My Friend Dahmer

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My Friend Dahmer
The cover of My Friend Dahmer. Artwork by Derf.
CreatorDerf Backderf
Page count224 pages
PublisherAbrams ComicArts
Preceded byPunk Rock & Trailer Parks
Followed byTrashed

My Friend Dahmer is a 2012 graphic novel and memoir by artist John "Derf" Backderf about his teenage friendship with Jeffrey Dahmer, who later became a serial killer. The book evolved from a 24-page, self-published version by Derf in 2002.

Publication history[edit]

My Friend Dahmer is the culmination of a comic book project first started in 1994, shortly after Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison. Derf's first Dahmer story appeared in Zero Zero #18 (Fantagraphics, July 1997). Derf pitched the project as a 100-page graphic novel, but failed to find a publisher. He then self-published a scaled-back 24-page My Friend Dahmer in 2002.

The success that came with the 24-page version (including an Eisner nomination) spurred Derf to create the 224-page version after six years of stalling.[citation needed] Derf felt that he hadn't done the project justice in the 24-page version; the 224-page version was published by Abrams in 2012.[1]


The novel depicts the author's teenage friendship with Jeffrey Dahmer, who later became a serial killer, during his time at Eastview Junior High and Revere High School. The story follows Dahmer from age 12 up to, but not including, his first murder, two weeks after high school graduation.

Backderf, while not excusing or forgiving Dahmer's crimes, presents an empathetic portrait of Dahmer as a lonely young man tormented by inner demons, ridiculed by bullies at school, and neglected by the adults in his life.[2] The graphic novel recalls Dahmer's isolation, his binge drinking, his bizarre behavior to get attention, and his disturbing fascination with roadkill.[3] Derf and his friends encouraged Dahmer to act out, including faking epileptic seizures in school and the mall and pretending to have cerebral palsy.[4]


One of Derf's techniques was drawing Dahmer in shadow as a representation of his personality.


The original self-published comic book was adapted and staged as a one-act play by the NYU Theater Department.

The novel was adapted into a film in 2017, directed by Marc Meyers and starring Ross Lynch as Jeffrey Dahmer. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 86% rating based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "My Friend Dahmer opens a window into the making of a serial killer whose conclusions are as empathetic as they are deeply troubling."[5] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]

Reception and awards[edit]

The original self-published comic book was nominated for an Eisner Award.

Lev Grossman, book critic of Time magazine, named My Friend Dahmer one of the top five non-fiction books of 2012.[7]

The final 224-page version was nominated for an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel.[8] It also was nominated for a Harvey Award[9] and a Reuben Award[10] and received the Revelation Award at the 2014 Angoulême International Comics Festival.[11]

Leander Independent School District banned My Friend Dahmer, then allowed it back with the requirement that students choosing to read it receive counseling on its contents.[12]


  1. ^ "My Friend Dahmer #Full - Read My Friend Dahmer Issue #Full Page 201". Comicextra. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  2. ^ Newman, Andy (May 1, 2002). "Drawing Jeffrey Dahmer". Boston City Paper. Boston, Massachusetts. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  3. ^ Grossman, Lev (March 28, 2012). "My Friend Dahmer: The Unspeakable Horror of Life in the 1970s". Time Magazine. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  4. ^ "Young Jeffrey Dahmer". Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2011., p. 2
  5. ^ "My Friend Dahmer (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
  6. ^ "My Friend Dahmer Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  7. ^ Grossman, Lev (March 28, 2012). "My Friend Dahmer: The Unspeakable Horror of Life in the 1970s". Time. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  8. ^ "2012 Ignatz Awards",, archived on the Internet Archive 8 October 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  9. ^ Cavna, Michael (July 15, 2013). "2013 HARVEY AWARD NOMS: Chris Ware, 'Saga' among top nominees". The Washington Post. Washington DC: Nash Holdings LLC. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  10. ^ "2012 Divisional Award Nominees Announced". Winter Park, Florida: National Cartoonists Society. March 26, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  11. ^ Connors, Joanna (February 4, 2014). "Bill Watterson and Derf Backderf win major awards in France at the biggest comic-con in the world, Angouleme Comics Festival". The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio: Advance Publications. Retrieved October 19, 2018 – via
  12. ^ Girtman, Taylor (2021-03-15). "Leander ISD review underway on 'inappropriate literature' in book clubs". impact. Retrieved 2021-04-26.