Past Friends

The final graphic novel from my library binge was My Friend Dahmer written and drawn by Derf (John) Backderf a comic artist most well-known for the indy comic The City. Backderf, in retrospect, found himself in the rather odd position of having attended high school with infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. He describes Dahmer as an odd kid—which isn't exactly unexpected. What is so well done about the story is the human side of a person so often described as inhuman. There was a time before Dahmer stalked and murdered people that has generally been lost. The book, in its entirety, comes across as a notice, of sorts, to simply be more humane and compassionate for those who are obviously struggling with problems. The catalyst for Dahmer's terminal slide into depravity, Backderf notes, was likely when Dahmer's parents and high school society isolated the flawed and troubled young man who'd been resorting to alcoholism for years to control his urges. Dahmer knew what he wanted was wrong. Until this point, Dahmer is a somewhat sympathetic figure and, as the author points out, when Dahmer does act on his disturbing thoughts, he has chosen the path he will take for the rest of his life and Dahmer alone is responsible for that. This is a haunting and excellent graphic novel tracing the formative years of Jeffrey Dahmer from the perspective of a contemporary. Backderf's artistic style is reminiscent of the times he grew up in; I see hints of both Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton. His attention to detail with regard to the eras being depicted as well as the story's action are wonderful. What's so great about this, when it comes to comic-style storytelling, is that the reader is able to clearly follow the story rather than dwell in the flaws of depiction. Backderf's art generally deserves a second look to absorb the details that may have been missed on the first pass.