Derf

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John Backderf
BornRichfield, Ohio
NationalityAmerican
Area(s)Cartoonist
Notable worksMy Friend Dahmer
The City
AwardsRobert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, 2006
Official website
 
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John Backderf
BornRichfield, Ohio
NationalityAmerican
Area(s)Cartoonist
Notable worksMy Friend Dahmer
The City
AwardsRobert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, 2006
Official website

Derf and Derf Backderf are the pseudonyms of American artist John Backderf, most famous for the comic strip The City, which has appeared in a number of alternative newspapers since 1990. In 2006 Derf won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for cartooning.[1]


Contents

The City

Backderf is one of the most widely published alternative cartoonists in the U.S. His comic strip, The City, appears regularly in over 50 weekly newspapers. It debuted in the now-defunct Cleveland Edition in 1990 and quickly spread to papers coast-to-coast, including: The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader, Cleveland Scene, Miami New Times, Houston Press, Pittsburgh City Paper, The Providence Phoenix, and Washington City Paper.

My Friend Dahmer and other graphic novels

My Friend Dahmer is a comic book project first started in 1994, shortly after Dahmer's death in prison. Derf's first Dahmer story appeared in Zero Zero #18 (Fantagraphics, July 1997). Derf then 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 comic book in 2002. A longer, 224 page version was published March 1, 2012 by Abrams Comic Arts.

My Friend Dahmer depicts the author's teenage friendship with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer during his time at Eastview Junior High and Revere High School. Backderf, while not excusing Dahmer's crimes, presents Dahmer as a surprisingly sympathetic kid who was tormented by inner demons and neglected by the adults in his life.[2] The comic recalls Dahmer's isolation, his binge drinking, his bizarre behavior to get attention, and his disturbing fascination with roadkill. Derf and his friends encouraged Dahmer to act out, including fake epileptic fits in the library and his imitation of a person with cerebral palsy. The story follows Dahmer from age 12, when he was a shy, bespectacled kid, right up to the day he kills his first victim a mere two weeks after high school graduation."My Friend Dahmer" was nominated for an Eisner Award and was adapted and staged as a one-act play by the NYU Theater Dept.[3]

"Trashed" is Derf's second book, a raucous comic memoir of the year he spent as a garbageman in his rural hometown at age 19. Published in 2002 by SLG Publishing, "Trashed" was nominated for an Eisner Award. Derf has recently revisited the project as a webcomic on Derfcity.com.

"Punk Rock & Trailer Parks" published in 2010 by SLG Publishing, is a 152-page graphic novel is set in 1980, during the punk rock heyday in Akron, Ohio, whose vibrant music scene produced such acts as Devo, Chrissie Hynde, the Cramps and so many other acts "Melody Maker" wrote that Akron was "the new Liverpool." "Punk Rock & Trailer Parks" is a fictional story that follows one remarkable young man named Otto, who through talent, wits and sheer chutzpah becomes a star in the Rubber City punk scene and has memorable meetings with underground luminaries of the day, including Wendy O. Williams, Stiv Bators, Lester Bangs and The Clash. "Punk Rock & Trailer Parks" was featured in the 2010 edition of "Best American Comics" (Houghton Mifflin)

Art

Backderf has contributed to many well-known national publications, including Playboy, The Wall Street Journal and Progressive Magazine. His illustrations have also appeared on posters, t-shirts and CD covers. His art has been compared to Robert Crumb, with his use of black to "project character and menace" praised.[4] Derf cites Crumb as an influence, along with Mad Magazine and Vaughn Bodé. He cites Expressionism as the inspiration for his usage of heavy ink, but feels the major influence on his work is the imagery of punk, a movement Derf immersed himself in during the late 1980s.[4]

His work has been displayed in many galleries and museums both in the United States and abroad. In 1995, he had a large solo show at Altered Image Gallery in Cleveland and in 1999 the Akron Art Museum put on a retrospective of his work, titled "Apocalyptic Giggles: The Industrial Cartoon Humor of Derf."

Of his many book projects, his most recent are: The City: The World’s Most Grueling Comic Strip (SLG Publishing, 2003), Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists (NBM, 2002), Trashed (SLG Publishing, 2002) and My Friend Dahmer (Derfcity Comics, 2002). The last two Andrew Arnold of Time.com called "The funniest book of the year so far, followed by the creepiest".[5]

Awards

He has won over 50 awards for his newspaper work, including a prestigious Bronze Medal from the Society of Newspaper Design. He was a member of the newsroom team for the Akron Beacon Journal that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. In 2006 Derf won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for cartooning.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b Gardner, Alan. "John Backderf wins Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award", May 1, 2006, The Daily Cartoonist. Accessed September 24, 2009. Archived from original September 24, 2009.
  2. ^ Drawing Jeffrey Dahmer, Baltimore City Paper, 5/1/2002
  3. ^ Young Jeffrey Dahmer (archived), p. 2
  4. ^ a b Harrison, John. "My Friend Dahmer", Headpress 25: William Burroughs & the Flicker Machine, Headpress, 2003 p.76-9. ISBN 1-900486-26-1
  5. ^ Arnold, Andrew (16 April 2002). "Hauling Garbage and Knowing Jeffrey Dahmer". Time.com. http://www.time.com/time/columnist/arnold/article/0,9565,230442,00.html. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 

External links