Emil Ferris (BFA 2008, MFA 2010) is a graphic novelist whose first book, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, has been praised by critics since its publication in 2017. The book presents itself as the lined notebook diary of a preteen self-avowed werewolf who questions her sexual identity. Set in Chicago in the 1960s, the book is autobiographically infused as Ferris—like her protagonist Karen Reyes—was witness to the highly charged political and social climate of that time. The main character is interested in cultural subjects that have profoundly shaped Ferris herself, including B movies of the Hammer variety, Entertaining Comics (EC) horror magazines, and the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ferris’ protagonist recreates EC-inspired horror comic covers in ballpoint pen, as well as many significant paintings that hang in the Art Institute of Chicago. Journalists have noted how the book parallels themes of monstrosity and otherness.
The story of the graphic novel’s production is nearly as interesting as the book itself. In 2002, at 40 years of age, Ferris was bitten by a mosquito and infected with West Nile Virus. She suffered lower body paralysis as well as the substantially diminished use of her dominant drawing hand. Consequently, Ferris enrolled at SAIC and was introduced to such graphic novels as Maus, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Persepolis, and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. While studying, Ferris recovered much of her mobility. She left SAIC with a BFA, an MFA from the Writing program, and the first 24 pages of what would later become My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Ferris cites art making as being critically important to her survival of childhood disability as well as subsequent physical challenges.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters has been published in nine languages and honored with numerous awards, among them: the Lambda Literary Award, the Eisner Award, the Ignatz Award, and the Fauve d’Or at the Angoulême International Comics Festival.
Presented in partnership with SAIC Alumni Relations