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December 23, 2012


CR Holiday Interview #6 -- Derf Backderf

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*****

imageI was floored by Derf Backderf's My Friend Dahmer, out since Spring from Abrams. I had enjoyed previous book-length efforts from the alt-weekly cartoonist (The City) like Trashed and Punk Rock And Trailer Parks. I was even familiar with previous comics from Derf himself about his high-school relationship with the serial killer that appeared in Zero Zero and then stand-alone form. Still, nothing had prepared me for this new book's ruthless depiction of Jeffrey Dahmer's slow descent away from humanity, facilitated in part by the harrowing isolation and neglect facing so many Midwestern teenagers in the closing decades of the 20th Century. Such was the place where Derf and Dahmer were raised that when the cartoonist was informed by phone that one of his classmates had committed certain heinous acts that were about to become national news the artist's first guess as to that person's identity was someone else entirely.

My Friend Dahmer has been well-reviewed, making several year-end lists, and is currently on a third printing. I greatly enjoyed the following conversation, conducted just about 10 days ago. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: One thing I seem to be asking everyone about this year is the shape and scope of the press attention paid books like yours. It used to be that it seemed an author in your position did everything in a big, promotional burst. Now we have this rolling period where interest bubbles up here and there and fades and returns.

DERF BACKDERF: I was kind of expecting the same thing, to talk when it first came out. But yeah, it pretty much keeps going and going and going. I don't know if it's that some people need interviews to fill up the end of the year stuff, or what it is. At the Miami Book Fest, I did a bunch of interviews. That was just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it's because they were there? I don't know. I have no explanation for it. The book business is a total mystery to me anymore.

SPURGEON: I would think that with My Friend Dahmer, a lot of people probably discovered it at different points throughout the year. I know that when I read it, I might not have done so when it first came out. I picked it up off the shelf maybe a couple of months later. I found to be powerful and affecting, but I hadn't read it the moment I got it. Other people have told me the same thing, that they've sort of stumbled into your book. People are discovering your book, which I guess is nice.

DERF: Yeah, sure. I always knew it needed good promo at the beginning -- which it got from Abrams, so I was happy about that -- and that word of mouth was going to carry it. And I was right on that. Given my early experiences with the project, that's the way it was going to go. It built momentum, as you said. All of these best-of lists have certainly helped, and the reviews. It's been great.

SPURGEON: I don't know that I've talked to too many people that have worked with Charlie [Kochman] and Abrams -- what was that experience like for you as an author? Were they a supportive house?

DERF: Oh yeah, it was great. Charlie's a treasure. He's a really good guy. He's got that comics background, which is nice because Abrams is really a book publisher. They don't know what to do with comics. Charlie's kind of brought that to them. It's really nice, because you get the best of both worlds. You get the comics mentality, he knows what you're dealing with and what your process is and what good comics are, but you also get the book apparatus.

The editing I got on this book was like nothing I'd ever gotten before. The copy-editing. I'll use this as an example, even though you probably can't use it. There's one scene in the book where Jeff is in his house listening to a football game. I just put in some random stuff, some names I remembered from that era. The copy editor actually went and looked at the schedules and box scores of games from that year and said, "Well, the team you have playing did not play until the following year. On this rough date you have to use this team or that team." I actually had to go back and get like a game summary from a game that would fit in that time frame and use some of the players that scored the touchdown I was talking about and put that in that dialogue box. I was blown away.

SPURGEON: I guess that's a good way to get into the expansion of the book from previous comics you did about your relationship to Dahmer, particularly your digging into that time period and making sure everything was accurate and specific to that time and place. What kind of personal resources did you have available to you there? I'm guessing you may have talked about this some, so I apologize for the redundancy, but I've tried to avoid other interviews since I knew I was going to get a shot at you. [Derf laughs] What was the process like for you to capture that time?

DERF: Well, I started with my own papers, which were really key. I had journals and stuff, pretty large ones from that era, which I hadn't looked at in a number of years when I started working on this project. That's where I started. It was very helpful in creating that time, because of course they were period. That's my thoughts, my take on life when I was living it. It could have ended there and been straight memoir, but of course I didn't want it to be that.

My background is actually in journalism. I have a degree in journalism. So I just started putting that training to use, and threw out a wide net. I started from scratch because I didn't really believe a lot of the stuff that was written about the time frame of this book. I found it to be... the tone was wrong, or they didn't capture it, or there were errors. Even with some pretty news organizations. And that's a given when one comes in from the outside and tries to immerse themselves into a time and a place. That's very difficult. I had the advantage of being from that time and place. So I went in and re-reported everything.

SPURGEON: Do you remember something that threw up a red flag for you? Do you remember something that you read where you were like, "Yeah, that's not right."

DERF: They were talking to the wrong people. They would pick random classmates to get their opinion. And I was like, "That guy never talked to Dahmer. That guy had nothing to do with Dahmer." It was just sort of that thing. Really minute errors, but built up as they were, created the wrong tone. I thought. I really wanted to capture that, because I thought it was important. And I think I did. That was my advantage as an insider.

imageSPURGEON: How early on did you land on making the book -- you said you weren't going to limit it to a memoir, but you also don't limit it in terms of what gets seen: you show Dahmer's activities in addition to the perspective of the kids that witnessed some of them. Did you get the general approach right away, that you wanted this kind of complete picture, or did that develop as you went along?

DERF: That did develop. In the early short stories I did, they were very much from my perspective. I decided I wasn't happy with that, so I cast a wider net. Also because that material became available: all the interviews Dahmer gave, and the transcripts, the stuff that I got my hands on. That came later, because once he was dead, nobody cared anymore. There was no reason to suppress it. The Milwaukee police stuff is still pretty hard to get. They're still tamping down on that. But all the other stuff, the FBI, the prison stuff, that's real easy to get. [laughs]

So it was available, and I looked at it, and I thought, "Wow, this is really great stuff." From my perspective, because it was unedited transcripts of these interviews, it was like interviewing Dahmer. His words were right there. There was no one interpreting that. I could look at that stuff, and kind of mine it for information. It proved to be really great stuff. And at that point I started expanding the book to include that.

SPURGEON: Are there boxes of research material still lurking around there?

DERF: There's a file drawer, yeah, full of stuff. I've thrown some of it out.

SPURGEON: You talked about your journalism background, but in terms of your cartooning, you told an interviewer in one of the couple that I read early on that you were glad this project came along when it did because you felt that your skill-set matched the ambition of the project. You were ready to go on something like this.

DERF: Right.

SPURGEON: What is a skill you have now, that you can see in the book, that you might not have been able to utilize earlier in your career?

DERF: Well, the drawing ability, specifically. Early on, when I first started -- it would have been like '94 when I started working on it? -- I was still very cartoony, because that's all I was doing at the time. It was heavily stylized. I used this real expressionist, cartoony style with a lot of jagged lines. Kind of Gen-X weirdo stuff. I liked the way I was drawing then, but it wasn't something that I -- I don't know. It wasn't something as subtle, as complex as the work I can do now. That comes from just sitting down and doing the other books that I did. And working it. I'm not a prodigy. I have to slowly work the craft.

SPURGEON: I found your character designs fascinating in that there's a definite cartoony-ness to them, but they're rendered enough that they're not distracting in any way.

DERF: Right.

SPURGEON: There's a certain acting-out quality that repeats with a lot of the characters that seems really affecting through those designs.

DERF: I didn't want to get too far away from what is my signature style. Whatever that is. I wanted it to look like I did it. I think it's closer to my last book, Punk Rock And Trailer Parks, than it is to anything else. That's really the book that cemented in my head how I wanted to proceed as far as longer storytelling went. It's more serious than that, and that was by design. I knew I couldn't be goofball with this story; that would be inappropriate. I wanted to ratchet it down and make it very understated. I don't want to say conservative, although the panel layout is very conservative. That was also a decision that I made. I thought that I was being too conservative and too straight-forward, but a lot of reviewers have said, "Well, it's this goofy, cartoony style." So I guess I didn't pull that off. [Spurgeon laughs] But I was trying.

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SPURGEON: The page layouts: there are a lot of standard, sturdy page layouts here.

DERF: Four by four, yeah.

SPURGEON: The four-panel structure repeats. You do vary it, but it's rare for you to break away totally from it, except for a few dramatic moments of narrative and for a few establishing shots.

DERF: I did do a lot of full-pagers in there. That was fun for me to really draw my ass off, which I enjoy doing. I tend to feel that there's so much of that in comics anymore, all of these crazy layouts, and stuff that's hard to read. Sometimes it works really well. When it's in the hands of a master like, I don't know, Chris Ware, I mean sure, that's what he does. But there are a lot of people doing it badly. [laughs]

Going into it, my goal was not to get in the way of the story. I felt that I had such a powerful story, that if I just let the story do the work rather than fancy layouts and digital trickery, it would be much more effective. I think that was a good instinct.

SPURGEON: You're very judicious in your use of special flourishes. At one point you incorporate a photo in there, and you put some old drawings in there. I imagine that's because you didn't want to draw attention to those moments, didn't want to drive people from the narrative.

DERF: Sure, once you commit to a certain way of laying stuff out, you don't want to break away from it mid-book. [laughter] That would be jarring. I wanted it to be consistent front to back. There were some reproduction problems, too, with that photo and those drawings. They weren't really made to be reproduced, and they're not very good, so there was some stuff I had to tinker with. There's only so much you can do.

SPURGEON: You mention that you didn't want to get in the way of your story, which indicates you had a strong sense of what that story was. The story isn't just the Dahmer story.

DERF: There are two stories.

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SPURGEON: Maybe even three if you separate the people from the place. One of the things I found super-affecting about the book is how convincing your depiction of this place was: the town, and the time, and the isolating aspects of it.

DERF: I thought that was key. We all are a product of our time and place, and I think Dahmer was, too. I think it helps explain maybe not what he did, but how he got away with it. I thought that was important. A lot of people really responded to that, they really are taken with that, so I guess that was a good instinct as well.

SPURGEON: Now is that a longstanding interest of yours in any way, how these structural elements in neighborhoods and streets and houses and where schools are and how many kids go to them shape society, or is that something you got to through Dahmer's story?

DERF: I've always been interested in pop culture and its effects. I do that in my other work, too. So yeah, I'd have to say that was an interest. But most of that came through this story, and talking about it with my friends, those themes just kept popping up. Like the adults never being around. How different it was, and how weird this was and that was. It's not stuff you think about or hear about when a lot of people talk about that era. The '70s. They talk about other things. But in a small town, there were some very specific things. The isolation. The adults not being around. This very specific boredom. I think those things were really key to our lives at that time.

The two stories that I really focused on were Dahmer's, obviously, but also me and my friends. Those stories intertwined. One of the reasons I wanted to really include that... there were two reasons, really. One was to offer contrast to Dahmer. I think it makes it even more striking, how similar our lives were and how they went in different directions. I felt that I had to give the reader some humanity. Because as the story progresses, Dahmer becomes less and less so. There had to be something there, a character or characters there, that readers could hang onto. Someone they could relate to, or find some similarities to. I felt it was important not to be just overall this dark, dark, dark tale.

The other reason is that I spent so long on this book. I can't say it was a lot of fun to spend time in Dahmer's world. So the way I made it fun, what I concentrated on in recreating this world is my friends. It was Jeff's world, yes, but it was also our world. Recreating the shopping mall where we hung out all the time, that was just me making the book more fun to produce. And it worked. That was fun. I was surprised by how many people picked up on that without knowing the details and specifics. I wasn't sure it would relate, that they would relate to that. But they have.

SPURGEON: When you say "it," you mean...?

DERF: The details.

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SPURGEON: You're kind of unsparing in your criticism. You're not quick to indict, but you're very confident when you do, like with the parents not stepping in to notice this obvious alcoholism that was going on.

DERF: All the adults really. I have to say... there have been a few that have said, "He doesn't own up to his own role in this." And I don't think that's true.

SPURGEON: I don't either.

DERF: There are no heroes in this book. Everybody fails. Including Jeff, of course. The only reason that these critics know about my failures as a friend, or me not stepping up, is because they read it in my book! [Spurgeon laughs] How is that not owning up to it? I could have portrayed myself heroically; who the hell would have known the difference? A handful of people. I chose to lay it all out there as honestly as I could because I thought it was fascinating that everybody turned away.

imageSPURGEON: You say that Dahmer himself failed. You're very clear in the book that when Dahmer steps over the line into outright murder that that's different than anything that came before, that he's no longer a creature of any sympathy. I assume it was important to make that point as strongly as possible.

DERF: It was for me, yeah. That also ties in to a larger, sort of outside issue. There's this whole, strange, urban legend that's sprung up around this guy, this death-metal, goth, urban legend where Dahmer has become this strange anti-hero. He's this shunned and bullied kid who was picked on, passed off and ignored and later in life he lashed back at the society that had done these things to him and blah blah blah. It's all total crap. [Spurgeon laughs] There are a lot of people that get really cheesed at me because I counter that urban legend, and I think in some ways point out that it's nonsense. They've responded to that; they're not very accepting. They're pissed off about that.

SPURGEON: What is the basis of their objection? Is it partly the sexual politics involved?

DERF: That I just don't buy it: that Dahmer was picked on, and that he did these things because he was picked on. No. He did these things because he had this hideous, all-consuming sexual urge that just drove him. He was driven by depravity, not by revenge. That didn't enter into it at all. There's nothing sympathetic about this guy; there's no way you can empathize with him. I really went out of my way to pop that balloon. There are some people that have not taken kindly to that.

SPURGEON: You're a journalist and you've done your research. You've also done your due diligence as a memoir writer to be unsparing in terms of all the actors. But was there a worry on your part in terms of how close anyone can get in terms of figuring out certain things about Jeffrey Dahmer? Are there still things you wonder after?

DERF: Oh, yeah. I have no idea what made him do the things he did. Dahmer doesn't know. Dahmer didn't know. He's undiagnosable. Everything I've read, he was interviewed by at least four or five criminal psychologists, some of the best in the business, and they couldn't come up with a diagnosis, either. Sometimes, as sad as it is to say, sometimes monsters just happen. And [laughs] the lesson here is... I don't think there's any great lesson. It's not, "This is what Dahmer did and this is how to prevent someone like Dahmer from being born at all." The lesson there is "Mistakes were made. He could have been flagged but he wasn't." It's more a cautionary tale than anything else.

SPURGEON: You mentioned the urban legend aspect. I have to imagine that anyone buying into an urban legend isn't really closely connected to him.

DERF: And invariably younger, much younger.

imageSPURGEON: I know from my own hometown's horrible story that happened when I was there, that it's a very difficult subject for my friends and me to talk about. Did you encounter any of that? Was it difficult for anyone else to talk about? Did you encounter any resistance that way?

DERF: Some. There are some that don't want to talk about anything at all. And I get that. There are others, like in the Dahmer Fan Club [a group of Derf's friends at the high school when Dahmer and Derf were in attendance], two of the guys talked to me for hours and hours and hours over months and years. Mike and Neal. They were great. And it was a really incredible benefit to have their input, so much of their memories and all of that stuff. Kent, my other friend, won't talk about it at all. He just doesn't even want to deal with it. And you have to respect that as an interviewer and say, "Well, I'll get it from people that want to talk." A frustrating thing is that since the book came out a lot of people have come up with input and stories that I never thought of getting -- I didn't know where they were, or I didn't know their role. Suddenly they're coming out of the woodwork and you're getting all this material. It's like, "Oh, crap." [laughter] "Where were you two years ago?"

SPURGEON: Can you give me one that you might particularly regret, one that you wish you could have gotten in there of a bunch of different ones?

DERF: Some of it is in the e-book -- I put a couple of extra chapters in there. One was from Neal who was very open. He brought up this story after the book came out. "Did I ever tell you about the time that Dahmer got spanked in school?" I was like, "What?!" It was this whole thing with Dahmer getting caught with booze. I knew that he got caught with booze, but Neal knew the whole story. It had just never come up, or he had forgotten it. He told me this great story of Dahmer getting caught with booze, and the choice the assistant gave was he could call his parents right now or he could take ten licks. It was his quote-unquote first offense. And Dahmer chose the licks. There was this great scene, and I was like, "Oh man, why didn't you tell me this before?" So I drew it up and put it in the e-book. I would have loved to have had that in the book.

There have been a couple of others. The kid who discovered the dog head in the woods, he contacted me later. Offered some details, nothing I didn't already know, but still some interesting stuff. Things like that. You just don't know who the figures were. You don't know who played what role. You didn't have a name attached to it. I sort of knew who was involved with various things, but there's always a gray area in there. Obviously people aren't putting it on their resume or anything.

SPURGEON: You signed a media development with this book, right?

DERF: A film deal, yeah. An option.

SPURGEON: That's not the kind of thing I usually discuss, but I wonder if that's odd for you, considering how personal this project is, letting it go in that way?

DERF: Well... hm. It's something I've never had to deal with before. You do have to pass it off, yeah. It becomes somebody else's work of art. It's that progression. I'm comfortable with the filmmaker. It's good stuff. It's not Hollywood schlock. He's really taken with this story, and is certainly doing a lot of research on it. As I told him, it's not my problem, you're the one that has to live up to the book. I made the book I set out to make. It's been incredibly received and it has all of these great reviews. You have to live up to that. If you fuck that up... the book will still be there, it'll be your bad movie that you're going to have live with. [laughter] You just kind of shrug your shoulders and move on.

SPURGEON: The written material at the book's end, was that something you knew you were going to include when you started out?

DERF: I actually started with that. Those are essentially my story notes. As I was working out the story, working out where things were going, when it came time to put it together I never doubted for a second I would footnote everything. A lot of this stuff in the book, and if you read it, and those footnotes weren't in there, you'd think, "Where did he get this? How did he know this? How does he know what Dahmer was thinking when he walked in the woods? He just made this up!" Well, no, you go to the footnotes, it goes to the interview exactly where Dahmer was talking about that very thing. It's really the factual skeleton of the book -- although I probably shouldn't use the word "skeleton" when talking about Dahmer. [laughter] It's the factual foundation of the whole book.

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SPURGEON: You've talked about doing longer form work as a deliberate choice in terms of where you thought your career might go as the alt-weekly thing has started to fade. I wish I had a not-depressing question to ask about that whole thing.

DERF: [laughs] Go ahead and ask.

SPURGEON: A lot of people have just left that avenue for comics, and you've kind of stuck around. You have 10 or 15 papers I'm guessing now.

DERF: Yeah.

SPURGEON: This includes one of your hometown papers.

DERF: Right, the daily. The only reason I'm still doing it is because the daily is paying me enough to continue doing it. When that stops, which could come as early as this Spring when the paper goes to three-days-a-week publication, it could well be that I shut it all down. It's hard to walk away. I still think I'm doing good strips. It's hard to write them, especially after you do long form stuff where you have so much space and so much freedom. I kind of like that weekly deadline from a selfish, creative standpoint. It makes me put pen to paper, as opposed to going a couple of weeks without doing anything. So I like that. But I realize it's long past time to move on. There's no question there. The flipside of that is that I've gotten more attention and accolades from my longer work than I ever got for my shorter work [laughs], so I've probably been in the wrong field all along.

SPURGEON: You were kind of a latecomer to that world, weren't you?

DERF: You mean the longform stuff?

SPURGEON: No, the alt-weeklies. I think of you as an early '90s debut.

DERF: I started in 1990. That was at the peak of it, when everyone was coming into it.

imageSPURGEON: Okay. You were certainly there at the prime moment for that work. The boiling away of that audience, are you aware of how your strips might be received differently now? We have a different media culture now. Do people react at all to the work, do they react more strongly given our constant, ongoing attention to political back-and-forths?

DERF: It depends. On the daily's site, which is this horrible free-for-all with unfettered comments, you can comment anonymously. All of these sites are owned by the same company, which is called Advance. The comments are just appalling. They go back in and try to clean them up, so you get a lot of... it's still general media, so you get all political stripes, everyone has their own agenda. They're all taking potshots at everybody and everything and luh luh luh.

In the weekly press, I don't get that at all. The weekly press was always pretty narrowly targeted. It was mostly urban liberal intellectuals, right from the beginning. It was always a different kind of animal. I don't worry about feedback that much. My stuff, particularly in Cleveland, has always been pretty well received. I can't say I spent a lot of time worrying about it. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of people reading weekly papers, no. That genre is dead.

SPURGEON: Did you have a sense at some point that the writing was on the wall there?

DERF: Oh, yeah. I would say about '99 or 2000. That far back. The thing was, I was still making a decent living at it, so I decided to keep writing it. That's when I started moving into longer form comics, right around that same time. That was a decision I made. It just took a little longer than I thought it would.

SPURGEON: I hadn't know you suffered a longstanding health issue there for a while. Does that change your orientation towards work?

DERF: It doesn't really change it. It slowed me down. I'd probably have two more books out by now if it weren't for that. It doesn't really change my outlook or my process any. I don't have this frantic sense of [laughs] "Oh, I've got to do as much as I can, quickly." I'll take the time that I have left and do as many comics as I can. It's not like I feel a sense of urgency or anything.

SPURGEON: Do you feel a kinship with other journalists that use cartoons, other memoirists? We're talking not soon after Spain Rodriguez passed away.

DERF: Yeah, I was a huge Spain fan. A lot of people say, you know how it is, especially in comics which kind of blows me away, they always want to stick you in a little category and bag you and stick you in a certain box. "The Crumb-type school... Crumb, Crumb, Crumb." It was Spain before Crumb. I got my hand on Spain's stuff long before Crumb. I was sad to hear of his passing. We had exchanged some e-mails over the last year or so. I'd sought him out. I usually don't. I'm kind of funny about that. I was surprised he knew who I was and knew my work. I never met him.

SPURGEON: The transition to longer-form work, we kind of take that for granted.

DERF: It was hard. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, perhaps out of my own cluelessness.

SPURGEON: Was there an educational process? Did you go look at stuff?

DERF: It was basically me just working it out. I think, particularly with my first book Trashed -- which I really like, it was a lot of fun. It's very cartoony. It's very clipped; the pace is way too fast. It was difficult for me to learn to slow down and learn to tell the story without getting ridiculously indulgent, the way indie comics tend to do. Jaime Hernandez calls it the fluttering leaf syndrome, where you get a leaf going across panels for two pages. You don't want to go that far. But you don't want it to be clipped, like a newspaper strip where you have to cram everything in four panels. It took a book or two to work that out. In My Friend Dahmer, I really put the breaks on. That one moves at a slow, methodical pace, which is by design, but I don't think I would have been able to do that early on.

SPURGEON: The pacing is very confident and assured -- what was important to you about pacing the story that way?

DERF: I felt it fit the book. It's not the story of some guy racing around. The action in the book is mostly people standing around talking or Dahmer walking around. So you have to adjust to the work, adjust to the story, but still make it compelling so that people want to turn the page. Those are decisions that every storyteller faces. You either learn how to do it or you don't. I'm a slow learner, but at least I can learn. [laughter]

SPURGEON: One standard question I ask might be appropriate here. We talked about how long you've been out there with this one. I'm interested in authors having to live with a work for a long period of time after they're done creating it. Has your opinion changed on the work since having it out there, having to talk about it?

DERF: No. No, no. That's probably the benefit of taking so long to put it together. By the time it was out it was exactly the work I wanted to produce. I didn't take any shortcuts. Obviously, taking 20 years or whatever to do it. I was pretty confident. Right from the beginning I knew that word of mouth would be important because it's such a weird book. The first reaction is "Yuck." I knew I'd have to hit the road. As I told some of my friends, going into this I knew I had doomed myself to talking about Jeffrey Dahmer for a solid year. That's why it's nice to talk about process. It's why I like talking to fellow comics geeks like yourself. [Spurgeon laughs] It's a nice break from "This is what Dahmer did. That is what Dahmer did."

SPURGEON: You mentioned that you'd be two books further along -- is that an abstract idea, or do you have two books on a list of books that you know you would have done by now?

DERF: No, that's just judging from the times I lost.

SPURGEON: Given how deliberate your career choices have been, do you now have next books in mind?

DERF: I have books that I'm kicking around. Yeah. The problem is that Dahmer is so unlike anything I've ever done. I'm basically a humorist. My other books are these raucous, rollicking comedies. Now people are expecting me to do this darker work and I'm pretty good at darker work. I have to think of something that's not going to be too far afield. You know? From a purely practical, sales standpoint.

SPURGEON: All of your work has a personal connection, too.

DERF: They do. I don't know if that's going to be the case moving forward. I've always been kind of a restless creator. I've wandered a lot, and I imagine I'll continue to do that. The thing is, my audience is much bigger now thanks to the success of Dahmer, so I'm going to carry some of that with me. I won't carry all of that with me, but this is a breakout book and a lot of people are reading it that don't read comics. I was going to lose those people anyway. I'm not worried about them. I'm glad they bought the book, don't get me wrong. A lot of people will follow me wherever I go, because they like the way I tell stories. I just have to keep plugging away.

*****

* My Friend Dahmer
* Derf
* The City

*****

* cover to the new work
* self-portrait, from the new work
* the book's primary subject
* the sturdy four-panel grid
* one of many digressions into such things as basic social and community structure
* an indictment
* Dahmer: not driven by having been bullied
* a Dahmer Fan Club member strikes a deal
* a strip and then a stang-alone panel from The City
* isolated Jeffrey Dahmer (below)

*****

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