BEA is one of Emil Ferris’s first stops in the launch of her graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, (Fantagraphics, Oct.), a fiction that evokes myth, horror, psychedelia, and wonder through the illustrated notebook of Karen Reyes.
Ferris, who lives in Chicago, tells Show Daily that she is a reclusive creator, preferring to stay home, listen to music and audiobooks, and make lots of art. “I’m really looking forward to meeting people who will tell me things that will make me think, who will expose me to the larger world of comics,” Ferris says. “Once the book is read by people, and they can talk to me about whatever they thought––that would be really engaging to me.”
As her first graphic novel to hit the market, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters comes after Ferris’s stint as a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has worked across media, from animation to painting, and her new book is a reflection of her habit of playing with art forms, including comics. As she explains, her father adored, and tended to share, the work of underground comix, especially R. Crumb. Her new book is in part a tribute to having read horror comics as a kid.
“Every time I would do a painting, I would find myself writing some text that would accompany it, and I realized what that was. Comic books and graphic stuff was incredibly important to me,” she says.
With the notebook as a framing device, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters turns in sequences of inked words and illustrations that do not conform to panels. Ferris views the notebook as a learning space, where Karen Reyes is trying to understand what happened to her neighbor Anka Silverberg. “I felt like I was drawing against the lines, but also allowing some lines to give me some order and dictate some structure,” Ferris says. “Superseding the lines and finding another vision, pretty soon your eyes are going through these pages, and the lines are not as important.”
When she was composing Karen’s notebook, Ferris says, she focused on moments that create an emotional connection between Karen and readers. It’s a practice she learned from a teacher of Asian brush painting. “What I learned from him is there is a conveyance of emotion that is invisible,” she says. “If you’re in that state, you can convey that state, much like actors do when they’re on stage. It’s hard. The story isn’t told simply. It’s got to be told in a way that your heart resonates with it.”
You can meet Ferris this afternoon at the Uptown Stage, 2–3 p.m., as one of the artists on the “Best in Fall 2016 Graphic Novels” panel, moderated by PW’s Calvin Reid.
This article appeared in the May 11, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.