“Kemper was probably the closest to the stereotype of what a sex fiend, mass killer is suppose[d] to be like. The news media and public tried it with me, but I didn’t turn out to be as perverted as they’d have liked. He definitely was an outcast, a weirdo.”
Excerpt from a letter from serial killer David Berkowitz (‘Son of Sam’) to one of his regular confidante, Ms. Dee Channel, dated June 13, 1980/ Photos: Murder Capital of the world (E. Murray, 2021) and AP News Features photo, September 9, 1980
Ed Kemper, 6’9”, 280 pounds, is an American serial killer nicknamed “the Ogre of Santa Cruz”. Cannibal and necrophiliac, he has been convicted of eight murders including that of his own mother. It is with him that the term serial killer and the methods of profiling were first used.
Writer Thomas Mosdi (author of the Succubes book series) and illustrator David Jouvent (The Dragons of the Red City) retrace the journey of the serial killer who inspired the character of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, in a graphic novel that is both exciting and terrifying.
I was really looking forward to reading Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer (Under a serial killer’s skin) to see how this story that Kemper followers know so well would be told. Not being a comic book reader, I really liked this graphic novel, which is well told and beautifully drawn and colorized.
Indeed, the drawings are superb and present the facts realistically without overdoing it. The California of the 1970s is credibly represented with warm colors and images that evoke well this seaside resort that is Santa Cruz. The attention to detail in the boxes is impressive. David Jouvent is very good at drawing the Kemper character, his face, his stature. The general treatment is not particularly gory, we can feel the respect for the victims and their families.
As for the narrative thread, it is skillfully constructed around an incident that occurred during Kemper’s trial in 1973 when a doctor administered Methedrine, a methamphetamine drug that made Kemper delirious for several days and made him see his life with great lucidity and realize the horror of his crimes. [see this post for details about this incident].
This narrative structure allows to tell the story entirely from Kemper’s point of view through a narration, as if we were in his head and could hear his thoughts, his inner voice, helping us to better understand his psychological journey. The story takes a non-linear look back at key moments in Kemper’s life, such as the abuse at the hands of his mother, the murder of his grandmother, his stay at the Atascadero psychiatric hospital and the kidnapping of Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa. The story also allows us to go into Kemper’s delirium and to rub shoulders with his demons and fantasies (severed heads, zombie victims, his mother as a snake, etc.).
This graphic novel is aimed at an informed audience who, ideally, already knows a little bit about Ed Kemper’s story. For readers less familiar with his case, it may be difficult to realize the magnitude of his crimes, and to differentiate between his fantasies and reality. The crimes are not shown, nor is the trial. Some victims, such as Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu and Sara Hallett, are mentioned in passing without telling what happened to them.
Only one regret: it would have been nice, for a few of the flashback scenes, to insert dialogue between Kemper and other characters, like with his mother for example, to see Kemper in action and not just in reflection.
In short, a graphic novel that I enjoyed thoroughly but I know won’t please everyone. Some people may find this kind of book unhealthy, but I believe that it’s relevant to look into a criminal’s mind and dark soul to try to understand what motivates someone to commit such extreme acts.
**Version française de la critique**
Présentation de l’éditeur :
Ed Kemper, 2m10, 130 kilos, est un serial killer américain surnommé « l’Ogre de Santa Cruz ». Cannibale et nécrophile, il a été condamné pour huit meurtres dont celui de sa propre mère. C’est avec lui que l’on a utilisé pour la première fois le terme de tueur en série et les méthodes du profiling.
Le scénariste Thomas Mosdi (auteur des Succubes) et le dessinateur David Jouvent (Les dragons de la cité rouge) retracent le parcours du tueur en série qui a inspiré le personnage d’Hannibal Lecter dans Le Silence des Agneaux, dans une Bd à la fois passionnante et terrifiante.
J’avais très hâte de lire Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer pour voir comment serait racontée cette histoire que les amateurs de Kemper connaissent bien. N’étant pas une lectrice de bande dessinée, j’ai beaucoup aimé cette Bd, qui est bien racontée et superbement dessinée et colorée.
En effet, les dessins sont magnifiques et présentent les faits de façon réaliste sans en faire trop. La Californie des années 1970 est représentée de façon crédible avec des couleurs chaudes et des images qui évoquent bien cette station balnéaire qu’est Santa Cruz. L’attention portée aux détails dans les cases impressionne. David Jouvent réussit particulièrement bien le personnage de Kemper, son visage, sa stature. Le traitement général n’est pas particulièrement gore, on sent le respect pour les victimes et leurs familles.
Pour ce qui est de la trame narrative, elle est habilement construite autour d’un incident qui s’est produit pendant le procès de Kemper en 1973 alors qu’un médecin lui a administré du Methedrine, une drogue méthamphétamine qui a fait délirer Kemper pendant plusieurs jours et lui a fait voir sa vie avec une grande lucidité et réaliser toute l’horreur de ses crimes. [voir ce post en anglais pour les détails sur cet incident.]
Cette structure narrative permet de raconter l’histoire entièrement du point de vue de Kemper par une narration, comme si on était dans sa tête et que l’on entendait ses pensées, sa voix intérieure, nous aidant ainsi à mieux comprendre son cheminement psychologique. L’on fait ainsi des retours en arrière non linéaires où l’on revisite les moments clés de l’existence de Kemper, tels l’abus aux mains de sa mère, le meurtre de sa grand-mère, son séjour à l’hôpital psychiatrique d’Atascadero et le kidnapping de Mary Ann Pesce et Anita Luchessa. Cela permet aussi d’aller dans le délire de Kemper et de côtoyer ses démons et fantasmes (têtes coupées, victimes zombies, sa mère en serpent, etc.)
Cette Bd s’adresse à un public averti qui, idéalement, connaît déjà un peu l’histoire d’Ed Kemper. Pour les lecteurs moins familiers avec son histoire, il peut être difficile de se rendre compte de l’ampleur de ses crimes, et de faire la différence entre ses fantasmes et la réalité. Les crimes ne sont pas montrés, ni le procès. On évoque au passage certaines victimes, comme Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu et Sara Hallett, sans raconter ce qui leur est arrivé.
Un seul regret : il aurait été bien, pour quelques-unes des scènes de flashbacks, d’insérer des dialogues entre Kemper et d’autres personnages, comme avec sa mère par exemple, pour voir Kemper en action et pas seulement en réflexion.
Bref, une Bd que j’ai beaucoup appréciée mais qui, je le sais, ne plaira pas à tout le monde. Certaines personnes peuvent trouver ce genre de livre malsain, mais je crois qu’il est pertinent d’étudier l’esprit et le côté sombre de l’âme d’un criminel pour essayer de comprendre ce qui motive une personne à commettre des actes aussi extrêmes.
Sources: All images were taken from the following Facebook pages: David Jouvent’s personal page and Ed Kemper Chronicles / English title is our translation.
David Jouvent is the illustrator of the graphic novel Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer (Under a serial killer’s skin), published in French in September 2020. We asked him a few questions about the creation of this unique work.
EKS: Why did you create an album about Ed Kemper? Where did you get the idea? What was your inspiration?
DJ: The idea originally came from Jean-Luc Istin who, in 2009, had created a collection on serial killers for Soleil. He came across my work while viewing the book of my colorist Axel Gonzalbo. As he was looking for someone to draw a one-shot on Kemper… and as I had set up a project with Thomas Mosdi… things happened very naturally. To put it in context, at the time, Big Ed was totally unknown to the general public. Only a handful of insiders knew about him and there were very few articles on the net and even less pictures!! This obviously changed dramatically with the success of the Mindhunter series. My references in terms of serial killers came from Thomas Harris’ work, Psycho (by Hitchcock) and Chris Carter’s Millenium series (which I liked very much) with Lance Henriksen where there was a lot of talk about serial killers in season 1.
EKS: How was the collaboration between Thomas, Axel and you during the creation of the album?
DJ: First of all, we exchanged a lot of documentation of all kinds… I wanted to make sure that the places and atmospheres of the times fit together perfectly. For me, it is essential to be credible in my visuals, so that the reader has no doubt when he sees a telephone or inadequate vegetation (the vegetation in California is not the same as in Alaska!) As an anecdote, I had pushed the vice to the point of reproducing in detail the broken headlight of his car or the exact plate number! (laughs) Without forgetting the sticker of the university where his mother, Clarnell, worked…
EKS: You made some narrative choices for the script, such as excluding the trial and the murders of his grandfather, Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu and Sara Hallett (they are mentioned, but not shown). How did you decide what was to be shown or not shown?
DJ: The important thing (and the concept) was to speak from Ed’s point of view, how he saw things, so there was no room for the representation of the victims! If only out of respect for their families. Exit all that is gore, we were not there to make vulgar sensationalism. Just to put ourselves in this man’s skin for a moment, and try to catch a glimpse of his motivations and feelings. If this can give some kind of explanation to his (incomprehensible) actions, because we all ask ourselves this question: “how can one reach such extremes?”.
EKS: The structure of the narrative is in flashbacks with as a starting point the moment when Kemper is delirious in prison following an injection of medication that makes him revisit the events of his past. This allows you to tell the story from Kemper’s point of view and walk through his narrative. How did you come to structure the story in this way?
DJ: Indeed, this anecdote was blessed bread!! It’s more of a question to ask my screenwriter (laughs)!
EKS: For the drawings and colors, what were your aesthetic inspirations?
DJ: The idea was to give an atmosphere reminiscent of California and the 1970’s… warm colors, in a dominant sepia.
EKS: Are you working on a new project right now? If so, can you tell us a few words about it?
DJ: I have a fantasy western project based on Native American legends… but, the context is not very favorable at the moment… more to follow.
EKS: Thanks David!
**Version française de l’entrevue avec David Jouvent**
David Jouvent est le dessinateur de la bande dessinée Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, parue en français en septembre 2020. Nous lui avons posé quelques questions au sujet de la création de cette œuvre unique.
EKS : Pourquoi avoir créé un album sur Ed Kemper? D’où t’es venue l’idée? Quelle a été ton inspiration?
DJ : L’idée provient au départ de Jean-Luc Istin qui, en 2009, avait créé une collection sur les tueurs en série chez Soleil. Il était tombé sur mon travail en visionnant le book de mon coloriste Axel Gonzalbo. Comme il cherchait quelqu’un pour dessiner un one-shot sur Kemper… et que j’avais monté un projet avec Thomas Mosdi… les choses se sont faites très naturellement. Pour remettre dans le contexte, à l’époque, Big Ed était totalement inconnu du grand public. Seule une poignée d’initiés connaissait et l’on trouvait très peu d’articles sur le net et encore moins de photos !!! Cela a évidemment fortement changé avec le succès de la série Mindhunter. Mes références en termes de tueurs en série étaient issues de l’œuvre de Thomas Harris, Psychose (de Hitchcock) et la série Millenium (que j’affectionnais beaucoup) de Chris Carter avec Lance Henriksen où il était énormément question de tueurs en série dans la saison 1 !
EKS : Comment s’est déroulée la collaboration entre Thomas, Axel et toi pendant la création de l’album?
DJ : Nous nous sommes d’abord beaucoup échangés de la documentation de toutes sortes… je tenais à ce que les lieux et ambiances des époques collent parfaitement. Pour moi, il est essentiel d’être crédible dans mes visuels, que le lecteur n’ait pas de doute en voyant un téléphone ou une végétation inadéquate (la végétation de la Californie n’étant pas la même qu’en Alaska !) Pour anecdote, j’avais poussé le vice jusqu’à reproduire dans le détail le phare cassé de sa voiture ou le numéro de plaque exact ! (rires) Sans oublier l’autocollant de l’université où travaillait sa mère, Clarnell…
EKS : Vous avez fait certains choix narratifs pour le scénario, comme par exemple, vous avez exclus le procès ainsi que les meurtres de son grand-père, Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu et Sara Hallett (ils sont mentionnés, mais pas montrés). Comment avez-vous choisi ce qui allait être montré ou non?
DJ : L’important (et le concept) était de parler du point de vue d’Ed, c’est sa vision des choses, donc, la représentation des victimes n’y avait pas sa place ! Ne serait-ce que par respect pour leurs familles. Exit tout ce qui est gore, nous n’étions pas là pour faire du sensationnalisme vulgaire. Juste se mettre dans la peau de cet homme un moment, et tâcher d’entrevoir ses motivations et ressentis. Si cela peut donner une forme d’explication à ses actes (incompréhensibles), car on se pose tous cette question : “comment peut-on arriver à de telles extrêmes ?”
EKS : La structure du récit est en flashbacks avec comme point de départ, le moment où Kemper délire en prison suite à une injection de médicaments qui le fait revisiter les événements de son passé. Cela vous permet de raconter l’histoire du point de vue de Kemper et de vous promener dans son récit. Comment en êtes-vous venus à structurer le récit ainsi?
DJ : Effectivement, cette anecdote était du pain béni !!! C’est plus une question à poser à mon scénariste (rires) !
EKS : Pour les dessins et les couleurs, quelles ont été vos inspirations esthétiques?
DJ : L’idée était de donner une ambiance qui rappelle la Californie et les années 1970… des couleurs chaudes, dans une dominante sépia.
EKS : Travailles-tu sur un nouveau projet de BD en ce moment? Si oui, peux-tu nous en dire quelques mots?
DJ : J’ai un projet de western fantastique basé sur des légendes amérindiennes… mais, le contexte n’est pas très propice en ce moment… à suivre.
EKS : Merci David!
Sources: All photos were taken from the following Facebook pages: David Jouvent’s personal page and Ed Kemper Chronicles/ English title is our translation.
In the summer of 2018, I went to Santa Cruz, California, and visited places that were important in Ed Kemper’s story. Of course, I went to see the house where he lived with his mother and where he murdered her and her friend, Sally Hallett.
The house is located in Aptos at 609A Ord Road (ground floor), but it appears under 609 Harriet Avenue on Google Streetview. The two streets meet, and the other house is behind Kemper’s. It’s a bit unclear and I remember that Kemper had mentioned in his 1984 interview for No Apparent Motive that the police had confused the two addresses when they came to take away his .44 magnum gun in 1973.
It’s located in a really lovely and quiet residential neighbourhood. When you come from the highway, you pass through a wooded area before getting to the residential area. Kemper’s house stands out as it is one of the only ones on the street that has two floors. There are a lot of trees and flowers in the neighbourhood.
I was hoping to see the inside of the house. As I was gathering my courage to go ring the doorbell, a SUV arrived and parked in the driveway. A woman and her young daughter came out and headed for the 609A door. I approached the woman and told her why I was there. She was aware of Kemper’s story. I asked if it was possible to see inside the house. She said no, but that it was ok to take pictures outside. She said that a lot of people come to see the house.
The house has been regularly for sale since the murders. It is currently off the market, as it sold in May 2019 for more than 1,5 million dollars USD.
Photo sources: Edmund Kemper Stories / realtor.com
These new images were released a few days ago on Facebook by cartoonist David Jouvent.
The release date has been pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will come out in France on August 26, 2020. Published in French by Éditions Robinson (Hachette), the book is 48 pages long.
Ed Kemper, 6’9″, 280 pounds, is an American serial killer nicknamed “the Ogre of Santa Cruz”. Cannibal and necrophile, he was convicted for 8 murders including that of his own mother. It was with him that the term serial killer and profiling methods were used for the first time.
Scriptwriter Thomas Mosdi (author of Les Succubes) and cartoonist David Jouvent (Les dragons de la cité rouge) retrace the journey of the serial killer who inspired the character of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, in a comic book both exciting and terrifying.
Margaret Cheney has written books about the environment, a scientist,
the University of California – and mass murderer Edmund Kemper.
“I was more or less interested in seeing whether I could do it,” said
Cheney, who wrote the book about the Santa Cruz County killer in 1976 and has just
published an updated version titled, “Why: The Serial Killer in America.”
The original book was called “The Coed Killer”, because six of Kemper’s
victims were young women he picked up on college campuses in 1972 and 1973.
Most of his victims were students at UC-Santa Cruz.
Cheney said she decided to publish the new version after she was
contacted by criminologist Harry Miller, who was trying to find a copy of the
original book, then out of print.
Cheney, of Hollister, conducted new interviews with psychologists and
criminologist for the new book about Kemper’s gruesome murders.
The book questions the early diagnosis of Kemper, who killed his
grandparents when he was 15, in 1964. He was sent to a mental hospital and
later to the California Youth Authority.
Despite the recommendations of doctors that Kemper not be paroled to his
mother, the Youth Authority did just that. Kemper’s final victims were his
mother and her friend in April 1973 at the mother’s Seacliff apartment. He
turned himself in several days later and admitted everything.
“If Kemper had been diagnosed as a classic sadist, perhaps we wouldn’t
have had these murders,” because Kemper would have been kept locked up longer,
The book refers to a 1991 FBI study that traces certain confused
behavior in childhood to violence in later life.
Cheney writes about an incident when Kemper was a small boy and told one
of his sisters he wanted to kiss his teacher. When the sister asked him why he
didn’t do it, Kemper replied, “I’d have to kill her first.”
That response should have been a tipoff that Kemper could turn violent
later on, Cheney said. When telling authorities about the murders, Kemper said
he felt he could “own” the women by killing them.
Another indicator of future violent behavior, Cheney said, was when the
young Kemper killed a cat. Cheney recently joined the Latham Foundation, an
Alameda-based group that believes childhood abuse of animals can lead to
violence in later life.
“We’re trying to get social workers and veterinarians” to be aware of
the ramifications of such cruelty, Cheney said.
Cheney was a consultant for a CBS-TV special, “Inside The Criminal Mind,”
a portion of which is about Kemper. No broadcast date has been set.
“Why: The Serial Killer in America,” is published by R&E Publishers, of Saratoga.
Source: “Author focuses on mass murderer”, Register-Pajaronian, December 22, 1992, by Lane Wallace, staff writer; Photo by Kurt Ellison
This Polaroid of Ed Kemper recently surfaced on the Supernaught website. It was taken in 1993 at the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville. Sitting next to Kemper is his younger sister Allyn, who regularly visits him, still to this day. The other man on the picture is Mike, an inmate at the CMF who was released a few years later. His wife is sitting next to him with their baby son.
This mugshot was taken at the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville on June 5, 1995. It was uncovered in 2018 as it was part of a series of items Kemper had given in the early 1990s to a former CMF inmate whom he befriended.
Recently managed to fetch a copy of this hard-to-find magazine. It features one of the most important and thorough interviews done with Ed Kemper. Reporter Marj Von B had covered Kemper’s arrest and trial, mostly for the Watsonville newspaper, the Register-Pajaronian. This interview was done on November 8, 1973, the day of Kemper’s conviction on eight counts of first-degree murder, in the killings of six coeds, his mother and her best friend. He was to be sentenced the next day to life in prison. Kemper had appreciated Marj Von B’s fair treatment of his case in her articles for the newspaper, and kept his promise to give her an exclusive interview before going to prison.
In the interview, Marj Von B gives her impressions of Kemper, as she spent the day and most of the evening with him, talking about the case:
“My visit with Kemper was an unforgettable experience, inducing a collage of feelings. As he talked on and on, he was many things.
A lonely young man, grateful for companionship on the eve of what was certainly to be his last day outside prison.
An angry and bitter sibling recalling what he felt was rejection and a lack of love from a divorced father who “cared more for his second family than he did us.”
A son who alternately hated and “loved” a mother he described as a “manhater” who had three husbands and “took her violent hatred of my father out on me.”
A sometimes wry and boastful raconteur, chronicling the events of his life and a person quick to see the humorous side of things and laugh, even if the joke is on him.
An anguished and remorseful killer when speaking of the coeds whose bodies he had sexually assaulted after death and of the “pain” he had caused their families. “The day those fathers [of the Pesce and Luchessa girls] testified in court was very hard for me … I felt terrible. I wanted to talk to them about their daughters, comfort them … But what could I say?”
Kemper also was a person who momentarily precipitated in me a flush of terror and then allayed my misgivings by faultlessly assuming the role of the gracious host.”