Book Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Updated: Apr 30

Sexually explicit content available at Canyon Independent School District in Region 16 of Texas:


Title: My Friend Dahmer

Author: Derf Backderf

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Publication Date: 2012

Categorization: Graphic Novel

Lexicon Level: n/a

Pages: 224



AVAILABLE

  • Canyon High School (CISD)



"In Dahmer's fantasies, his lovers.... were dead. Dead men. Corpses." Part (Chp) 1, Pg 54
"Dahmer was obsessed with the jogger who ran past his house every day. For months, Dahmer watched from the woods or from the house as the jogger ran past. Dahmer fantasized about lying down next to his unconscious body, about fondling him and having 'total control' over him." Part (Ch) 1, Pg 58

PROFANITY COUNT (or other sensitive words to give context)

  • sob 2 (short for son of a b*tch)

  • sex 8 (sexual encounter, sexual frustration, sex acts, sexual desires, sexual pleasure, sexual hunger, sexual awakening, etc.)

  • crap 2

  • fondling 3

  • dominance 1

  • horny 1

  • masturbate 2

  • pleasuring himself 1

  • cannibalized 1

  • gay 5

  • pot 1

  • weed 2

  • joint 2

  • LSD 1

  • drunk (many)

  • beer 2

  • suicide 1


RED FLAGS

  • Sexual Content (including sex with corpses)

  • Extreme Violence (animals and humans, including cannibalism)

  • Homosexuality

  • Drinking, Drugs, Smoking

  • Mental Health Issues

  • Bullying

  • Suicide

  • Child Abuse/Abandonment



AWARDS

  • NATIONAL BESTSELLER

  • 2013 ALA/YALSA Alex Award

  • 2014 Revelation Award at Angoulême

  • 2015 ALA/YALSA Alex Award (Excellence in Narrative Nonfiction)

  • Named a BEST OF 2012 by Time, The Village Voice, A.V. Club, comiXology, Boing Boing, Publishers Weekly, MTV Geek, and more.


REVIEWS

  • n/a



SUMMARY


Since this book has no real formal reviews from my usual sources, I am adding a few more comments in the summary section.


Preface

Gives a History of the book and a prologue. Includes Dahmer finding a dead cat and taking back home to store in a jar of acid. Shows friends a jar with a raccoon that had it's flesh completely dissolved in acid.


Part 1 (The Strange Boy)

Shows Dahmer in Jr. High being ignored or bullied. Leads into the story that the author, Derf Backderf, actually attended school with Jeffrey Dahmer in Bath, Ohio. Showed how Dahmer stole animals from anatomy class and took them home. Dahmer was basically invisible until about his sophomore year at Revere High School where he started gaining attention by throwing fake epileptic fits, mimicking slurred speech and spastic tics of someone with cerebral palsy. Backderf suggested that his friends were not mean-spirited or putting Dahmer down. He said Dahmer genuinely amused them. They actually created a club to celebrate his strangeness. This chapter shares that Dahmer was gay and had fantasies about having sex with corpses and about fondling the unconscious dead body of the jogger who ran by his house daily. Derf explained that Dahmer's mother had mental health issues and was frequently on multiple medications. She would have uncontrollable fits and collapse from exhaustion. Dahmer's home life was troubled.


Part 2 (The Secret Life)

The scene opens to Dahmer fishing with a neighborhood friend, Neil. Dahmer catches a fish and mutilates it with a knife. Dahmer's Junior year he started drinking at school and was having constant thoughts of corpses and other hellish sexual fantasies. The drinking was to numb the pain. Derf wondered how none of the teachers noticed, but every student in school knew Dahmer was day drinking. He ponders on how different so many lives might have been if just one adult had stepped up. Author notes how Dahmer had no empathy. Dahmer's parents continued to argue and have a difficult marriage. This really affected Dahmer and his road kill habit continued. He amped up his alcohol habit during school hours. That summer, Dahmer's parents finalized a bitter divorce. The battle took a real tole on Jeffrey Dahmer. It was then he considered butchering not just roadkill or small animals, but a live creature. The scene shows Dahmer capturing a dog, tying him up, but unable to go through with the kill.


Frequent references to drugs and alcohol such as rolling joints and smoking weed (Part (Ch) 2, Pg. 84) as well as LSD and drug addiction (Part (Ch) 2, Pg. 86).


Part 3 (The Dahmer Fan Club)

1977-1978 was Dahmer's Senior year. The Dahmer Fan Club seemed to amp up their cruelty by using Dahmer to photo bomb year book pictures and pay him to act out at events. The author, Derf Backderf, actually admitted that he was the 'Minister of Propaganda' for the fan club and put a cartoon Dahmer into every cartoon he drew for the school paper, yearbook, posters for student council and sports pep rallies. The author says "That mirrored the real Dahmer, who was little more than a cartoon. Whatever personality he once had was gone. He was either in character, or drunk, or both." Derf, admittedly, was the leader in demoralizing Jeffrey Dahmer. The chapter continues to show Dahmer being beat-up and bullied. Derf Backderf is shown playing Adolf Hitler in a school variety show (oh, the irony). The following scenes show Backderf and his friends use Dahmer to carry out pranks at the mall. Dahmer is demoralized and belittled and even downs a six-pack of beer prior to the show. This doesn't seem to stop Backderf or his peers from using Dahmer for their entertainment pleasure.


Part 4 (Becoming the Monster)

Backderf stated how he and his friends ceased to communicate with Dahmer. The story mentioned mutilated dog carcasses in the neighborhood, but nobody suspected Dahmer. The author walks us through Dahmer's prom night. Dahmer asked a younger student. Derf Backderf did not attend prom. Dahmer's mother declares the divorce is final and that she is leaving the state with Dahmer's younger brother. She is leaving Dahmer alone and isolated. The scene fades to Dahmer picking up a male hitch-hiker.


Part 5 (Fade to Black)

* Includes Epilogue, Sources, Notes and The Players as well as a final cartoon.


This chapter shows one of the fan club friends, Mike, driving down the road at night the summer after high school graduation. He picks up Dahmer and gives him a ride home. The text shared that the hitchhiker's dismembered body was either stuffed in a drainage pipe beside the doorway or in the back of Dahmer's car in the driveway.


Notes

"Dahmer touched and fondled the corpse and repeatedly masturbated while standing over it, at last fulfilling his monstrous fantasy (FBI)." (Pg. 214). The following sexual and violent details are graphic and disturbing.


The author has the audacity to ridicule the police officer that pulled Dahmer over for swerving (when the hitchhiker was dead in bags in the vehicle) and blaming him for Dahmer's continued killing (Pg. 215) yet assuming zero blame himself.


The Players

In the section 'The Players', the author touches on how Dahmer was a coward for not committing suicide (Pg. 221). This suggests to the reader that suicide is an or the appropriate response.


Notes

The section covering the 'Dahmer Fan Club' (Pg. 209-210) exposes the extreme mockery the author and his crew imposed on Dahmer. The author seems un-phased by his own vast contributions, that went on for years, to the mental deterioration of Jeffrey Dahmer.


The author states "Dahmer was also driven by selfishness and didn't care about anything other than his obsessive needs." I am making no excuses for Jeffrey Dahmer's actions, but it is really hard to not see how the author's own selfishness and obsessive needs did not contribute, on some level, to the overall product we know as Jeffrey Dahmer. This blaring, seemingly obvious, fact makes this book even more twisted and dark.

Overall, it is disturbing to have such a disturbing storyline told in graphic form. Although graphic novels are a somewhat new item, the traditional cartoon like format is normally reserved for happy tales that result in laughter and joy. The entire book, including the notes section, includes such deep content about child neglect, mental health, divorce, animal mutilation, sexual identity, extreme bullying, murder and suicide that one cannot consider this academic enlightenment for a child.



MEDIA



"Your average horny teenage boy, bubbling to the brim with sexual frustration." Part (Ch) 1, Pg 51
"Dahmer touched and fondled the corpse and repeatedly masturbated while standing over it, at last fulfilling his monstrous fantasy (FBI)." Notes about page 178 listed on Pg 214.


CONCLUSION

  • Not appropriate for K-12 schools.



INSERTS




Resources:

Downloadable "My Friend Dahmer' book review highlights:


My Friend Dahmer_Front
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Download PDF • 12.67MB

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