My Friend Dahmer

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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.

A scaled-back, 24-page, self-published version was published by Derf in 2002.

The final 224-page version later was published by Abrams Comic Arts in 2012.


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.[1] The graphic novel recalls Dahmer's isolation, his binge drinking, his bizarre behavior to get attention, and his disturbing fascination with roadkill.[2] Derf and his friends encouraged Dahmer to act out, including faking epileptic seizures in school and the mall and pretending to have cerebral palsy.[3]


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 spurred Derf to create the 224 page version after 6 years of stalling. The 224-page version was published in 2012; Derf felt that he hadn't done the project justice in the 24-page version.[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. In May 2017, it was announced FilmRise had acquired all North American rights to the film version of My Friend Dahmer.[5] It was announced by FilmRise that My Friend Dahmer would be released in theaters on November 3, 2017.[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 Rueben Award[10] and received an Angoulême Award.[11]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Young Jeffrey Dahmer". Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2011., p. 2
  4. ^ "My Friend Dahmer #Full - Read My Friend Dahmer Issue #Full Page 201". Comicextra. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  5. ^ "FilmRise Pick Up Serial Killer Biopic My Friend Dahmer". SCREAM: The Horror Magazine. 16 May 2017.
  6. ^ Delamotte, Nikki (May 16, 2017). "'My Friend Dahmer,' movie based on Cleveland artist John 'Derf' Backderf's graphic novel, to open in theaters this fall".
  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