See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What if you went to high school with a serial killer?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 12:17 PM

A key component of any high school social circle is the strange friend. For most us, the worst that happens is that “friend” goes on to send the occasional Facebook invite to their embarrassing art installations. For graphic novelist Derf Backderf, that friend went on to become one of the more infamous killers of the late 20th Century.

Last weekend, Backderf appeared at Dearborn's Green Brain Comics to discuss his adolescent friendship with Jeffery Dahmer and the book it inspired. The capacity crowd was told about My Friend Dahmer's 20-year journey from a series of short stories to a 220-page graphic novel. Combining his own memories with interviews with his former classmates and transcripts of Dahmer's own recollections, Backderf creates a story that gives insight into the origins of a deranged personality without being exploitative.

"I'm not a reporter coming in from the outside, I'm a local kid. Everybody knew me. It was a small town; I had this access that an outsider didn't," the author explained.

As much as the book is about Jeffery Dahmer, it is also about a time and place, specifically, a rural Ohio town during the late ’70s. A time that Backderf describes as "pre-pre-pre Columbine."  A world where someone very troubled would go unnoticed just by virtue of the fact that there wasn't much trouble to notice.

However, Backderf makes clear in both the book and in person his belief that someone like Jeffery Dahmer is rare.  When asked by an audience member about a rumor that Dahmer came back from an operation in his youth "changed," Backderf offered this:  "How many hernia operations have people had in the world, you know?  How many Jeffery Dahmers are there? One."—Devon Coleman

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2020 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation