Emil Ferris’s début graphic novel, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” published when she was fifty-five, was a breakout hit, garnering praise from critics and peers for its intricately cross-hatched drawings, its gripping plot, and its marriage of gothic-pulp aesthetics and sharp social commentary. The story is presented as the diary of Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in the politically volatile Chicago of the nineteen-sixties. On four hundred and sixteen pages of lined paper, Karen investigates the murder of her neighbor Anka, a beautiful and mysterious Holocaust survivor. With masterly ballpoint drawings, Ferris weaves together history, comic books, and horror to echo Karen’s sense of herself as a monster. When the book hit the shelves in 2017, shortly after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, many readers embraced its graphic representations of the ways we perceive monstrosity and became fans overnight. “In a time when spiritual ugliness is being promoted as a social norm, the artist is more responsible than ever to tease out complex and difficult truths,” Ferris told us.
“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book Two,” will be released by Fantagraphics in late spring, seven years after the sequel was first announced. (After a drawn-out dispute between the author and publisher, an agreement was reached last year.) The more-than-four-hundred-page-long second volume is well worth the wait. Karen continues to dig deeper into the tragic death of Anka, worries about her charismatic yet flawed big brother Deeze, and puzzles over her own identity with a new friend, Shelley. In the excerpt below, Karen tells Deeze about an incident that she witnessed on the city bus, probing her own evolving sensibilities about the inhuman and the obscene.
—Françoise Mouly & Genevieve Bormes