Monday, April 23, 2012

New York City this week!

I'll be in the Big Apple later this week, for a big promotional and media blitz. So this will likely be my last post until I return, since I have to scramble to prepare.

Thurs., April 26 I'll be signing books at Jim Hanley's Universe, The legendary Strand Bookstore (1-3 pm) and Bergen Street Comics (5:30 pm). At 7 pm I'll give the short version of my presentation and talk at Bookcourt in Brooklyn. Signing to follow.

Fri., April 27 is all media stuff, but from 6-8 pm I'll be at St. Mark's Comics signing books and taking questions.

And then Sat. and Sun. I'll be at the Abrams booth at the MoCCA comix fest.  At 2:15 Sun. I'll be on a panel about making auto-biographical comix, for those interested in such things.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big Night in the Rubber City

I inadvertently left this rather demonic photo of Dahmer looming over the crowd during the Q&A. 

Thanks to everyone who turned out for my lone event in Akron, Ohio, at the Akron Main Library. It was a terrific venue and great crowd of several hundred and everyone seemed to enjoy my talk and presentation very much. And, wow, did the library sell a ton of books! They were, in fact, caught unawares and had only one guy frantically working the sale table. But I stuck around and made sure everyone got their book signed. These library types need to attend a comicon or two. Comix fans buy stuff!

The Rubber City is, of course, more or less Dahmer's hometown. He grew up in the sleepy, rural town of Bath, which is a bedroom suburb of the Rubber City. So I thought this talk, more than any other, had the potential for theater. I was prepared for someone with a vested interest in the Dahmer story to show up and possibly make trouble. I wasn't sweating it out or anything, just mentally ready just in case. Happily, that didn't occur.

However, it was an interesting evening nonetheless. There were three members of the Dahmer Fan Club, the small group of band nerds who befriended Jeff at Revere High School, in attendance, along with about a dozen other contemporaries. If you were in the auditorium last night, you were guaranteed to be sitting 10 feet from someone who knew Dahmer. 

There were several other "characters" from the book. One of the kids in the creepy opening scene in Dahmer's playhouse was there. I open my presentation, which is less about Dahmer himself and more about the process of pulling this book together over 20 long years, with a deconstruction of that scene to demonstrate how I conceive and execute graphic narrative. I asked him afterwards if I got that scene right. "Yeah, you pretty well nailed it," was his response.

One of the cops who pulled Dahmer over with the body of his first victim in the trunk of his car,  and then let him go without noticing the corpse, also attended. A couple of the Fan Club recognized him (hey, it was a small town). He didn't stick around for the signing afterwards or talk to me. 

So all in all, a unique evening.

Here's some media coverage of this event. 

From the Akron Beacon Journal HERE
From NPR outlet WKSU HERE

Friday, April 6, 2012

The House

I was at Dahmer's boyhood home last week.

As mentioned in a previous post, the house is owned by a guy I know, well-known musician and songwriter Chris Butler. He currently rents it out to a buddy, who is also a cool guy, and I wanted to get a couple photos for the presentations I'm putting together for my ongoing book tour, and he was nice enough to invite me over.

It's a great pad, despite its grisly past. The house, too, is a "victim" of Dahmer's crimes. It'd be a cool place to live, but is, of course, forever tainted by what happened here. I'm always struck by how small it is, just one floor and very compact. It astounds me that Dahmer was able to get away with his drinking and other bizarre behavior in such cramped quarters. 

The house has been extensively re-modeled since the Dahmers lived there  and there are several additions. It was tough figuring out what was added after the timeline of the book. I didn't spend much time in this house. I was there maybe a dozen times, either dropping Jeff off after school or picking him up for some function. I didn't have to have pinpoint accuracy, of course, but I did want to capture the visual vibe of the house. I think I did, but every time I go in there I see a detail I missed. 

A warning. DO NOT go to this house! The guy who lives tells me he gets frequent visitors, usually serial killer fans or fellow travelers. He will call the cops and since the station is just down the street (and they get frequent calls) they'll be there in seconds. I don't give the address of the house in the book, or even mention where it is in town, but that info is easy enough to find. Just respect the guy's privacy and stay away. There's nothing to see there anyways. As I wrote, it's been completely remodeled. The Dahmers haven't lived here for 30 years.
Of all the rave reviews that have piled up, here's the one that hits closest to home. Literally. Here's  Cleveland blog queen Erin O'Brien and her take in The Richfield Times and Bath Country Journal , the free monthly papers that are distributed to every household in my (and Dahmer's) hometown. O'Brien started out as a cub reporter for these publications and has since gone on to greater things, freelancing for the NY Times for instance, but she was so taken by the book and the exhibit at Busta Gallery in Cleveland that she volunteered to write a piece for the paper. She has a local take on the book– her mom still lives there–  that is unique to all the write-ups MFD has received. The story for people in my hometown, of course, is personal. Many knew me, and knew the Dahmers. Many of my schoolmates still live in town. All these people will recognize their school, their town, their local landmarks. It's a very different reading experience for them than it is for the rest of you. Not sure how this book will go over there, to be honest. I don't live in my hometown, and haven't since shortly after the events depicted in My Friend Dahmer, so it's not a big concern, but still... it is my hometown.

No website, but a PDF is HERE. Review is on page 30.

One more review, I just have to link to. By book critic Lev Grossmann in Time magazine.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Strange Tale of Al Rebo

Al Rebo was an imaginary student friend Neil fabricated, based upon a guy he and Dahmer met at tennis camp at the University of Michigan during the summer of 1976, between our sophomore and junior years. 

Dahmer was a fair tennis player and had been on the tennis team in junior high a couple years earlier. When we got to high school, Dahmer dropped tennis like he dropped every other extra curricular activity, as the voices and compulsions methodically began to take over and he lost interest in everything but his fantasies. But his Dad, Lionel, also a regular tennis player, pushed him to continue. I suspect Jeff had no personal motivation to play tennis, but went along with it just to get his Dad to stop nagging him.

It was a two week camp. Neil and Jeff actually roomed together! Neil reports that "nothing really happened (of note), except that I realized that he was at a much more serious threshold of strange than the rest of us."

The campers were housed on the campus of a nearby Lutheran Junior College and had no supervision to speak of and were free to hang out wherever they wanted in their free time. No one had cars, so it had to be within walking distance. There was a pizza parlor near campus managed by a guy called "Rebo." This was a nickname of some unknown origin, but the sound of it greatly amused Jeff. He would call out to him in his spaz voice...."Reeebooooo", similar to his famous taunting of the school librarian "Miss-uuuuuus Wood-aaaaaaaard!" 

A few weeks later, school started up again. Neil, for reasons he can't recall, stuck an "Al" on the front of "Rebo" and began treating him as an imaginary student. The rest of the Dahmer Fan Club quickly joined in. We started slipping Rebo into morning announcements and newspaper articles. "Would Al Rebo please report to the office." We started fake rumors about Rebo to observe how quickly they spread about school. We listed him in band concert programs and club meetings. I teamed up with friend Tubbs and created a nonsensical Adventures of Al Rebo comic strip for the school paper (below).

Dahmer, however, didn't really take part in the fun. He had reached the tipping point. The nightmare visions that swirled in his head had become so powerful that he took to the bottle a week or two into the school year. From that point on, he was drunk every day. It was that sudden. He went from merely strange, to dark and scary in a matter of weeks.

The peak of our Rebo silliness was the Student Council elections at the start of senior year in fall 1977. We registered Al Rebo as a candidate for council, easily gathering the 50 or so signatures required. I churned out a number of large "Rebo for Student Council" posters, most featuring my cartoon Dahmer as a "celebrity spokesman,"  and plastered school hallways with them. I remember Dahmer walking up to one and bellowing out "REE-BOOOOOOOO" and laughing. School officials then caught on to us. Rebo was struck from the ballot and my posters removed. Outraged at this undemocratic show of authoritarianism, the Dahmer Fan Club swung into action. We started a "Write In Rebo" campaign. I drew some more posters, but these were torn down as soon as they were hung, by miffed (legitimate) student council types, who were none to pleased with us for sabotaging their election. So I drew the flyer below.  

Friend Tubbs and I snuck into the mimeograph room after school and ran off a couple hundred copies. Mimeographs were the precursor to Xerox copy machines. Schools used them to make copies of tests, handouts and newsletters. The ink was always bright blue for some reason and had a very strong and distinctive chemical smell, even when dry. The stoners used to push mimeographed handouts close to their faces and take a big whiff. The morning of the election, Tubbs and I came early and each manned one the school entrances and handed out flyers to arriving students.

Al Rebo received more votes than the rest of the the field combined!

The result was tossed out and the student council faculty advisor (who happened to be my art teacher) ordered Tubbs and I to report to an asst. principal's office for a tongue lashing. But the guy couldn't keep a straight face and just waved us on our way.

It was all great fun, but also another sad example of Dahmer's disconnect. He was the originator of the Rebo gag, but wasn't a participant in the subsequent antics.