Emil Ferris is an illustrator and graphic novel artist from Chicago. She grew up in an artistic family. Both her parents were artists; they met as students at the Art Institute of Chicago. While in school, her father made so-called eight-pagers, small comic books with pornographic content starring Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and Minnie in compromising positions. Ferris grew up in Chicago during the turbulent 1960s, and among her early graphic influences were classic illustrators like Francisco Goya and Honoré Daumier, and also contemporary comic artists like Art Spiegelman. She became an artist herself, initially focusing on a career as an illustrator and toy designer. She has designed several figurines for McDonald's, including the 'Mulan' line of Happy Meal prizes, and also for the Tokyo-based toymaker Tomy, for which she worked on the 'Tea Bunnies' dolls.
By 2001, Ferris was bitten by a mosquito and contracted West Nile virus. She was completely paralyzed from the waist down and lost the use of her right hand. She had to drop her illustration work, and instead enrolled at the The School of the Art Institute on the Creative Writing program. While recovering, she started working on a graphic novel which was largely based on her own childhood experiences with Holocaust-survivors. Although containing autobiographical elements, the story was crafted in diary format as a psychological thriller set in 1960s Chicago, in which the precocious Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her beautiful and enigmatic upstairs neighbor. The publication of 'My Favorite Thing Is Monsters' was not without problems. The Chinese company shipping the copies from the printer in South Korea to the United States went bankrupt and the whole print run was held hostage at the Panama Canal by the shipping company's creditors. Fantagraphics finally managed to release the book in early 2017 to much critical acclaim, including from Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware.