Friday, 19 June 2015

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud Review


David Smith is a New York sculptor who’s in a bad way: he’s broke, and his patron’s dropped him. He meets Death, in the form of his dead uncle Harry, and makes a deal: David’s life in exchange for the ability to sculpt anything with his bare hands in any material for 200 days. David is literally giving his life to his art. Then David falls for Meg, an actor, and tries to undo his pledge.

The Sculptor was one of the most pretentious, self-important, twee, annoying, and bloated comics I’ve ever had the displeasure to read. I’m baffled that this is getting rave reviews because there’s nothing here to warrant that.

David Smith (a bland name for a bland person) is a complete narcissistic tosspot. A whiny, immature dick with pathetic ideals who can’t get his head out of his bumhole and join the rest of us in reality. Sculpting is everything man, if I can’t make art, I don’t wanna live! Etc. He lives off other people’s money and rants about how everyone in the New York art scene is a hack except him. This is what passes for a “grown-up” these days?! He is the most punchable comics character I’ve come across in some time – and I’ve recently read comics featuring racists and rapists!

Joining David on his oh-so-precious quest to produce art is Meg, the generic manic-pixie-dream-girl, who floats around NYC dressed as an angel, performing in the street because reality can be magical toooooo. Later she’ll do Shakespeare in the park because arrrt is niiice and Shakespeare is, like, awesome. They fall in love and about 400 pages of this interminable 500 page book is devoted to the two making the googly eyes at one another. Make that two completely punchable characters!

So that’s the book: David sculpts “edgy” stuff out of everyday materials – lampposts, the pavement, the sides of buildings – because his hands are magic now, and then he and Meg go through the usual stereotypical romance drivel. It’s superficial, unconvincing, and utterly phony. Cliches abound: the tortured artist cliche, the deal for his life/soul with a supernatural entity cliche, playing chess with death cliche. 

The question is, why is this 500 pages long? It’s such a simple tale that did not need to be this lengthy. Did we need extra-long sequences about being Jewish? Did we need to hear about the intrigues of David’s art dealer’s love life? Did we need to see David and Meg’s ridiculous courtship when we know they’ll hook up? When it’s not unnecessary, it’s predictable, and it adds up to nothing special. It’s long because “important” books are long and that’s all. 

Sure, the art is pretty and I suppose it’s an accurate representation of the intensity the urge to create can be. Like his most famous book, Understanding Comics, McCloud can tell a story through pictures well. But the story is so full of vapid melodrama and po-faced claptrap that it doesn’t read like it was written by an experienced cartoonist in his 50s and more like an art student who hasn’t had to face any real challenges yet. I mean, how simplistic is the view that you can either have a good life or make good art - you CAN have both, many great artists have managed it! And this idea that jobs aren’t for real artists is nonsense. You know TS Eliot worked in a bank when he wrote The Wasteland? 

It’s such a douchey overtly arty book, I kept wanting to see David and Meg get twatted instead of succeed. It reads like the lamest indie movie – think Garden State-level insipidness. Understanding the technical side to comics is one thing; having a story worth telling is another. The Sculptor is a storytelling disaster because McCloud doesn’t come up with anything original and isn’t a good enough writer to delve beneath the surface to find anything of substance.

The worst part about the manic-pixie-dream-girl scenario is that the female character never really becomes a character – she’s there to act as a catalyst of real change in the male character’s life. Without going into spoilers, after reading this, if you’re not familiar with it, look up Gail Simone’s “Women in Refrigerators” theory – it’s shocking that McCloud would utilise something this hackneyed and clueless in his “important” comic.

The Sculptor proves indie comics can be just as shallow, childish and rote as anything starring superheroes.

The Sculptor

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