Despite the fact that it has an unknown author, and that its initial print run was stranded at sea, the debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters has become a bestseller. The literary work, by Emil Ferris, was published in February 2017 by Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books; the publisher has just gone back to press for a 30,000-copy second printing, which marks the biggest second printing the house has done in its 40-year history.
The book debuted last week at #5 on the NPD BookScan graphic novel bestseller list.
Fantagraphics publicity director Jacq Cohen said the graphic novel has been a “massive success” for the independent comics publisher, which is known for releasing work by such acclaimed graphic novel authors as Dan Clowes, Lucy Knisely, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, R. Crumb and Carol Tyler .
“It’s the biggest second printing we’ve ever done,” Cohen said. “And we’ve got the orders to [justify] it.”
Originally scheduled to be published in October 2016, the graphic novel became a bit of a phenomenon after all the copies in its first print run became trapped aboard a container ship seized at the Panama Canal. By the time the books in that print run finally reached the U.S. late last year, the book's planned publication date had already passed. Fantagraphics then pushed the book's release date to February 2017.
First showcased on the graphic novel buzz panel at last year’s BEA in Chicago, the book has been praised for its rich and engaging prose, as well its meticulous drawings. The book’s popularity was originally driven by word of mouth, before a surge of media attention--with much of the coverage initially coming out of the author's native Chicago--kicked in.
Since late 2016 the book has been featured in more than 30 outlets from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and The A.V. Club to Publishers Weekly and Forbes. Most recently, Ferris has been profiled in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Guardian and Vulture. In an interview with Ferris set to air this week on NPR’s Fresh Air, the book was described as a “tour de force.”
“I’ve never seen a debut cartoonist get such a warm welcome from the media and the comics community. They have overwhelmingly embraced this book,” Cohen said.
Ferris is a 55-year-old first-time author and My Favorite Thing is Monsters follows a 10-year-old named Karen Reyes who is growing up in Chicago in 1967. Reyes loves monster movies and the lurid horror fanzines that celebrate them. But she has also come to realize that she is gay and sees herself as a social outcast, a monster, and that's just fine with her. But that's just the beginning of her story.
The 386-page color graphic novel was originally more than 700 pages. It was initially acquired by another publisher, which eventually decided not to publish the book. Ferris’ agent, Holly Bemiss, then placed it with Fantagraphics, which decided to split the book into two volumes in order to keep the list price ($40), and the book’s considerable production requirements, at reasonable levels.
Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth said he will publish the second and concluding volume of the book in October, with a 30,000-copy first printing. He added that Ferris is currently working on a new book.
Groth praised Ferris for her "perfectly realized vision," and described the book as the real world example of "the publishing fantasy story: a debut literary novel by unknown author embraced by critics, something that never really quite happens.”