-making, with parents too caught up in their own problems, who was a full-blown alcoholic by high school, and a closeted homosexual in an unforgiving region and time period…”