Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Geeky Week Review: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf


Library Book

My friend Dahmer gains a lot of impact due to its genre. Yes, this story could have been a series of interviews, or short anecdotes in a magazine like Time , Newsweek or the New Yorker. Dahmer also could have been a successful novel. The Graphic novel format however offers the reader a more intimate look into a Dahmer’s formative years.
Backderf begins his narrative on his experiences with Dahmer in the seventies where they both attended the same Junior High. Dahmer was the “weird kid”. Every school has one. The silent loner who lives on the fringes of school society, making just enough effort to not draw attention to himself, yet never truly belonging.
When Dahmer starts making exaggerated spastic tics and impersonations of a seizure victim he draws the attention of four friends: Mike, Kent Neil and the author Backderf.
These interactions form a great deal of the books story. It’s a strange relationship. It would be really hard to call their relationship a friendship. The boys found Dahmer’s antics laughable and formed a variety of prank situations around it. Including the Dahmer Fan Club. They pay Dahmer to do his spastic routine at the mall, make fake student council campaign posters with Dahmer’s likeness in all its spastic “pose” glory and sporadically visit his home.

Yet the boys sense something in Dahmer that doesn't let him completely into their worlds. Dahmer doesn't  go to movies with them our hang out at their house, they don’t talk about girls our school plans. However without this interaction Dahmer may have been lost years earlier.

It’s interesting and sad looking at the events of Dahmer’s life. I believe the foundation of Dahmer’s crimes lay in some deeply rooted physical and emotional disconnect. That does not excuse his crimes but throughout this whole book I wondered What If?
What If one of his friends( fringe level acquaintances, at best) or classmates would have reported his strange behavior with dead animals?
What if a counselor or teacher would have discovered his excessive drinking and alerted family services?
What if his mother hadn’t abandoned him for six weeks, leaving his Father the house and choosing to only take her younger son with her?

What if the police who stopped him had been a little bit more aggressive after finding him driving late at night with three garbage bags in his hatchback trunk ? Extremely visible bags that were only routinely questioned but never checked. Leaving the whereabouts of a young hitchhiker unknown for years.   
So many potentials yet no one truly at fault  for Dahmer’s actions but himself. As his strange behaviors and alcoholism increased. The quartet of casual friendships disappeared. Senior year for Backderf and his friends brings a whole new set of choices and excitement. These boys had college to look forward to and like a toy they had outgrown, Dahmer had little appeal to them.

A fascinating read!! The art on this book is spectacular. As well as one really creepy photograph at the beginning of the book. The impact of the black and white art and the placement of Dahmer in the pages really reflect the emotions the writer is trying to express. Human beings have a six sense when it comes to danger in all it’s forms. So many of the people in Dahmer’s life began to feel repelled by Dahmer’s changing personality. However you cant arrest someone for being creepy. To the outside world nothing seemed wrong about Dahmer’s world. He was just that “weird kid” Every school has one. Not everyone of them grows up to be a Serial Killer.
Highly recommend this! An absorbing read  and a great introduction to graphic Novels. Nothing extremely frightening  overall, but somewhat disturbing.

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