If you thought the previous entries in this series made me sound like a desperate and strange individual, this one isn’t going to do me any favours (although if you didn’t think that, please continue not to do so). The only comic I have ever regretted leaving on the shelf was this: My Friend Dahmer – an autobiographical account by a comic creator who knew Jeffrey Dahmer at school.
Without trying to sound mental, I have one a sort of morbid, purely academic fascination with cannibals. Personally, I blame my mother. Not in a Freudian was-never-breastfed sense, but because she always told me that her dream for me was that I would become a forensic scientist, and spent years buying books about Jack the Ripper’s identity and killings, which I would also read.
At some point, I watched a documentary about Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who killed and ate Renée Hartevelt, a Dutch student in France. The account of the only murder he comitted reads like a Chris Morris film – against the traditional portrait of a cold, calculated, Anthony Hopkins psychopath, Sagawa’s is full of panicked emotion and bungled attempts at corpse disposal. After he shot his victim, he immediately fainted at the shock of what he had done. He attempted to conceal the body in his flat, but didn’t realise the smell would be so bad. After 2 days, he stuffed the corpse into several suitcases and attempted to dump them in a park lake, but he was witnessed getting out of a taxi at the scene, and easily traced.
And yet, despite this apparent incompetence, he still managed to end someone’s life. In an interview I read, he explained that his obsession with eating a person stemmed from his youth (which, by all accounts, was relatively normal – more affluent than usual, even) and I couldn’t help but wonder how someone would end up like that. Was it in him from the start, or something he became? Better psychologists than me have failed to come up with an answer.
Which brings me back to My Friend Dahmer. In it, the artist recounts their experiences together, and the changes in Dahmer’s personality as he grows up that would lead him to become a man who would kill and eat at least 17 people. The one and only time I ever saw a copy of it was on the shelves at Forbidden Planet in Coventry – presumably the week it came out. I don’t know why I didn’t buy it. I read a lot of autobio comics. I am, undeniably, interested in the subject matter. What was it about this comic that made me think “no, actually, that’s not for me”? I have a vague memory of flipping through the art and finding Peter Bagge-esque cartooning, which I’ve never been that fond of aesthetically (and was actively repelled by at the time) so it’s likely that was my reasoning, stupid though it sounds to me now.
In any case, while writing this entry, I’ve gone and rectified the situation. My Friend Dahmer is available for purchase at the artist’s website, Derfcity. Apparently, it was Eisner-nominated, which makes me wish even more than I had picked it up at the time. A mistake I have finally corrected.