My Favorite Thing Is Monsters: Art, Mystery, and Identity

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a graphic novel by American writer Emil Ferris. The story is set in 1960s Chicago and follows the life of a young girl named Karen Reyes, who investigates the death of her neighbor. The graphic novel is presented as a personal diary in a lined spiral notebook.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a brilliant, eye-opening graphic novel by Emil Ferris
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a brilliant, eye-opening graphic novel by Emil Ferris

In the world of graphic novels, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” stands as a unique and profoundly impactful work. This graphic masterpiece, created by American writer and artist Emil Ferris, the first volume was published by Fantagraphics on February 14, 2017 and quickly garnered acclaim for its complex narrative, breathtaking artwork, and its exploration of identity, mystery, and the human experience. In this article, we will delve into what makes “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” a remarkable piece of art and storytelling.

The author, Emil Ferris, started working on the graphic novel after contracting West Nile virus and becoming paralyzed at age forty. 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 work draws on Ferris’s childhood growing up in Chicago, and her love of monsters and horror media.

The Unconventional Format

One of the most striking aspects of “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” is its unconventional format. The entire story is presented as the diary of a young girl named Karen Reyes. Karen, who is both the protagonist and the narrator, tells her story in the form of a notebook filled with intricate, ballpoint pen drawings. This unique format immediately captures the reader’s attention, as it feels like a personal, handwritten account of Karen’s life.

The Artistry

Emil Ferris’s artistic prowess is on full display in “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.” The entire novel is illustrated in a lush, cross-hatched, black-and-white style that pays homage to classic horror and pulp comics of the 1950s. The art’s depth and detail are astonishing, with each panel meticulously crafted to convey emotion and atmosphere. Ferris’s ability to convey both the mundane and the extraordinary through her art is nothing short of extraordinary.

A Tale of Mystery and Identity

Set in 1960s Chicago, the story follows Karen Reyes, a young girl who identifies as a monster. Her fascination with classic movie monsters, such as Dracula and the Wolfman, becomes a lens through which she views the world. When her upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a Holocaust survivor, is found dead, Karen becomes determined to solve the mystery surrounding her death. As she embarks on her investigation, the narrative unfolds, and layers of secrets are revealed.

The story is a tapestry of interconnected narratives that delve into the lives and struggles of various characters, each with their own unique identity and experiences. The narrative complexity is a testament to Ferris’s storytelling skills, as she weaves together a wide range of themes, including trauma, history, love, family, and self-discovery.

Identity is a central theme in “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.” Karen’s self-identification as a monster serves as a metaphor for the challenges of identity and belonging that many individuals face. As she grapples with her own identity, Karen’s quest to uncover the truth behind Anka’s death becomes an exploration of her own past and family history.

Exploring Social Issues

Beyond its personal and emotional themes, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” delves into significant social issues. The narrative addresses the lingering trauma of the Holocaust, the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, and the racial tensions of the 1960s. These themes resonate strongly in today’s world, making the novel not only a story of the past but also a reflection on the issues that continue to shape our society.

Critical Acclaim and Impact

The graphic novel has received critical acclaim and is considered by many critics to be one of the best graphic novels of 2017. It has been praised for its intricate design, beautiful artwork, and unique storytelling style. Ferris’s use of B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography adds an extra layer of depth to the story.

The novel’s impact extends beyond its literary acclaim. It has opened doors for more diverse voices and storytelling approaches within the comic book industry, proving that graphic novels can be a powerful platform for exploring complex and deeply personal narratives.

Emil Ferris’s “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” is a graphic novel that defies convention and leaves a profound impact on readers. With its unique format, stunning artwork, and a narrative that dives into identity, mystery, and social issues, it stands as a testament to the potential of graphic storytelling. This work has opened new horizons in the medium and continues to inspire both creators and readers, reminding us that the power of storytelling knows no bounds, and art can be a compelling means of self-discovery and reflection.

The second volume is set to be published in April 2024 by Fantagraphics.

An individual who has a strong interest in comic books and the culture surrounding them. Comic books are a form of printed or digital media that combines text and artworks that tell beautiful and interesting stories, often featuring characters with superhuman abilities and adventures. A comic fan, passionate about the medium and collect, read, discuss, and even create comic books.