By Cameron Hatheway
Imagine, if you will, a scenario where you’re approached by Death and given the opportunity to mold and transform any material to your whim with your bare hands, being able to create whatever wildest ideas flow from your mind. The only catch is you have 200 days to do so before you die; 200 days to be forever immortalized by your art. That’s the sticky situation 25-year-old sculptor David Smith finds himself in, in Scott McCloud’s upcoming The Sculptor graphic novel from First Second Books.
McCloud is best known in the comics industry from his acclaimed non-fiction books Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics, but creating original comics isn’t new territory for him. He had a successful run with his science-fiction comic series Zot! back in the 1980s, as well as writing stories for DC’s Superman Adventures in 1996. While his non-fiction books did extremely well and helped new and older readers appreciate a fresh perspective on the comics they cherish, McCloud’s fans have been clamoring for another comic by him for years now. The wait is now over.
On February 3rd, The Sculptor will be released in all of its 496 pages of pure prestige. McCloud has been hard at work writing and illustrating the graphic novel for the past five years, while the idea for it actually originated several decades earlier while he was in college. Large enough to bash a small animal to death with, it will definitely standout on any bookshelf (if said bookshelf is sturdy enough to hold it).
While it may seem an easy deal for David to sculpt anything he could possibly think of with his bare hands, one of the problems he keeps running into is not knowing what to create. He’s caught in the predicament of quantity over quality and not having a focused theme. His longtime friend Ollie wants to help him get featured in exhibitions, but because of David’s myriad of different pieces, it’s impossible to concentrate on just one or two. That, and Ollie is playing favorites, choosing his sculpting trust-fund-baby boyfriend Finn over David.
That’s not the only problem in David’s unique situation, for he also meets and falls in love with an angel named Meg. Well, she’s not really an angel, but under the circumstances of their first encounter, she definitely had David fooled. Meg starts to become a major part of David’s now-extremely-shortened life, and doesn’t know about the deal with Death. Timing is everything within these 200 days, and like most artists, David’s pretty horrible at making things work on a deadline. It doesn’t help that he’s a socially awkward introvert who doesn’t know how to talk to girls.
McCloud’s illustrations keep the reader breathless throughout, with a dazzling array of black and white with a blue pantone. The growing collection of sculptures are completely bizarre-yet-powerful, and while David slowly refines his technique and style, the pieces become even more mesmerizing and intricate. You almost loathe the book for being a work of fiction, for if such sculptures existed in the real world, minds would be collectively blown. Some of my favorite pieces of David’s are when he’s going through his Banksy/Shepard Fairey/vandalism phase, creating unbelievable sculptures out of public and private property, completely baffling both the authorities and the public in his wake.
While the length of the book may be daunting to some, I can assure you it sucks you in and before you know it, you’ve read it in one sitting. It’s a graphic novel that takes you on a journey, and you feel as if you’re stuck living those last 200 days with David. The Sculptor is a beautiful book with a delightful story, as if McCloud knew all about creating a comic book going into the project or something. He practices what he’s been preaching for years, forever immortalizing himself in the pantheon of comic book greats.
“Every artist, no matter what medium, is terrified deep-down of being forgotten. So it’s a lot about no matter what you are, whether you’re a writer, or an artist, or a musician, we all have that desire to be remembered and that’s something I thought was pretty universal,” McCloud told me in an interview earlier this month. “So in a lot of ways it’s about that universal desire.”
I think McCloud has nothing to worry about. I’m certain The Sculptor will be talked about in the comics industry for a very, very long time.