by Scott McCloud
Published by: First Second
Form: Purchased Hardback
Genre: Graphic Novel
Big Themes: Art, Life, Death, Love, Depression, Individuality, Legacy, Time
A young artist makes a bargain with Death: unlimited artistic ability but in exchange, David Smith will only have 200 days left to live. With his new ability to sculpt anything his mind can imagine, David struggles to create a legacy to his name. He wants his work to be seen and remembered, but the clock is ticking.
“The best graphic novel I’ve read in years. It’s about art and love and why we keep on trying. It will break your heart.” -Neil Gaiman
If you are a fan of graphic novels, Scott McCloud should be a familiar name. His books Making Comics and Understanding Comics are must-haves and will change how you read and appreciate graphic novels. I bought these books for my brother about ten years ago after being incredibly impressed by them myself. We would both call ourselves Scott McCloud fans. However, while McCloud has written how-to manuals about comics, he had yet to embark on creating a novel-length piece of graphic fiction. Sculptor is his first.
I had the opportunity to meet and hear Scott McCloud speak at Politics and Prose in DC back in February. He had a great computer presentation that allowed him to show us his creative process and the work that went into Sculptor. The book is a 488 pages and took McCloud five years to craft. This event moved Sculptor to the top of my to-read pile despite how enormous my to-read list is lately.
What I Loved:
The art was gorgeous. You can tell this book was an act of love. Every panel shows thoughtfulness. The novel is set in New York City, and some of the panels made me ache to jump on the train for a visit.
The message about life was another element I loved. I’d like to discuss this book in a book group, but here is what I took away from the book (without giving any spoilers). After reading, I felt like McCloud wanted his readers, particularly young people who are driven to make a name for themselves, to realize that life is more than making your mark. Especially when it comes to creativity, life fuels your work, your craft. Experiences and relationships and everyday life are just as important as any goals or aspirations you may have. And to live in a manic, focused, obsessive state where your entire focus is centered on your own aspirations is wasting the one life you have to live.
This resonated with me because creative types, introverted writers especially, can live in the worlds they create. They can obsess over the right word or phrasing. They can worry if anyone will ever want to read their work. And writing is often such a solitary act that shutting out the real world becomes too easy. So for me, this book was about finding balance. A reminder that life outside of art and ambition is equally important.
Also, the concepts of some of the sculptures that David creates were really, really awesome. I’d imagine that would be difficult to come up with as a writer–ideas for art that corresponds with infinite ability. That was a fun, almost superhero element. Super Sculptor–can mold anything with his bare hands. McCloud made that power seem cool and desirable.
I’d love to have a discussion about Meg. McCloud admits that she fits the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but he said the following:
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an archetype that shows up in romance almost exclusively, and our reaction is to mark it for death. We shouldn’t kill what we don’t understand. There’s a reason why this character shows up again and again. I don’t know how well a job I’ve done of investigating those reasons, but I hope there’s something in The Sculptor that makes Meg worthwhile.
Quote from Vulture.com
There are so many things to be discussed about Meg–from her first appearance as an angel, to their talk about her being an object, to her final representation in sculpture form. Am I okay with how McCloud portrayed the only leading female character? My initial answer is no. But I’d love to talk about it.
Four stars. Overall, I really enjoyed this. Would highly recommend to all creative types or ambitious types. Recommended for adults due to sex and mature topics.