My Friend Dahmer | The Disinfocast with Matt Staggs: Episode 02

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In this episode of The Disinfocast I interview famed cartoonist Derf Backderf (The City, Trashed, Punk Rock & Trailer Parks) about his new book, My Friend Dahmer.

Backderf was a high school friend of Dahmer’s, and was a first-hand witness to future serial killer’s bizarre antics and inevitable slip into madness.

Listen as Derf recalls the beginnings of America’s most notorious cannibal on the latest episode of The Disinformation Company’s official podcast, The DisinfoCast.

  • Ted

    either I am becoming deaf, or the audio is really faint.

    • Matt Staggs

      Dear Ted,
      “Derf” had some microphone problems on his end, including drops in volume and a major amount of static. I edited these out the best that I could. I apologize for any problems with the audio you may experience, and thank you sincerely your comments and for listening.

      • Ted

        No problemo. It was an interesting interview anyhow.

        • Matt Staggs

           Thanks, man! Much appreciated. I’ve got some HUGE shoes to fill following Raymond, Austin and the rest of those guys. Thank Great Cthulhu that the Disinformation audience is so cool.

  • heinrich66

    Great show and fascinating topic.

    “My Friend Dahmer” looks great. I take some issue with Backderf’s view expressed in the interview that people should have done more, that there were ‘red flags’ and so on.  This is easy to say, but in reality: what the hell do you do? Do you set up a Department of Precrime? Do you medicate every eccentric kid who spazzes out and imitates the handicapped?  I’m sympathetic to the *general* sentiment. Nobody wants these things to happen. But just saying “more should have been done” while understandable, is nonsense.

    • Ted

      Well, I mean showing up drunk to school everyday should have been a tip off to somebody. Not that they should have known he was going to become a canibal.

      Possibly if he felt he just could have come out as being gay he may not have turned to preying on people.

      • heinrich66

        But there you go. Alcoholism doesn’t serial killer make. If they had intervened on the alcoholism, there’s no telling the result. Maybe he would have started killing sooner. Maybe not.

        I agree with your second point also.  But I see the whole ‘red flags’ concept as just a mirage, a way for bureaucracy to clamp down on everybody and act like it’s in control of the situation. When it cannot be.

        • Ted

          Well, I’m skeptical of the whole Public School system in general. So its no shock to me, that they dropped the ball with Dahmer. But I don’t think you can really rely on a “system” to prevent stuff like this or forsee it, like you said.
          But I think gay activism maybe something that goes on now adays in public school that may have helped.

          My impression is that he was deeply conflicted about his homosexual tendencies. I think if there was a presence on campus he may have come to them for help, who knows.

          So if anything, whereas before I didn’t really care, now I feel like this is something I should support-what I mean in help for gay high school kids. I read a Graphic Novel about this. About a lesbian girl. I forget the name of it now, but anyway she had these supportive mentors and stuff.

          • Jin The Ninja

             a mentor, is not going to cure psychopathy. 

          • TedHeistman

            maybe you could have used a mentor. But since you didn’t you use a picture of a black angel with a boner as your avatar. Sure,its not canibalism, but still shows lack of guidance.  

          • Jin The Ninja

            lol it’s a manga style angel with a sword and he’s not ‘black’ although there is precedence in x’tian mythology for black wings in heavenly angels, it means something totally different in manga/anime iconography. nice try gramps. and in what or any way is that lack of guidance oh wise one?

          • Hadrian999

             looks like your avatar has a little Rorschach action goin on

          • Jin The Ninja

            lol. well ted is talking about sexual repression, maybe he’s a bit repressed himself seeing phallus’ at every turn…

          • TedHeistman


            You are not smart. You liked that avatar picture and you don’t know why. I know why you like it. That makes me dumb? You must be a victim of clever advertising constantly.

            A sword is a phallic symbol, a gun is a phalic symbol. When a Character like Rambo, holds his gun low to his crotch and thrusts his hips out to fire its obvious what the symbolism is.

            You would probably say “Its just a gun! You are imagining it. You must be sexually repressed etc.”

          • Jin The Ninja

            LOL. i do know why. i love anime and manga. i love ninjas and mythological themes and religious icons. A sword is phallic in freudian terms, but so are trees, cars, and skyscrapers. A sword is a symbol of mastery, and of control and of zen-mind. The semiotics of a gun is NOT the same as the meaning of a sword. You are the ignorant repressed person, and it shows with every post.

          • TedHeistman

            OK, so why is the little manga angel thrusting his hips out right where the hilt of his sword just happens to come out at a 45 degree angle from his crotch?

            Also why do Manga Characters have big eyes?

          • Jin The Ninja

            he’s not ‘thrusting,’ genius, he’s slouching and if you viewed the enlarged picture it is not even near his crotch.

            and to answer your other question, not all manga characters have big eyes, but it is a traditional way to express emotionality, and derives a lot from osamu tezuka whom was the god father of all things manga. his style influenced basically all manga writers for the next 40 years.

          • Jin The Ninja

            and by the way hilt on hip is a traditional iaido scabbard positon, when worn on a certain hip it means ‘ronin’ and another ‘executioner.’

            and the sword is actually out of it’s scabbard and he’s holding it in reverse position (like zatoichi) probably because he just slew a demon with it.

          • eyebeam

            Every soldier learns the difference

          • Jin The Ninja

            and you think by referencing freudian symbology, one of the worst and universally decried semiotic systems that it makes YOU intelligent?

            sword symbolism:

            it’s also symbolic of transition, honor, conquering death, death of ignorance, enlightenment, transfomation and justice.

            There are also extra-cultural meanings of the sword, which aren’t reliant on failed turn of the century models of psychology. like chinese, tibetan, japanese, indonesian, persian, arab and even heraldric european (which i linked). chinese literature has a 2500 year old history, in which the sword is a prominent symbol. just because you ascribe a singular meaning to it, doesn’t mean it takes on that meaning.

          • Jin The Ninja

            and by the way, i came out at 14, and i was perfectly fine for it. sexual repression is not the same as psychopathy, nor do you know anything about glbtq issues.

          • Calypso_1

            one could however, help refine it. 

          • Jin The Ninja

             very true. and darkly frightening.

  • mole_face

    I disagree that Dahmer’s behavior was necessarily a symptom that he’d become a serial killer. I think that sort of behavior is an indication that the person’s dealing with SOME sort of serious social/mental issues, but not necessarily the urge to kill. I think it’s important that all troubled kids aren’t painted with the same brush. The last thing vulnerable, struggling kids need is to be stigmatized even further.

    Listening to this podcast, I drew a disturbing amount of parallels between my own life and Dahmer’s. I used to engage in wacked-out attention seeking behavior and even pretended to be handicapped in public sometimes to amuse myself, I had no friends at all in school and had never even been over to another person’s house even though people repeatedly tried to befriend me, I got staggeringly drunk every single day for a four year period, etc.

    Personally, my problem was that I was oversensitive and suffered from debilitating social phobia. I’d act goofy and eccentric as a defense mechanism and drank heavily to cover up my constant anxiety and panic symptoms. I’m an extremely empathetic person to a crippling degree, and can’t stand the thought of anyone being hurt in any way – not exactly serial killer material.

  • Guest

    Hindsight bias in operation.

  • G Thiose

    Note to Staggs: it always helps to have read the book you’re interviewing the person about before you do the interview. I read Derf’s book and was hoping for a little bit of extra insight, but unfortunately the show focussed on figuring out answers to questions that could have been resolved by flipping through the pages. For instance, that Dahmer grew up in Ohio, outside of Akron, not in Wisconsin.