Saturday, February 18, 2012

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.

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