Friday, February 24, 2012

Derf on the Beeb!

Here's a short interview on BBC Radio! A producer called me out of the blue and 20 minutes later I was live on the Beeb! Great fun. The host had one funky accent. "Deeeeeeerf Backdorf." It starts right at the 18-minute mark. Hear the podcast HERE

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Derf interview at Graphic Novel reporter

And here's another interview, this one with Graphic Novel Reporter. I'm doing my best to put something different in each interview. We'll see how long I can manage that.

FYI, the Gweek podcast from earlier this week was downloaded 30,000 times in the first couple days! The boys at Gweek tell me it was their most popular podcast ever!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Derf interviewed at Comic Book Resources

The fine folks at Comic Book Resources talk to me about at length about My Friend Dahmer, as well as my previous graphic novels, Trashed and Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, and my long-running weekly comic strip The City. Read it HERE

Monday, February 20, 2012

Derf on the Gweek podcast!

The pop-culture mavens at Boing Boing's Gweek podcast interview me at length about MFD. Leading the interview is my cartoonist colleague Ruben Bolling. Listen to it HERE

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Friend Dahmer on Amazon right now!

My Friend Dahmer, the book Flavorwire names the most-anticipated graphic novel of the yearis on sale at last! Amazon is already shipping out copies to those who "pre-order." It's still a whopping 35-percent off, too! Don't know how long that will last. Order HERE 

The history of My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer took 21 years to complete. Here's the history of the project.

1991: Dahmer is caught and his grisly crimes explode in headlines and newscast around the world. A few weeks later, I make the first sketchbook drawings.

1991-94: Dahmer periodically pops up in the news. I continue to collect material and stories as opportunity presents, but want nothing to do with the media frenzy that greets anything to do with Dahmer.

1994: Jeff is killed in prison just after Thanksgiving.

1995: First Dahmer story written and penciled. Over the next two years, five more are written. The longest is eight pages.

1997: One of these stories, Young Jeffrey Dahmer (above),  is published in the July issue of Zero Zero Fantagraphics Anthology comic.

1998: A 100-page graphic novel is written. This incarnation was little more than a series of short stories, straight memoir with no additional research and no over-arching narrative. I spend the next four years trying to sell this book to a publisher, in vain.

2002: My first graphic novel Trashed is published. It's the first to see print, but was produced after the Dahmer stories, thanks to those years of fruitless pitching. I had no trouble finding a publisher for Trashed. It is nominated for an Eisner Award.

Above: the self-published 24-page comic from 2002

2002: I self-publish a 24-page, one-shot comic book, My Friend Dahmer. This comic contains three short stories, all from the 1995-97 batch. I edit them down to cram as much as I can into 24 pages. My goal is to put this out in the hope of interesting a publisher in the full graphic novel I envisioned. That doesn't happen, but much to my surprise, this book becomes an immediate cult classic. It is also nominated for an Eisner Award. Here's a review of the one-shot on Popmatters.

2003: I continue to research the project. I decide to scrap the work I had done so far and start over. My plans are now much more ambitious, to take the book beyond simple memoir. I start to interview others who knew Dahmer and research FBI files and news reports.

2003: Chuck Klosterman writes about my Dahmer stories in his best-selling collection of essays, Sex, Lies & Cocoa Puffs.

2004: The My Friend Dahmer comic book is reportedly translated and published in German and Italian, without permission or compensation.

2005: The My Friend Dahmer comic book is reprinted in an Argentinian comix title, without permission or compensation.

2007: The My Friend Dahmer comic book is reprinted in a Danish comix title, again without permission or compensation. I manage to track down the publisher, who promises to send me a copy. He never does.

Above: scene from the play, NYU Theater Dept., 2008

2008: The NYU Theater Dept. stages My Friend Dahmer, adapted from my comic book by playwright Jake Arky. It later plays at the First Look Theater Company in New York City, The Ink Spot Theater and So Say We All Theater, both in San Diego, the Shelby Company Theater in LA and the Great Plains Theater Festival in Omaha.

2008: My Friend Dahmer is selected as one of The World's Weirdest Comic Books by Paul Gravett & Peter Stansbury

2009: My Friend Dahmer is included in 1,000 Comic Books You Must Read by Tony Isabella, a detailed listing of the author's favorite comic books.

2009: When I complete my graphic novel Punk Rock & Trailer Parks, I decide to at last tackle the My Friend Dahmer graphic novel. I write it in two weeks. The book now clocks in at 180 pages.

Above: the cover for the first draft of MFD.

2010: The first draft of My Friend Dahmer is finished in December.

2011: Abrams Comicarts agrees to publish the book. The final book, after revisions and additions, is 224 pages.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It all began with a sketchbook

The "official" book launch date is March 1, but Amazon is already shipping out copies to those who "pre-order." It's still a whopping 35-percent off, too! Don't know how long that will last. Order HERE.

Sketchbook page, Aug. 1991

I started working on MY FRIEND DAHMER in August 1991, a few weeks after his crimes exploded in headlines and newscasts around the world.

Those old enough, no doubt remember it well. The coroner workers, clothed head to toe in bright yellow Hazmat suits, hauled barrels of remains out of Apartment #213 in Milwaukee. The lurid, ghastly revelations came one after another, each more depraved than the last. It was similar, in shock and media frenzy, to the recent Penn State scandal. And I, of course, was at the center of it.

I was, within days, fingered as one of Dahmer's teenage friends. Word of the Dahmer Fan Club got out and every media entity in the country wanted a piece of me. The phone rang day and night. Reporters pounded on my door. I remember looking out my front window and seeing three tv news trucks parked in front of my house, with crews milling about on the sidewalk and staring at my apartment in the hope I'd stupidly emerge. One local newsbabe who was particularly aggressive was a recent college grad, Kelly O'Donnell, now, 20 years later, the White House correspondent for NBC News! I didn't cooperate with anyone, except with reporters for the Akron Beacon Journal, where my wife worked and where I had a sweet part time gig in the art department, one that supplemented my income with union wages in the lean early days of my cartooning career. Thanks to me, my info and materials, and my contacts, the Beacon, Dahmer's hometown paper, owned the story from the Ohio end. But I wasn't about to help any other news outfit.

A couple weeks in, the media frenzy died down a bit. Dahmer was in his cell, had confessed all, and the police investigations were wrapped up. The bone fragments of his first victim had been collected from the grounds of his boyhood home. The story would fire up again when his trial commenced in a month, but in early August 1991, there was a lull.

Sketchbook page, Aug. 1991

During that welcome pause, I got together with two of my old friends, Mike and Neal, to discuss what had happened. It's difficult to convey what a total mindf**k this whole thing was. Not only were we hounded by the media, but we were also trying to process what our high school pal had done... right under our very noses, in the case of the first murder! The most depraved serial killer since Jack the Ripper had hung out with us at school and the town pool, had ridden in our cars and sat next to us in classrooms. Realizing that we were within but a few feet of one of the great monsters of our time was unsettling to say the least. I suffered quite a few sleepless nights in those early days. There were very few people who could understand exactly what I was going through. Mike and Neal could.

We met at Neal's house, which, it so happened, was about 200 yards from Dahmer's boyhood house in our hometown. The Dahmer property was still ringed by yellow police tape. We sat together in Neal's den on that warm summer afternoon and exchanged stories about our strange friend, who none of us had seen, or really heard much of at all, since our graduation 13 years earlier. As I moved into adulthood, I'd stayed close with several members of the Dahmer Fan Club. We frequently got together and often the conversation would turn to old times and the various weirdos who had crossed our paths. We'd recall various episodes and laugh at the re-telling. Dahmer's name came up once in awhile. But there were many stories of Jeff that each of us had in our memory banks that we never bothered to share. They just seemed random and irrelevant. Now, in 1991, those untold stories had been redefined in a totally chilling way. Suddenly, we all had clarity and we realized just what Dahmer was thinking when he was doing those things. So I heard some things that afternoon at Neal's thatI hadn't heard before.

I had a small sketchbook with me, as I often do, and made doodles and notes as we chatted. It was Neal's story of the fishing trip with Dahmer (the top sketchbook page above) that flicked on the lightbulb in my head. Suddenly I realized what an incredible story this was, and it had dropped from the sky into my lap! This, I thought for the first time, would be an incredible graphic novel! That, friends, is the genesis of MY FRIEND DAHMER.

It would take over 20 years for that graphic novel to take shape. But that is a tale for another post.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Derf: Minister of Propaganda for the Dahmer Fan Club

This is a pencil sketch for a proposed cover to our Senior Yearbook, probably drawn sometime in Fall 1977. It's my take on the iconic Spirit of 76 painting. It was Revere High School, our school nickname was "The Minutemen," so everything had a tiresome Revolutionary War theme (even though my hometown in 1776 was just pine forest with a few hundred Indians strolling around). That is, of course, Dahmer as the drummer on the far left!

As the self-proclaimed Minister of Propaganda of the Dahmer Fan Club, the small group of band nerds that befriended Dahmer and egged him on as he performed his various strange antics, I slipped Dahmer into dozens of drawings during our high school years: cartoons in the school paper, theater posters, student council election flyers, pep rally posters, etc. The yearbook cover above was to be my "masterpiece." Alas, the yearbook advisor and editor had caught on to us by that time, recognized Dahmer in the sketch, and killed the cover. Too bad. That drawing would have wound up in Time and Newsweek in 1991!

I only stumbled across this sketch, after years of fruitless searching. This is only the pencil sketch. The finished pen & ink drawing is still unaccounted for.

Above: Here I am working on one of my "masterpieces" in the main hallway. Looks like a football poster. I slipped Dahmer in to few of these, too. In fact, he often kept me company as I was drawing posters after school.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Amazon's 35% off, pre-order sale

Good news. Amazon is notifying people who pre-ordered MY FRIEND DAHMER that the books will ship out starting Feb. 15, two weeks before the "official" release of Mar. 1. Some readers have written me that they have already received their copies! Guess the veritable slow boat from China reached the port of the Kingdom of Amazon ahead of schedule! Oh, those big-box scamps.

The pre-order sale is a whopping 35 percent off this week btw! As always, I prefer you patronize your local indy bookseller, but that deal is admittedly hard to pass up.

My Friend Dahmer documentary from 2002

This is a clip from a Brit documentary series, BORN TO KILL, about, you guessed it, serial killers. This episode examines Dahmer. This is also the only time I agreed to be interviewed on camera about Dahmer. The production company approached me right after I self-published my one-shot comic book in 2002. The producer wanted to include scenes from my stories. I figured, why not promote the comic book? And, since it was a UK show, no one was going to see it in the States anyways. If it was lousy– and I checked out some of their other programs before agreeing, and they looked pretty good- it would be mostly out of sight, out of mind.

They did a decent job with it. You can see the whole thing on Youtube, but here's the part with my interview. It also demonstrates why I don't do TV, as a general rule. Ugh. A face made for radio, that's for sure.

Whenever this broadcast in the UK over the years, I got a spike in online orders in my webstore for the MFD comic book. A year or two later, it popped up on other European networks and I'd get orders from those countries whenever it did. I could almost chart when and where it was showing, based on orders. Then about three years ago, it showed up on US cable. I don't have cable myself, so I'm not not sure what channel ran the thing, but I'd get a rush of orders whenever it broadcast. The power of the tube!

But check out the comments section on Youtube. Commenter after commenter bashing me! They flame me for "exploiting" Dahmer (obviously having never read my Dahmer stories)... they don't like my flip attitude as I'm being interviewed... some even accuse me of being one of the people who "bullied" Jeff in school! There are a LOT of Dahmer fans out there, deluded fools who have made him an anti-hero, a poor, shy kid who was ostracized and picked on by his peers and then "lashed out" at society in vengeance.

This is total crap for a number of reasons, and something I address directly in the book. I suspect the Dahmer fans aren't going to be happy with me for popping this particular bubble.

It did serve as a good lesson for interviews though. My default is set to "smartass" and since most of my work is satire or humor, that's fine. I'm also very effusive when discussing my work or comix in general. But I have to remember, always, that this is a story that affected a lot of people deeply. Out of respect for them, I have to play it very straight. You won't see me smiling in an interview again.

My Friend Dahmer preview

Here's the official PREVIEW of MY FRIEND DAHMER.

The scene above is from the very spooky opening sequence and takes place in Dahmer's boyhood clubhouse, a shack his Dad built for him in the woods behind the Dahmer house. It was a common boyhood thing. I had one, too! A place to squirrel away dog-eared copies of Mad and Famous Monsters of Filmland (and the odd girlie mag we pinched off a neighborhood dad), to hang out with pals, trade baseball cards and play games of skill with our pocket knives, maybe set off some firecrackers. Not Dahmer. His clubhouse, as the above page illustrates, is where he stored his collection of roadkill!

This was a real place. These things really happened. And here's proof (above). This is the ruin of that very clubhouse. This photo was taken in 1991, on the Dahmer property (some unlucky soul had purchased it off Lionel Dahmer a few years prior), just after Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee and squads of law enforcement descended on his boyhood home, the site of his first murder in 1978. To police investigators this was just a pile of lumber that had nothing to do with the crime they were investigating. But I knew what went on in that clubhouse and pointed it out to reporters for the Akron Beacon Journal, where I was working as a staff artist at the time. Dahmer grew up in a suburb of Akron and the Beacon owned the story from the Ohio end. It was the Beacon that first pieced together the tale of Dahmer's young life, mostly from details provided by yours truly. The clubhouse soon became part of the Dahmer lore. It will be even more so when people read my account of what happened there!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Yeah, this is my new MY FRIEND DAHMER blog. We're a mere two weeks from the official launch date of the book. This will be a place I can consolidate all things MFD during the coming year: upcoming events, interviews and reviews, that sort of thing. I'll also archive all the MFD items from my Derfcity blog from the past year here, as well as add new items. 

By the way, I hear Amazon, the little rule-breaker,  is already shipping the books out to those who pre-ordered it. The launch date is March 1, but I'm told, in the wild and wooly world of book retail, these things are fluid. Order a copy HERE.