My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the debut graphic novel of Emil Ferris. It portrays a young girl named Karen Reyes investigating the death of her neighbor in 1960s Chicago. Ferris started working on the graphic novel after contracting West Nile virus and becoming paralyzed at age 40. She attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for writing and began the graphic novel to help her recover in 2010, taking six years to create 700 pages. The graphic novel draws on Ferris's childhood growing up in Chicago and her love of monsters and horror media. The process of creating the work was difficult, with Ferris working long hours and living very frugally, and publishing met setbacks such as Ferris needing to find a new publisher and the first volume's printing being temporarily seized en route at the Panama Canal.
The first volume was published by Fantagraphics on February 14, 2017. The graphic novel won the 2017 Ignatz Award for "Outstanding Graphic Novel" and three 2018 Eisner Awards, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters has received critical acclaim and is considered by many critics to be one of the best graphic novels of 2017.
Prior to working in comics, Ferris was a freelance illustrator and toy designer. After contracting West Nile virus at age 40 in 2002, Ferris became paralyzed from the waist down and lost the use of her right hand, preventing her from drawing and doing freelance work. The origin for My Favorite Thing Is Monsters was a screenplay Ferris wrote of "a werewolf lesbian girl being enfolded into the protective arms of a Frankenstein trans kid". The theme of two outsiders was then carried over to a short story she wrote in 2004. While attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for an M.F.A. in creative writing, Ferris taught herself drawing again and began work on My Favorite Thing Is Monsters to recover. Starting in 2010, it took Ferris six years to complete the manuscript. Her thesis formed the first 24 pages of the graphic novel and secured her a publisher. Ferris often worked 16-hour days and lived very frugally while working on the graphic novel. She averaged a rate of around a page every two days. Ferris said that the drawing process required effort to manipulate her drawing hand properly, which, even after recovery, did not regain the same dexterity.
– Emil Ferris
Many aspects of the graphic novel are inspired by Ferris' childhood. Ferris was obsessed with monsters as a child, eagerly looking forward to Creature Features on Saturday nights, which had monsters she would weep for. Ferris had scoliosis, and to get attention on the playground, she told ghost and horror stories. The protagonist Karen's portrayal as a werewolf reflects how Ferris saw herself as a child—viewing the oppressive social role her beautiful mother, as well as other humans, had to play. The graphic novel is set in Chicago during the late 1960s, and Ferris grew up in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Her parents were both artists, and she would often visit their alma mater, the Art Institute of Chicago, which is featured in the graphic novel. As a child, Ferris was part of a theatrical troupe near the Graceland Cemetery—which she visited hoping to find monsters or a ghost—and the graphic novel includes the Eternal Silence sculpture from the cemetery. Ferris gained an understanding of World War II by talking to the Holocaust survivors who lived in the neighborhood of Rogers Park which she had moved to. She would visit the owner of a gallery who had an identification number tattoo, as well as talk to elderly survivors, forming a connection between their experiences and monsters.
In terms of artistic influences, Ferris was exposed to the works of Francisco Goya and Honoré Daumier as a child, as well as Collier's Illustrated Dickens. The latter's "articulated and atmospheric" drawings were an experience that Ferris wanted to replicate. Cartoonists who were influences for her were Robert Crumb, Alison Bechdel, and Art Spiegelman. She has also cited horror film posters and stories from EC Comics as influences for the mock covers. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters was mainly drawn using a Bic ballpoint pen and text written with Paper Mate's felt tip Flair pen. As drawing directly on notebook paper made corrections difficult, Ferris used a drawing layer over a notebook layer. Ferris did not use outlines while drawing, instead letting images that were evoked collect visually in her head. The presentation of the graphic novel as a spiral-bound diary was an autobiographical aspect, with Ferris' classmates always passing around her notebooks. Ferris eschewed panels because she felt that she needed freedom and that readers needed a visually dense experience.
While halfway through work on My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Ferris had to find a new publisher when the first one, Other Press, said it was too large and that they could not properly market it. After receiving 48 rejections for 50 submissions, the graphic novel was picked up by Fantagraphics. The graphic novel was originally over 700 pages, but Fantagraphics split it into two volumes to keep the price reasonable. Publication was set for October 31, 2016, to coincide with Halloween. In October, the ship containing the print run of the graphic novel—10,000 copies—was seized at the Panama Canal due to the freight company, Hanjin Shipping, having gone bankrupt. While the ship was released by the Panamanian government later that month, publication was still delayed due to the media campaign being pushed to February 2017 in anticipation of a required reprint. The first volume of the graphic novel was published by Fantagraphics on February 14, 2017. In March 2017, Sony Pictures won an auction for the film rights to the graphic novel, with Amasia Entertainment's Bradley Gallo and Michael Helfant producing. Sam Mendes is in early talks to possibly direct.
On November 3, 2016, in order to raise funds for the second volume of the graphic novel and a new computer, Ferris ran a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe, raising eleven thousand dollars. The second volume will receive an initial print run of 30,000 copies and was originally slated for an October 2017 release. The graphic novel has also been published in France by Monsieur Toussaint Louverture, in Canada by Éditions Alto, in Italy by Bao Publishing, in Spain by Reservoir Books, and in Germany by Panini.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters has been critically acclaimed. Reviewers for the graphic novel have noted the quality of Ferris' artwork and writing compared to her inexperience in comics publishing. Douglas Wolk of The New York Times said that Ferris has a "portraitist's skill with tiny subtleties of expression and lighting and a New Objectivist's eye for the raw grotesquerie of bodies and their surroundings". The graphic novel has also been received positively by other notable comics artists. Art Spiegelman told The New York Times that Ferris is "one of the most important comics artists of our time" and that she "uses the sketchbook idea as a way to change the grammar and syntax of the comics page". The cover of the graphic novel also features praise from Chris Ware and Alison Bechdel.
Paul Tumey of The Comics Journal compared the cross-hatching used to "both vividly delineate detailed forms and evoke a wide palette of emotion" to the work of Robert Crumb and likening the graphic novel to a patchwork quilt he owns, called it "weird, unique, [and] lovingly crafted from caring and devotion". Oliver Sava of The A.V. Club called the graphic novel a masterpiece, saying that it stands out against contemporary graphic novels with its "visual splendor, narrative ingenuity, and emotional impact", concluding that "Ferris immediately establishes herself as one of the most exciting, provocative talents in the comics industry". John Powers of NPR said that "for all its stylistic tour-de-forciness, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is filled with emotion", finding that "every page feels like it's been secreted from the very core of [Ferris'] being".
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters has charted on the Publishers Weekly graphic novel best seller list. In March 2017, the graphic novel received a second print run of 30,000 copies, the largest second printing Fantagraphics had ever done. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters garnered three nominations at the 2017 Ignatz Awards—"Outstanding Artist" for Ferris; "Outstanding Graphic Novel" and "Outstanding Story" for the graphic novel—winning "Outstanding Artist" and "Outstanding Graphic Novel". The graphic novel was nominated for five 2018 Eisner Awards: Best Graphic Album–New, Best Writer/Artist, Best Coloring, Best Lettering, and Best Publication Design. It won Best Graphic Album–New, Best Writer/Artist, and Best Coloring. It was also nominated for a Hugo Award for "Best Graphic Story" in 2018. The graphic novel has been considered by many critics as one of the best of 2017 at: The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Comic Book Resources, The A.V. Club, and The Comics Journal. In a tabulation of 136 "Best Comics of 2017" lists, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters received the most mentions.
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- Dueben, Alex. "My Favorite Thing is Monsters Author Talks 2017's Buzziest Graphic Novel". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Serrao, Nivea. "Emil Ferris' My Favorite Thing is Monsters: Hanjin shipping crisis affects graphic novel". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
- Reid, Calvin. "Fantagraphics Has Surprise Hit in Debut 'My Favorite Thing is Monsters'". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Reid, Calvin. "Bankrupt Shipping Company Causing Woes for Publishers". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
- Levitt, Aimee. "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters lost at sea—literally [UPDATED]". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
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- Tumey, Paul. "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters". The Comics Journal. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Fleming Jr., Mike. "Graphic Novel 'My Favorite Thing Is Monsters' Sells To Sony". Deadline. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
- Kroll, Justin. "Sam Mendes Circling 'My Favorite Thing Is Monsters' at Sony". Variety. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
- Ferris, Emil. "You Can Be In My Graphic Novel!". GoFundMe. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
- "Moi, ce que j'aime, c'est les monstres". Monsieur Toussaint Louverture (in French). Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- "Moi, ce que j'aime, c'est les monstres". Éditions Alto (in French). Retrieved 12 September 2018.
- Fantoni, Lorenzo. "La mia cosa preferita sono i mostri, un fumetto tra cultura pop e dramma storico". Wired (in Italian). Retrieved 7 May 2018.
- Jiménez, Jesús. "'Lo que más me gusta son los monstruos', la novela gráfica del año". rtve (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 June 2018.
- "Am liebsten mag ich Monster". Panini (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Mouly, Françoise; Bormes, Genevieve. "A Graphic Novel About a Young Girl, a Murder, and the Allure of Monsters". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Wolk, Douglas. "New Graphic Novels Detail Personal Journeys and Twists of Fate". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Hoang, Lily. "Monster, Monster, On the Wall". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Cavna, Michael. "How Emil Ferris became the breakout graphic novelist of the year". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Sava, Oliver. "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a brilliant, eye-opening graphic novel debut". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Powers, John. "'My Favorite Thing Is Monsters' Is A Dazzling, Graphic Novel Tour-De-Force". NPR. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Macdonald, Heidi. "My Favorite Thing is Monsters gets 30,000 second printing". Comics Beat. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Macdonald, Heidi. "2017 Ignatz Nominations include a new category; three noms for Ferris". Comics Beat. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "2017 Ignatz Awards Winners (Full List)". Newsarama. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
- "2018 Eisner Awards Nominations". Newsarama. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
- Brown, Tracy. "'My Favorite Thing Is Monsters' and 'Monstress' lead 2018 Eisner Awards nominations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
- McMillan, Graeme. "Eisner Awards: The Complete Winners List". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
- Cavna, Michael. "Hugo Award nomination bodes well for breakout 'Monsters' author Emil Ferris". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
- Garner, Dwight; Senior, Jennifer; Sehgal, Parul; Maslin, Janet. "Times Critics' Top Books of 2017". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "'My Favorite Thing Is Monsters' Tops Annual 'PW' Graphic Novel Critics Poll". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Dueben, Alex. "Best Comics of 2017: My Favorite Thing is Monsters Already a Classic". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Sava, Oliver; Rosberg, Caitlin; Hennum, Shea. "The best comics of 2017". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- "The Best Comics of 2017". The Comics Journal. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
- Johnston, Rich. "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris, the Best Reviewed Comic of 2017". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 14 February 2018.