☛ Cette chronique est aussi disponible en français [➦].
Translated by Zoe Yarymowich
“As a child, it seemed better to me to be a monster than a girl.”
- Emil Ferris
I feel like everything has already been said about the masterpiece that is My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris. From praise to applaud, negative reviews are rare if not absent when the novel is mentioned. It is that this fabulous and eclectic graphic monument defies norms and conventions while painting a historic portrait of the 20th century marred by racial, gender, and class inequalities.
In praise of art, difference, and marginality, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters takes place in the streets of late 1960s Chigaco through the eyes of a young 10-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a monster. Because for her, it is better to be a monster than a poor young girl with an Irish and Native American mother and an absent Mexican father living in the South Side of Chicago. Because for her, becoming a monster is to become immortal and save your family from certain death or tragic pain. Because for her, becoming a monster is to free yourself from discrimination, violence, and inequality. Because for her, becoming a monster is to be different and proud of it. And flee a reality that is too dark to be experienced as a human…
Though much has been reviewed of this novel, I am still convinced it will never be discussed enough. Majestic and monstrous, this collection (over 400 pages) was drawn with a Bic pen on lined paper from spiral notebooks. It initially consisted of 800 pages that Emil Ferris had lugged around for years. Using historical events and the greatest works of recent centuries, it paints a portrait of a time in turmoil, of a living but tortured “America” and of struggles for survival and plurality. It features a young lesbian girl, passionate about art and drawing, who dreams of monsters and legends, and who tries to better understand the world around her with the help of investigation, stories, and testimonies.
And that is not all. Emil Ferris deserves as much praise as her story. A single mother and bisexual, she came close to never being able to draw again in 2001 when a mosquito transmitted a most severe form of the West Nile virus and paralyzed her in both legs and in her right hand… the hand she drew with. Through trials, efforts, and pens “taped” to her hand by her daughter, she slowly relearned how to draw. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the result of this rehabilitation and redemption.
Ferris also had to endure forty-eight rejections before her work was accepted by a publishing house, Fantagraphics. These forty-eight other publishing houses must be kicking themselves today… My Favorite Thing Is Monsters has been awarded, since its publication, a Lynd Ward and two Ignatz Awards. Art Spiegelman, beloved cartoonist and author of Maus, said that Emil Ferris is “one of the biggest comic book artists of our time”.
If all the American Dream stories were like that of Emil Ferris, I believe that the future of humanity would look much brighter. And if in every library, there was her imagination and her quill (or her Bic pen, I should say), I think that the world would be better off.
Perhaps then, in its turn, society would accept the idea of being little monsters who defy conventions and value difference.
Author: Emil Ferris
Title: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. First book
Release date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc.
This book is available in paper at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) and is also available in bookstores for 39,95$.
Chartier, S. (2018, August 28). Qu’ils sont beaux, les monstres. Le Devoir.
Guy, C. (2018, August 28). Le fabuleux destin d’Emil Ferris. La Presse.