Back in April, Revere High School graduate Derf Backderf told me how proud he was of My Friend Dahmer, his stirring, 200-plus-page graphic novel about his young acquaintance with monster-in-the-making Jeffrey Dahmer. After years of reworking and republishing versions of the story, Backderf said, “it’s everything I hoped it would be. The important thing is I was able to do the book that I wanted to do.”
But he is far from alone in his zeal for the book, which has been making a number of best lists for 2012, including both the Village Voice’s best comics and graphic novels of the year and — even more impressive — Time magazine’s list of the best nonfiction books.
My Friend Dahmer sits among such Time favorites as a history of the Iron Curtain, a recent biography of Julia Child and the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography of Lyndon Johnson. The magazine called My Friend Dahmer “a shockingly recognizable, almost tragic portrait of the future serial killer as an alienated kid in a toxic family.”
“The critical acclaim has been all I hoped it would be,” Backderf, a former Beacon Journal artist, said via Facebook message. “Can’t say I’m surprised, and I don’t mean to sound egotistical. I knew it was a great story, and my earlier self-published stories also got acclaim, so I knew this final incarnation, which was SO much better, would be a critical hit. The book is already in its third printing, just nine months after release, so that’s nice, too. And French and German versions are on the way in 2013. The former gets me a free trip to France!
“It’s been the best year of my career, to be sure,” he said. “It’s a nice payoff after slogging away for so long, doing what I do and sticking stubbornly (some would say foolishly) to my own artistic vision. To paraphrase Elvis Costello: I’m an overnight sensation after working for 20 years!”
And now what?
“Next up is a collection of short stories that I’m throwing together, one that combines the frequent ‘true stories’ I do in my comic strip with longer unpublished pieces. Then I’ll pick my next ‘big’ project, and start the long, slow process of making a book. I’m hoping some writing gigs come my way from comic book publishers, too. We’ll see.”
Christmas Story Honored. Every year the Library of Congress adds 25 movies to its National Film Registry, and the latest list includes A Christmas Story, the Cleveland-connected screen tale based on the writings of Jean Shepherd.
The registry consists of movies considered culturally, historically or aesthetically significant; the goal is “to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers.”
Of A Christmas Story, the registry announcement said, “Detail after nostalgic detail rings true with period flavor. Dozens of small but expertly realized moments reflect an astute understanding of human nature.”
It is also one of a handful of Christmas movies among the hundreds in the registry, along with It’s a Wonderful Life, the original Miracle on 34th Street, Meet Me in St. Louis and the short film Peege.
You can see a detailed list of registry films through 2011 at www.loc.gov/film/registry_titles.php. I have the 2012 list — which also includes Anatomy of a Murder, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Dirty Harry, A League of Their Own, The Matrix and the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk — at the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles.
TBS, by the way, will have its annual “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” beginning at 8 p.m. Monday. The movie is also on DVD and Blu-ray.
Moved On. Veteran local radio man Trapper Jack Elliot bid farewell to morning-show listeners on WDOK (102.1-FM) this week, saying both he and fellow WDOK-er Jim McIntyre had not had their contracts renewed. Elliot had been at the station 17 years, McIntyre 18. (Co-host Jen Toohey remains, though it’s not clear who will join her. Elliot pleaded with listeners not to give her a hard time.) Elliot said he and McIntyre were given the bad news on Nov. 15, but no reason for it.
Although WDOK let Elliot say goodbye on the air, it shut the door behind him pretty quickly. A post on the station’s website about his farewell Wednesday was scrubbed before noon that day, and an audio link with his farewell had been shut down by the end of the day.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.