Welcome back to Double Feature, our new recurring comics column in which we take a look at two graphic novels with similar themes. It’s like seeing a double feature at the old drive-in theater, except you don’t have to pretend your station wagon is as comfortable as your couch. Today, we take a look at two chilling graphic novels about real serial killers.
Green River Killer: A True Detective Story – Jeff Jensen, Jonathan Case
Written by the son of the very detective who hunted Seattle’s most infamous serial killer to date, Green River Killer is as much a tale of a man’s personal quest for answers as it is a graphic insight into the mind of a killer. Jensen tells the story of his father’s meticulous journey to grant closure to the 48 separate slain victims’ families, which spanned over a quarter of a century. Though the story is more the detective’s than the killer’s, there are some genuinely unsettling moments that are sure to get under your skin and stay there. The most deeply frightening moments do not come from what you’d expect from the archetype of a serial killer; rather, his gentle, unassuming demeanor and the way he calmly explains the where, how, and the motives behind his murders are the creepiest of all. Case’s illustrations blend so seamlessly with the story, it’s as though they could be snapshots in time from the detective’s life.
Fans of true crime stories and horror culture should get behind this book immediately; it’s one psychological thriller that will be remembered as a classic.
My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf
John “Derf” Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer tells a harrowing, beautifully drawn tale of his experience growing up with the terminally awkward, antisocial teenager Jeffrey Dahmer before he became the legendary serial killer. Backderf seemed to remain a neutral participant throughout both the friendship and torment of Dahmer’s high school life, both egging him on as he humiliated himself for the attention of his peers and taking a back seat as he was bullied by those in a higher social hierarchy. Though some of the most chilling moments in the novel come from Backderf’s insight about Dahmer’s early troubling tendencies – such as his alcoholism, antisocial tendencies, and habit for killing animals – he refrains from speculating too much with pop psychology or blaming those who surrounded Dahmer for not catching the signs. Instead, it’s an honest memoir of his own teenage years spent as a nerdy misfit passively looking at someone who barely even fit in with him and his friends. At the end of the book comes a real treat, and possibly the most frightening thing about it: several annotations about the exact sources and any artistic embellishments that were made which are just as fascinating as the novel, if you’re horror junkies like us.