Virtual Memories Show 395:
Derf Backderf

“There have been a lot of stories written about Kent State, but I was going to tell it through the eyes and the experiences of the four people we lost that day.”

With Kent State: Four Dead In Ohio (Abrams ComicArts), Derf Backderf not only creates a graphic history of one of America’s darkest chapters, he gives voice to the students killed by the National Guard 50 years ago and warns us about the times ahead. We talk about the legacy of the Kent State shootings, what Kent State taught America about the suppression of dissent and what we must learn from it as protests grow across the country, as well as the research and work that went into this book, the ways in which it challenged him as a comics artist, how he rendered the mundane aspects of life for both the students and the guardsmen, and his own childhood connection to the events leading up to the massacre. We also get into the unique power of comics to tell this story, how cartoons and other pop culture covered the Vietnam protests in that era, the international book tour that would have accompanied the originally planned release of this book last spring, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Kent State! (& check out our 2015 live podcast)

“We have spent 50 years developing and deploying this huge array of crowd control armaments to our police force, specifically to control civil unrest. It’s truly scary, the weapons that the government is willing to deploy against its own citizenry.”

“When you have some experience, you have a relationship with your work, and you always shoot for this: This is the best book I can do at this moment in time. That leaves you some leeway, some element of forgiveness, for when you get better a few books down the road.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Derf Backderf is the bestselling author of My Friend Dahmer and the recipient of the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for political cartooning. His weekly comic strip, The City, appeared in more than one hundred newspapers over the past twenty-two years. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio. His new book is Kent State: Four Dead In Ohio.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Derf by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

derfcoverVirtual Memories Show #139:
Derf Backderf

“My art has become good enough to tell the stories I want to tell. I’m a broken down punk rock geezer, but I’m still a relatively young cartoonist. I’ve only been doing long-form comics since 2010.”

Live from CXC! Derf Backderf made a mid-career course correction, going from alt-weekly cartoons to full-length graphic novels like My Friend Dahmer and his new book Trashed (Abrams Comicarts). In this live podcast, we talk about that transition, how he became political years after being a political cartoonist, the impact of Ohio’s rustbelt disintegration on his worldview, and the surprise of his success in Europe. How do you go from garbageman to winner of the Angouleme prize? Find out from Derf Backderf in this week’s Virtual Memories ShowGive it a listen! (And go buy Trashed!)

“The most surprising and one of the most personally satisfying thing to me has been the success I’ve had in Europe, especially France. . . . I walked around Paris last week just laughing; I can’t believe my luck.”

We also talk about the glory days of alt-weekly comics, the mental gymnastics necessary to write Jeffrey Dahmer as a human being, Derf’s observations and adventures in the French comics market, why he decided not to do a book about his cancer experience, how he made more cartoonist-friends after Joyce Brabner kicked him in the ass about being a recluse, and why it’s so much fun to develop good characters who can drive a story. Go listen! 

“I did an interview with a big national newspaper in France . . . and the opening question was, ‘We know the rust belt for three things: LeBron James, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and you.'”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Derf Backderf was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, outside of Akron. He began his comix career as a political cartoonist, first at The Ohio State University, then at a dying daily paper in South Florida. He was fired for, as the editor put it, “general tastelessness.” Derf then gravitated to the free weekly press where his cranky, freeform comic strip, The City, appeared in over 140 papers during its 24-year run. As weekly papers began to wither, Derf moved to graphic novels, starting with Punk Rock and Trailer Parks (SLG Publishing, 2010). He followed that with the international bestseller, My Friend Dahmer (Abrams Comicarts, 2012) which was awarded an Angoulême Prize and named to the American Library Assocation’s list of The 100 Greatest Graphic Novels. His latest book is Trashed (Abrams Comicarts, 2015), a rollicking Rustbelt epic about garbagemen, a career Derf himself enjoyed when he dropped out of college for a spell. His books have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Korean. Derf also won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his political cartoons, and has been nominated for Eisner, Ignatz, Harvey and Rueben Awards. He lives in Cleveland, for reasons he can no longer recall.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, OH during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus in October 2015 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me & Mr. Backderf by Amy Roth.