'Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio' Graphic Novel Revisits 1970s Student Shooting Tragedy

The deaths of four protestors in 1970 will be at the center of the next project from the cartoonist behind 'My Friend Dahmer.'
Derf Backderf/Abrams ComicArts

In May 1970, four students at Kent State University were shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard, with nine others wounded as a result of the shootings. Approximately 67 rounds were fired into a crowd of Vietnam War protestors for 13 seconds, leading to widespread condemnation and the creation of the Scranton Commission to study political dissent on college campuses. Next year, a new graphic novel will explore what happened at Kent State during that time.

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio is the latest project by Derf Backderf, the award-winning creator of Trashed and My Friend Dahmer, the latter of which was adapted into a 2017 movie starring Ross Lynch, Anne Heche and Alex Wolff. Two days before the shooting happened, Backderf — then 10 years old — saw the same National Guard soldiers involved in a shooting in his hometown, giving him a personal connection to the tragedy when it happened.

For Four Dead in Ohio, Backderf conducted all-new research and interviews to get to the truth about what happened, as he recreates the events leading up to the shooting and looks in-depth at who the four young people were before their deaths. The result is a project that, in the words of publisher Abrams ComicArts, is "a powerful story that is still relevant" in today’s America.

The graphic novel will be published in April 2020, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the shootings. Backderf will be appearing at the Abrams ComicArts 10th anniversary party on April 23 at 6 p.m. at the Society of Illustrators Museum of Illustration in New York City, alongside editorial director Charles Kochman, editor Charlotte Greenbaum and art director Pamela Notarantonio.