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Conversing on Comics with Derf Backderf

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Derf Backderf spent the first 40 years of his life aiming, and ultimately succeeding, to become one of the top cartoonists in alternative newspapers. However, he then realized that niche industry was failing, and he needed something else; that’s when he found graphic novels.

Since switching his focus from newspaper strips to graphic novels in 2000, Backderf has transformed from a virtual unknown to a curiosity to an international star, with books like Punk Rock & Trailer Parks and his most famous work, My Friend Dahmer. He’s now working on on a graphic novel for Abrams about his time working as a garbageman, as well as a pseudo-sequel to Punk Rock & Trailer Parks that explores his time growing up in the Midwest punk scene.

Backderf’s opinion on comics as a fan and as a professional has changed over the years as he’s witness the decline of the once-thriving alternative weeklies, the rise of graphic novels and the changing face of American comics. I spoke with Backderf about his experiences, his acceptance in Europe, and his own opinions on comics.

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Derf Backderf celebrates 11 years well spent

Backderf at the Angouleme International Comics Festival last January

Backderf at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in January

Derf Backderf, author of My Friend Dahmer, has a poignant post on his blog marking the 11th anniversary of the end of his cancer treatment:

On that grey day in November when I walked out of the Radiology Department in the basement of University Hospitals for the final time, I was exhausted, sporting several ghastly scars and missing a few chunks of my body, battered and roasted to a crisp, but happy. I’d made it.

Cancer messes with your head. I always thought I’d live to a ripe old age like my grandfather, who lived to 105 (his brother lived to 108!), but my body started to fall apart at age 35  like a Chevy Vega. On that November 18th, I was determined to make the most out of whatever time I had left.

And he did; in the past 11 years he has completed three graphic novels, including the award-winning My Friend Dahmer, published five minicomics, two webcomics and numerous other works, traveled to France and Belgium, won multiple comics awards, and, on a personal note, watched his children grow up and his parents grow old.

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Derf ends his comic strip ‘The City’ after 24 years

The final installment of "The City"

The final installment of “The City”

Derf Backderf, creator of the acclaimed memoir My Friend Dahmer, has ended his weekly comic strip The City after 24 years.

“I’m ending the strip so I can concentrate full-time on graphic novels,” he announced today on his blog. “It’s all good. I’m not slinking away from a failed endeavor as a washed-up has-been. I’m leaving it behind in a blaze of glory, as a newly minted, internationally-best-selling comix creator. The past couple years have been the best of my career. After 30 years of toil as a (at best) cult favorite to suddenly find success? I’m loving every fucking minute of it! I simply no longer have the time, nor, quite frankly, the desire, to devote to The City. Typically, it takes almost two full workdays to write and draw one strip. That’s time better devoted to other projects.”

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Derf announces ‘Trashed’ graphic novel

dert-trashedDerf Backderf, creator of the acclaimed memoir My Friend Dahmer, has signed a deal with Abrams Books to publish his next graphic novel, based on his webcomic Trashed.

“This past summer, I took down most of the Trashed Webcomic, announced it was permanently retired and instead unveiled an entirely new webcomic, The Baron of Prospect Ave.,” he wrote on his blog. “What I couldn’t reveal at the time was that Abrams had approached me about turning the Trashed Webcomic into a full-fledged graphic novel! I already had a couple new episodes written at that point, with the intention of starting the project up anew this past summer. So those became part of the new book. I spent the remainder of 2013 writing and drawing.”

Trashed, in its original form, was released in 2002 by SLG Publishing; it’s a comic memoir of the year he spent as a garbageman in his rural hometown. When he revisited the project in 2010 as a webcomic, he added fictional characters and situations. As he explained on his website, “It didn’t really happen but, trust me, it’s all too real.”

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