Monday, March 5, 2012

This needs to be said

I've been getting emails from Milwaukee media, particularly from the TVnews and AM radio types. I won't talk to you. I'll just let the work speak for itself, if those of you trying to reach me have bothered to even read it. And it is very obvious the loudest critics have not.

If you can't muster up even the journalistic curiosity to order the book from Amazon and read it, then I can confidently state the following; whatever you think this book is about, it isn't. This story is not about Dahmer's crimes. It's about his tragic, inexorable march toward the edge of the abyss. My Friend Dahmer does not take place in Milwaukee. My tale ends in 1978, years before he even moved to Wisconsin. Milwaukee is not even mentioned in the text of the story. My book is the story before that story.

Look, I understand that there are people in Milwaukee who object to anything being written about Dahmer at all. I get that. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who still mourn Dahmer's victims. None of them will read this book. Why would they? But to state that the very existence of my book is some kind of affront is just nonsense. Who are you to decide what can and cannot be written? What's the bar there? There are tens of thousands of people who died by the hand of Saddam Hussein. Does that mean there can never be any books written about him?

The events in my book occur 34 to 40 years ago. That's akin to saying an author can't write about the Vietnam War because of what happened in Afghanistan this week! There have already been dozens of books written about Dahmer. Dozens of tv documentaries. There was a feature film released in 2003. Metal bands have released Dahmer tribute albums. Joyce Carol Oates fashioned her novel Zombie on him. Dahmer has even popped up in Saturday Night Live skits and as a character on South Park. We are well past the point where one graphic novel can inflict pain and heartache.

Some in Milwaukee are accusing me of "exploiting" Dahmer's story. Twenty-one years after he was arrested? Eighteen years after he was killed? If that's "exploitation," that's a pretty sorry example of it! Were I in it only for the bucks, I would have rushed something into print a year after he was arrested, not two decades later. Fact is, I didn't want to be part of the tabloid frenzy that surrounded his arrest, trial and death. I waited to tell the story I wanted to tell, how I wanted to tell it.

Some have objected to me crafting my story as a graphic novel. The implication there is that graphic narrative is lowbrow kidstuff. You'll get nowhere with me if that is your position. This is the artform I use to tell stories. If I were an opera composer, I would have written an opera. If I were a poet, it would have been poems. I'm a comix creator with a long body of work and a prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Award on my resume. Besides, this isn't Archie & Jughead. Serious graphic novels for adult readers are a genre that is critically hailed around the globe and appreciated by millions of readers. In this country, comic creators have written acclaimed graphic novels about Auschwitz, the War in Bosnia and child abuse. Graphic novels have won National Book Awards, MacArthur Grants and Pulitzer Prizes! If you believe this to be a sleazy, exploitative "funny book," a cursory perusal of the reviews that are rolling in daily offer evidence to the contrary. My Friend Dahmer is a near-universal critical hit.

I realize that Milwaukeeans feel Dahmer's story is theirs and theirs alone. With all due respect, it's not. A piece of it belongs to my hometown and that's where this book is entirely set. I was there. This is what I saw. This is my story and I have every right to tell it.

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