The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

img_1374I guess I just have a hard time reading pictures. I’m too focused on the words when I read a graphic novel.  And the words usually are not very good.  This has long been my main complaint with the form–it needs better writing.

The writing in Scott McCloud’s graphic novel The Sculptor isn’t bad, but the story suffers from what has become a trite cliché.  (Yes, that probably is repetitive.)

I’ve had it with the manic pixie dream-girl.

Enough. Time for the straight boys to move on, grow up, whatever they need to do to get them collectively beyond this hipster version of the madonna on a pedestal.  You can’t be emotionally stunted you whole life, guys.  Maybe you can, but you shouldn’t be. Just how many of you are so afraid of grown women that you need to give them a quirky mental illness to make them approachable?

In The Sculptor artist David Smith, not that David Smith, makes a deal with death.  He gets the power to sculpt anything with his bare hands for 200 days. Then he will die.  Of course he meets the girl of his dream shortly afterwards.  A wacky bike-messenger with a passion for acting and performance art named Meg who turns out to be not just manic but manic-depressive.  She has a string of former lovers, boys and one girl, who stayed friends with her in spite of her manic episodes. Something I suspect only happens in fiction.  She turns David’s life around, takes his virginity, shows him that love and family might be more important than art, all before everyone reaches their tragic but transcendent end.

It was okay.  You can read the whole think in a couple of hours if you’re not stopped by all the pictures.  But here’s the thing.  In a story about a visual artist, you have to contend with the art.  A written novel could have described it with words, forcing the reader to visualize it all.  In a graphic novel you have to draw it out, or keep it all off-stage I suppose, so it has to look good. In one scene, a critic who sees David Smith’s new artwork derides it as kitsch, the stuff you’d find in a tacky gift store.  He was right, in my opinion.  Why trade your life away to make a bunch of giant knickknacks?

Still, Scott McCloud is considered one of the better graphic novelists for his visuals which the review at The Atlantic celebrates much more than I have.

So, what do I know.

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4 Comments

  1. I have not read too many graphic novels though our book club for October is going to be talking about the graphic novel, The Fun Home, A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechtel. I have ordered it from book depository so it is waiting for me when I arrive home from this trip I am on with the Penguin and a Florida friend. I will see what I think about it and post it up. I don’t find many graphic novels reviewed by bloggers so enjoyed this one. You made some good points.

  2. Rob says:

    “Just how many of you are so afraid of grown women that you need to give them a quirky mental illness to make them approachable?”

    Haha, perfectly said! That was my biggest complaint about the comic. I really didn’t like how he romanticised bipolar disorder in this.

  3. It’s been an annoying trend for a while now. I was worried that I might have been too harsh, but that’s how I feel. It really served to undermine what could have been a much more thoughtful book, in my opinion.

    1. Rob says:

      I completely agree. Really interesting premise that was just watered down by that relationship.

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