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My Friend Dahmer 

by Derf Backderf (Harry N. Abrams)

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Back in the 1970s Jeffrey Dahmer and Derf Backderf were friends and high school classmates in rural Bath, Ohio. While Backderf went on to become a successful cartoonist, Dahmer went on to kill 17 people before getting caught and dying in prison. It would be easy for a book like My Friend Dahmer to be nothing more than a lurid true crime story, but Backderf shows not just restraint but also nuance in depicting Dahmer. Backderf has compassion for the young man who struggled to keep his deprived desires repressed but has no sympathy for the killer Dahmer became. Dahmer’s crimes are never discussed in detail but even without extreme gore the book is still extremely unnerving. Backderf’s indie comic sensibilities are reined in here. While the characters and settings are drawn in an exaggerated style similar to Crumb’s, the fact that everything is drawn with thick, solid lines gives weight to the art.

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In Print This Week

Vol 25, No 25
November 16, 2017

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