Often hailed as one of the most influential comic theorists of our time, Scott McCloud has from time to time delivered masterpieces portraying the conception and engineering of comics, and the art behind it. In his highly anticipated first graphic novel, The Sculptor, the author ventures into the life of a failed artist, his love for the art and the sacrifices he makes to achieve his ambitions.
David Smith, or as McCloud puts it, the “Other David Smith” is introduced to us as a struggling sculptor, down on his luck after his fifteen minutes of fame, living in free rentals and spending every last dime on booze. A chance encounter leads to a deal with the Grim Reaper, giving him power to enforce his artistic ambitions to any scale he wishes, but in return he only gets 200 days to live. Henceforward, with the clock ticking, we witness the trials through which David goes to sculpt his most defining pieces, and a chance at love at the final hour which could either inspire him to cultivate his swan song, or devastate the lives of everyone involved.
Scott McCloud provides an exhilarating narration, as The Sculptor proves to be an accessible read. Tackling an often repeated storyline, McCloud delivers a fresh approach that is visually grasping and leaves you heartbroken by the end. Usually in similar reads, the characters tend to be over played and tedious, but the novelist here successfully creates sympathetic characters in a sincere urban context, ensuring they don’t overwhelm the underlying concept of the novel. And the concept is where we observe the ingenuity of McCloud, how he flawlessly delivers a novel relatable to every expressive artist out there, willing to take risks for their love for their art. The pencil sketching is precise and tight; indeed, it is one of McCloud’s strongest talents, creating a beautiful and coherent novel.
McCloud is famously vocal about his love for using computer graphics himself to illustrate his sketches, unlike traditional inkers and colourists. This is furthered by the different hues and shades employed by the author to deliver the dark yet humorous tone, masterfully combining them with different aspects of storytelling to deliver impactful pages that will haunt the reader. Yet, it would have been really exciting to see how gifted finishers would have approached this concept.
Nonetheless, McCloud promises a delightful yet heart-breaking read, and a visually inspiring novel that will forever linger in the reader’s mind.
With such a plethora of graphic novelists in today’s age, Scott McCloud’s anticipated arrival to the stage with The Sculptor proves to be a highly accomplished piece.
Photo: Simon Law