Many things factor into a person’s selection of the next graphic novel for them to read: the art, a particular artist or author, an interesting story synopsis, a familiar character, or it came recommended by a friend or even a trusted reviewer. While some may simply dive into a book because they’ve heard that it’s good, others need more convincing, and the reasons to read The Sculptor can easily oblige the request for more. Whether your current reading list is empty or you have a few in the queue, The Sculptor by Scott McCloud is a must-read. This article contains expansion but not spoilers.
10. No Prerequisites
Comic books and graphic novels have never been more mainstream than they are now, and with that come the inclusion of new fans. The Sculptor is a stand-alone story that doesn’t require decades of context, or have characters that have been well established for ages, been rebooted, written about by various authors, have died, come back to life and have been adapted to the big or small screens (though it likely could) like so many comic book heroes. It is completely accessible to readers new to graphic novels and a great argument for the validity of the quality of writing in a graphic novel. Too many people equate pictures with a lack of intelligence or creativity, which simply isn’t the case for well-written graphic novels, and The Sculptor falls neatly into that category.
9. It’s a Quick Read
Weighing in at 487 pages, a gripped reader could do it in a few hours. Someone reading during their commute to work or a few pages before bed could finish it in a workweek. The story follows a simple approach in that it doesn’t have too many characters, plot twists or concepts to follow that could pose as a distraction or the demise of an otherwise good story. It draws the reader in steadily, making it very challenging to put down. Being a quick read also opens up for the opportunity for multiple reads with ease, which is very important, as The Sculptor in particular resonates with the reader in its originality and style put with good execution. A quick read also means quick lending once it’s recommended to friends.
8. No Capes, No Problem
For the readers looking for a good graphic novel that are above cape wearing superheroes in tights, The Sculptor should be all the more inviting. Almost immediately, a connection is made to the protagonist, David. David has no superpowers, he isn’t from another planet, he wasn’t mutated in a freak accident and has no ambition to fight crime. With none of those things as part of the story, a really strong graphic novel with dynamic storytelling emerges. With such a straightforward and cleanly executed premise, it allows the reader to see all dimensions of the characters and be led along the story.
7. Uncle Harry
An important character, he makes you think of every sweet old relative you’ve ever had. If The Sculptor were a Marvel property, one would assume that Stan Lee would be cast for the part. Uncle Harry is the break in the clouds of David’s life, as sweet relatives often are. Uncle Harry is introduced as such a repose and sigh of relief, which in itself is an extremely clever way to disguise Death in human form that isn’t often used. The reader takes on the same affection for him that David does, making it easy to forget that Uncle Harry has been dead for years.
It isn’t common to come across a character like Meg, male or female. A character with flaws that aren’t the size of (figurative) mountains, like the burden of being a secret vigilante. She’s just a girl with her own issues, opinions and struggles. Her appeal comes in the way David sees her. She’s a strong enough character with layers and complexities, without having her be piled with gimmicks to try to make her seem important. David’s world and perspective starts to revolve around her, but it has a deeper meaning than just what she represents to the protagonist, which is refreshing.
5. The Art
While art is subjective and the trained and untrained eye will perhaps draw different conclusions, the artwork, as it pertains to The Sculptor, is clean and it’s succinct. Each panel plays the exact emotion needed in each variation, while maintaining the main theme and carrying it through the use of the color blue. The Sculptor also incorporates some beautifully detailed panels of scenery that capture like a photograph. There’s a detail to the facial expressions that comes across as effortless, like the sketches in an artist’s book, juxtaposed with the detail given to the buildings in the city. While the story is about an artist and sculptor, the artwork doesn’t make the reader focus too much on what that should look like, until it needs to.
4. The Climax of the Story
Too often the climax manages to be undermined by an ending, like the “turns out it was just a dream,” for example. Without giving anything away, the climax of this story, simply put, is the well-placed punctuation to a story building consistently in a good pace. Look forward to the fact that the Deal made, that is given on the story synopsis on the back cover, is good enough reading and reason to do so. But the climax of The Sculptor is meant to affect the reader deeply enough to react between something as little as an eyebrow raise, to talking out loud to the pages so they can know your reaction. Even if the reader guesses what it’s going to be, it will still have a way to affect and it doesn’t take away from the journey.
3. Neil Gaiman Says So!
The cover inlay quotes the Sandman author as saying “The best graphic novel I’ve read in years.” It goes on to say “…it’s about art and love and why we keep on trying. It will break your heart.” All that is on the covers of the book. That’s a strong endorsement from a prominent novelist and graphic novelist such as Neil Gaiman, and, paid or not, it speaks volumes when other authors endorse each other and when the work completely supports the claims made. Because the book cover isn’t plastered with selling lists it’s made or how many stars it received, or any other accolade that can be added to the cover to boost sales, the work can speak for itself. And it speaks loudly and clearly.
An artist and sculptor, brooding and suffering in the name of his craft, The Sculptor’s main character can be anyone and he can be everyone in his own skin. His depth is so that the reader doesn’t necessarily have to root for or against him or be behind everything he does, but he is still nonetheless captivating. David reads like a person you or a friend could be or know. He’s very grounded and accessible to the reader in the way his feelings are obtainable. David’s passions and desires are relatable. David’s growth through the story is told very well and the changes in his perception are realistic, even while the story altogether is not entirely so.
1. The Style of Storytelling
The Sculptor reads a bit like a fairytale, in that a supernatural wish is granted to the main character. But unlike most fairytales, this story isn’t meant to force a lesson or theme down the reader’s throat the way children’s stories talk to children. The fairytale feeling is fuelled through the bad breaks of the main character, David. David’s decisions made by the feelings of desire and desperation shuttles the reader so ingeniously through a range of feelings and means of interpretation. He isn’t memorable because of a superpower or overly tragic backstory, he’s memorable because there’s no way people like him don’t actually exist. He brings upon a broader reflection of people as a whole, and David is the means to that lingering thinking and contemplation.