REVIEW: My Friend Dahmer (Movie Tie-In Edition) by Derf Backderf

Book Title: My Friend Dahmer (Movie Tie-In Edition)
Author: Derf Backderf
Series: None
Genres: Graphic Novel, Biography, True Crime
Published: Published October 10th 2017 by Harry N. Abrams


You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer—the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper—seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides. In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche—a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.


My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel consisting of Derf Backderf’s artwork and experiences with notorious serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer.  Derf tells the story of Dahmer’s high school years; portraying him as a deranged, neglected and bullied youth, who coped with the demons in his head with alcoholism.

It is no surprise the subject matter of this novel pulled me in immediately. I am fascinated with the complexity of human behavior and what complex of factors causes a person to become a serial killer. This novel however was lacking in this area for me. I thought it would be a more in-depth tale about a true friendship with Dahmer and provide some insight into his mind. However, it is not, which leads me to consider this book to be improperly titled.  I would not consider Derf, or those that inhabited the Dahmer Fan Club, as a friend, but a mere acquaintance of Dahmer. To that end, the book would probably be more accurately titled “My Acquaintance Dahmer.”

The art is dark and interesting, but I had difficulty finding any actual substance within it or the narrative.  However, I did enjoy the last few pages wherein Derf elaborated on specific pages of his novel and the source of which he obtained information that served as a muse to his artwork and dialogue.  In that regard, I feel this novel is more Derf’s observations of Dahmer, and the telling of his psyche and upbringing were largely due to this research conducted after the fact.  Ultimately, I was left wondering, was the serial killer Dahmer became a result of nature or nurture?

In truth, I was not aware of the existence of this novel prior to the creation of the movie that is based upon it.  The version of this novel I received included a movie tie-in with an introduction by director Marc Meyers and behind the scenes views during his creation of the motion picture. This further peeked my interest in seeing Meyers’s interpretation to the big screen.  I’m hopeful, however, the movie holds more substance. Overall, I will say that this was a very quick read offering some insight of a disturbed man. If graphic novels and serial killers are your thing, this would be a good read for you.

Thank you to ABRAMS Books for the paperback of this novel in exchange for an honest review. For more on the movie, please visit:

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