'Jeffrey Dahmer. An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer', 1992. 

Al Hanford is a (presumably) U.S. illustrator and comic artist, whose single contribution to the medium appears to be the one-shot comic book 'Jeffrey Dahmer. An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer' (Boneyard Press, 1992). Released only a few months after the arrest of notorious serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, the comic caused tremendous controversy. Critics felt the book was exploitative and in bad taste, and some families of the victims sued Boneyard Press. But the publication also increased Boneyard's notoriety and sales, paving the way for several other comics about Dahmer and other real-life controversial people. From this viewpoint, Hanford was responsible for the company's breakthrough. He incidentally also made history by being the first person to draw a comic book about Jeffrey Dahmer. Other artists who've drawn comic books about Dahmer have been Eric Gnoeff, Nelson Danielson and Derf Backderf

Life and career
Virtually nothing is known about Al Hanford, other than he was a newspaper illustrator in the early 1990s. In 1992, he was hired by publisher Hart D. Fisher of Boneyard Press, a company specialized in adult comics. At the time, Boneyard mostly published fantasy and crime comics, often with an emphasis on horror, sex and black comedy. A Pennsylvania-based illustrator and art director named Allen Hanford might be the same artist.

Jeffrey Dahmer: An Unauthorized Biography
In the summer of 1991, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The mentally disturbed man had kidnapped, murdered, dismembered, cannibalized and posthumously raped up to 17 victims. He kept body parts in his fridge, others in vats of muriatic acid. On 17 February 1992, Dahmer was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. The case shocked the world, but the sheer sensation also led to excessive media attention and coverage. Around this time, the publisher of Northstar Studios, Dan Madsen, had recently sold off his company. He suggested to Hart D. Fisher, publisher of Boneyard Press, to make a biographical comic book about Dahmer, in the style of Kitty Kelly's controversial "tell all" biography about First Lady Nancy Reagan, 'Nancy Reagan. The Unauthorized Biography' (1991). At first, Fisher had no interest. But what eventually made him change his mind was Dahmer being mentioned in an article of People Magazine as one of the "Top 25 Most Intriguing People of 1991". It "sickened" him that this "scumbag pedophile" was marketed as "some kind of handsome intriguing dark heartthrob".

In August 1992, Boneyard Press released a graphic novel, 'Jeffrey Dahmer. An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer' (on the cover, the first name was misspelled as "Jeffery"). The script of the 20-page story was written by publisher Hart D. Fisher himself, while Al Hanford provided the artwork. Some sources have erroneously claimed that the artist was Eric Gnoeff, but he only illustrated the cover. The book kicks off with Dahmer reminiscing in his cell. Through a series of flashbacks, his awful life and horrid crimes are told. Contrary to what many people might expect, the graphic novel is a tasteful account of Dahmer's crimes, made with a lot of effort and respect for his victims. Fisher and Hanford actually went to the library to obtain information and newspaper photos. Sometimes, by lack of the desired visual material or detailed descriptions, they had to rely on their own imagination. In this process, they unavoidably made some errors, like the physical look of some of the victims. Other than that, 'Jeffrey Dahmer, An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer' is remarkably well-researched, respectful and subdued. The gory details of Dahmer's crimes are mentioned, but not shown in graphic detail. The authors make it absolutely clear that they despise this vicious killer. He is described as a "pathetic excuse for a human life" and the policeman who has to guard him from taking his life a "waste of tax payer's money."


'Jeffrey Dahmer. An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer', 1992. 

Controversy
Although Fisher and Hanford's 'Jeffrey Dahmer' was a serious attempt at a biopic, the book nevertheless caused tremendous controversy. A sensation-crazy journalist from Milwaukee bought copies and confronted the victims' families with it. Some of them sued Boneyard Press. Fisher's distributor, Capital City Distribution, went so far to destroy over 1,200 copies, instead of shipping them out to the retailers who paid for them. The "Dahmer comic book" soon grew into a huge media story, outraging moral guardians and general audiences. Many felt a comic about an only recently arrested serial killer was in extraordinarily bad taste. As it often goes, all the negative publicity actually increased Boneyard Press' sales, with Fisher and Hanford's book becoming a collector's item, given that some many first-run copies had now been destroyed. To celebrate their higher sales, Fisher organized a huge barbecue at his house in Champaign, Illinois, with a live band, Third Stone, in attendance. About 60 protesters, some relatives of Dahmer's victims, rallied in front of the building. 

Now dubbed "the most dangerous man in the comic industry", Fisher gave several interviews to defend his and Hanford's comic, based on the freedom of speech as guaranteed in the U.S. constitution. He was interviewed by Larry King on CNN and even appeared in the trash talk show of Jerry Springer. In Fisher's opinion, there was nothing exploitative about his comic, certainly not compared with all the magazines, newspapers, radio and TV channels who cashed in on the tragic killings. He mentioned that some sleazy people even tried to sell "crime memorabilia" from Dahmer's house, while all he and Hanford did was publish a biographical graphic novel about this notorious criminal. Fisher also pointed out that most people had obviously not even read their comic. Some were prejudiced against the medium itself, thinking that comics are meant for children. In a particular interview on 'Larry King Live', a sister of one of Dahmer's victims mostly criticized Fisher over the fact that she and her brother, who were African-American, were drawn as Caucasians in the comic book, not anything else. Fisher fully admitted that he had no idea of her and her late brother's race when he did research for the book and took responsibility for his mistake. Other than that he had "no apologies."

Although Boneyard's sales increased, several businesses refused to work with Fisher anymore. Most of his income went into paying lawyers. However, he won all of the court cases filed against him. Journalists tried to demonize him as a depraved, uneducated fiend, while he was in fact a university graduate coming from a good household. He became subject of death threats, vandalism, stalkers and attacks. When a local news report stated that Fisher left town to visit a Fangoria Horror Convention, burglars took the opportunity to break into his house and rob the place. Fisher said that the one community who always supported him were metalheads. Whenever he encountered musicians or fans at conventions and festivals, they always helped him and encouraged him to continue.

Embracing his new status as "enfant terrible" of the comic world, Fisher would release three extra comic books about Dahmer. Compared with Hanford's comic, these new titles were far more shocking, tasteless and silly. 'The Further Adventures of Young Jeffy Dahmer' (October, 1992), scripted by Fisher and drawn by Eric Gnoeff, is a humor comic about Dahmer's so-called childhood. Inside, Fisher defends himself and his company against all the accusations of being disrespectful. The book also features photographs of the protesters who marched in front of his house. But Fisher kept throwing oil on the fire. His next release was Nelson Danielson's 'Dahmer's Zombie Squad' (February 1993), featuring the infamous cannibal necrophile creating an army of the living dead, while Danielson's 'Jeffrey Dahmer vs. Jesus Christ' (February 1993) offended everybody even one step further by taking a blasphemous route. Fisher also took a Miller Brewing shirt and altered the logo so that it read "Milwaukee's Best", while printing the cover illustration of Danielson's Dahmer comic over it. When a journalist sent some of these shirts to Miller's, they sent Fisher a cease and desist order for copyright infringement. Fisher found this so hilarious that he simply hung it to his fridge, instead of replying. Over the course of a decade, Boneyard Publishing published additional graphic novels based on heavily mediatized crime cases, some serious in tone, others plain silly.

Despite being responsible for Boneyard Publishing's breakthrough, Hanford never made another comic for them again. It is unknown whether he even drew other comics for other companies altogether. But he did pave the way for several other comic books about Dahmer, including Derf Backderf's more serious and critically acclaimed 'My Friend Dahmer' (Abrams ComicArt, 2012), a first-hand account of his high school years with the future criminal.


'Jeffrey Dahmer. An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer', 1992. 

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