The appearance of Emil Ferris' comic I like monsters the most you have to imagine like a long-drawn wolf howl, which made the scene shudder and sit up. The debut band has won some of the comic world's top prizes since its 2017 English release: two Ignatz Awards, three Eisner Awards in the US, and the Fauve d'Or at Angoulême's premier European comics festival earlier this year. There was a lot of praise, and there was a quote from Art Spiegelman from the New York TimesFerris' comic fundamentally changed the rhythm and syntax of the medium. So my interest was awakened when the following information leaked to me: Emil Ferris is a woman. And she is 57 years old. That put the matter in a completely new light for me. Women over the age of 50 are already scarce in any media public sphere, in the comics industry, they are as good as absent.
So I had no small expectations when I finally held the comic book in my hands. And yet they were far exceeded. Even the cover impresses with its urgency. On it is a woman, red lips, bluish skin, with a look as if she had just turned around after a noise and now fixed the just seen – namely, the one who looks at the cover. An invitation to recognize the monster in itself.
I like monsters the most exceeds most of the content and formally most of what I've read about comics. Rightly, graphic novelist Alison Bechdel has called the comic a "monster of a book". Ferris celebrates the different, divergent, out-of-law, and she does so in her own unique aesthetic. Hatched, almost photorealistic ballpoint pen drawings alternate with scribbled notepads, the casualness of which is compounded by the fact that the entire comic appears like the facsimile of a college block – the sketchbook of ten-year-old Karen Reyes, who, like Ferris himself, grows up in Chicago in the 1960s. And who wishes to become a monster, because being a girl has too many disadvantages.
That too is autobiographical, as I find out later, as I read everything I can find about Emil Ferris: "I never wanted to be a woman," she says Guardian cited. It just did not seem to be a good thing, not to be a man: both were not allowed to act authentically and to develop their personality. To be a monster she considered the solution – as a way out of the narrowness of binary gender construction and as protection against sexual violence. In the comic, Karen's desire to be a monster becomes plausible, not least because of situations of threat, such as when she barely escapes gang raping by classmates.
Ferris outlines the monster as a mighty, potentially threatening and at the same time complex, vulnerable figure, which is particularly characterized by different to be as the rest of society. In interviews, she talks about her as a five-year-old The Wolf Man saw on TV and mitlitt with the monster. Their sympathy goes to the hunted, monsters and werewolves, while affirming society's narrow-minded and hostile "villager mentality". Interestingly, the previous reception on the feminist point of view of the plot and the author was not much closer. It is almost as if Bechtel's remark that the book is a "monster" proves to be true in several respects. The monster metaphor is feminist explosive, but it is only unconsciously received, however much it is at the center of the story , Perhaps the monster theme has prevented the comic from being put into the feminist drawer either.
A masterpiece so, even from the hands of a 57-year-old cartoonist. The latter is more important to me than I expected. Of course, there are them, the not-so-young female draftsmen like Alison Bechdel (others who come to mind are Marjane Satrapi, Ulli Lust, Claire Bretécher). But rarely is one of them so frenetically celebrated on such a big stage. In the generation of the old masters, the much cited greats such as Jacques Tardi or Alan Moore, few women are so present that they are referred to.