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The Sculptor

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David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding  what  to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn't making it any easier! 

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world's greatest city. It's about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

488 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2015

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About the author

Scott McCloud

142 books1,395 followers
Scott McCloud (born Scott McLeod) is an American cartoonist and theorist on comics as a distinct literary and artistic medium.

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5 stars
6,767 (39%)
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3 stars
3,155 (18%)
2 stars
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458 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,455 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews168k followers
August 29, 2015
Completely blown away by this graphic novel. The best graphic novel I've read all year and I've read some pretty great ones.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
226 reviews4 followers
February 14, 2015
I had high hopes for this book, since I loved Scott McCloud's Zot series, and think Understanding Comics is brilliant. But it was really disappointing.

My main complaints:

1) It fails the Bechdel test -- Meg never talks with any other women.

2) Meg is totally a manic (depressive) pixie dream girl -- David falls in love with her on sight. And then she becomes a madonna. She never gets to be a person.

3) In the real world, almost no straight women have a circle of friends consisting largely of their ex-lovers, all of whom get along just fine. Either this is pure laziness on McCloud's part, or Meg is far more interesting than either David or McCloud recognizes. And she'd be giving up far more by moving away from the city to live with David in the suburbs than he would.

4) I'm not convinced that a sculptor who chooses to work in stone would find it a gift to be able to mold it like clay. If David wanted to work in clay, he'd have worked in clay, damnit.

I give it 2 stars rather than 1 because I liked the drawings of the city and the people in it.

Profile Image for Scotto Moore.
Author 6 books81 followers
February 5, 2015
this book is maddening - on the one hand, its handling of artistic frustration and the desire to excel as an artist is intelligent and well-considered, but on the other hand, this story is just another in a long line of "loser male protagonist is rescued by manic pixie dream girl" stories. literally - dream girl is initially presented as an actual angel sweeping down from heaven, & male protagonist professes to dream girl "i love you" after having had a grand total of one full conversation with her; their relationship unfolds as predictably (and unrealistically) from there as you might imagine. meh. it's still worth a look if you can stomach that relationship as the driver for 75% of the story's action, because the book does bounce off some very intriguing depictions of the protagonist's struggle to best utilize his new found artistic powers. i wish we spent a lot more time on that side of the tale to be honest.
Profile Image for Nat.
553 reviews3,177 followers
June 5, 2020
David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with his death grand uncle Harry, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands.



I just want to mention that the art in this was stunningly beautiful. And not only that but Scott McCloud’s take on fate was very powerful.

Death gives our main character 200 days to live in exchange for the power to sculpt anything he can imagine.



But complications set in when David falls in love with Meg (after knowing her for less than 10 minutes).


I actually found it really hard at first to feel for the main character, he was very much the moody and brooding artist type (with some serious anger issues). And not in a compelling way.

I kept reading with the hope that his character arc would be redeemed yet, strangely enough, his behaviour just seemed to go downhill.

Especially when he threw himself into obsessing over a girl he knew for less than an hour. HOW can you say ‘I love you’ to someone you literally know nothing about????? I’m truly astonished at this.


I mean, I get that he’s feeling lonely and whatnot, but seriously?? In love???


David was just a really cringe-worthy guy that made me truly uncomfortable for a majority of the storyline (especially with his anger issues).


Maybe I would’ve liked David more if we hadn’t been introduced to Meg because once he got infatuated with her, I completely lost my enthusiasm.


Ugh, Mr. and Mrs. Special Snow-Flake. Like… what kind of heterosexual bullshit.


He’s self-absorbed, aggravating, cynical, and stubborn—I (still) for the life in me can't understand why Meg would want to be with someone like that.


Honestly, I just kept reading after that to see if David would really die. For that ending and the art I gave a full extra star because other than that, this graphic novel didn’t leave a lasting impression.





Simply put, the idea for The Sculptor was fantastic, but I didn't care for the execution.

*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying The Sculptor, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!*

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,483 reviews12.8k followers
July 9, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
October 22, 2018
10/21/18 Three people in the last year have read this review and asked me if I was "all right in my head," given how wrong I was in my review. You know, this happens, that we disagree and like snowflakes, we sometimes disagree (wait, is that a mixed metaphor?!). My initial response was clearly somewhat affected by hearing McCloud on his book tour for the book, being impressed by his presentation, and also affected by my having used his classic Understanding Comics in my graphic novels and comics classes, year after year. I had never read anything in fiction from McCloud that I liked, and he had labored for years to make this One Great Novel, so I was sympathetic. But not on the basis of a through re-reading, but looking it through for an hour or so, I write this revision of my review, wondering now if I really ever liked this book as much as I said I did. Not many people talk about it now at all, though at a glance several of my Goodreads friends liked it a lot. But it feels like it didn't have the legs I thought it would have. Great art, less great story.

2/14/15, My original review, now somewhat amended upon reflection:

This is a Big Event in the Year in Comics, without question. And I am not sure of how I feel about all aspects of it, but wth, let me just share some first thoughts.. I should say I was present last Friday night at McCloud's Chicago Humanities Festival presentation at the Chicago Art Institute, where I got my copy, and I loved his talk, his honesty, and the glimpse he shared into the hard and obsessive work he put into the process of making this 488 page brick of a book, a serious effort by one of the masters of comics (theory). I went with a lot of students and former students and didn't have the chance to talk with them (or him!) afterwards, but it was clear that many of us were excited to read the book.

Why? Because Scott McCloud wrote Understanding Comics and Making Comics, the essential guides that all teachers and artists rely on, just plain classics, the best stuff on the topics available, without controversy. He also did, among other things, Zot, which I never really got into, so I was suspicious he was better at teaching about comics than making them himself. I mean, you need a story. Does he have one? Then I knew this was labeled a "romance" which gave me pause; not my fave genre. Though I also knew this story was about art-making, duh, from the title, which I liked, and I like meta stuff, allegories of art-making. And then, in his presentation he made it clear about 80% of the portrayal of Meg is based on his wife, and 40% of his portrayal of artists David Smith is based on him, so there is this Maus/Blankets memoir aspect to this Big Book, which I admit I am a bit of a sucker for.

And now, having read it, I also see this is a view of art and relationships that shows the flays and challenges of these endeavors, though as a romance, does make it finally look like the endeavors are potentially happy ones. McCloud admits he has had difficulties with social skills and particularly with relating to women, but in this love story he makes it clear (in the presentation and in the book) that he an David Smith struggle mightily with intense self-obsessions AND are also deeply committed to the unstable and loving persons who are their wives.. He's got his issues, she's got hers, and they are largely annoying throughout, but David Smith is especially annoying for much of the book as a narcissistic, self-absorbed artist who prefers art to love. Many great artist biographies bear similarities, like Picasso, a genius artist and world class jerk, but Smith is not even close to being a great artist.

David Smith is a self-centered, fame-obsessed artist who would give up his life for his art, and makes a dramatic (and romantic, of another kind) deal with Death (in the form of his dead Grand Uncle Marty), that gives him some artistic superpowers within a time constraint for doing that art, but he does--over time, finally--manage to balance his obsession with fame/art with his love for and commitment to his wife, in my view.

The Faustian deal is sort of a cliche, and maybe especially for artists, and Meg is a kind of ethereally unreal crazy cool theater girl that everyone seems to fall for, another kind of cliche, but in the end, I lean to giving him some sweetness points for honoring the spirit of his wife in and through and possibly above his art. In a way this is a love letter to McCloud's wife, and their more important "creation" of a family, and if that is too sappy and cliched for some, I get it, but I ultimately still found it moving in places in spite of these potential limitations. McCloud as tortured artist saved by love? That's the story. So you've heard that one, okay. But is it just meh? I don't think so. I mean, he calls it a romance, so I think you gotta give him his due for working within a genre. But in looking at it again, I am not convinced it is entirely successful. Neither Smith nor his wife are all that memorable.

I said I was skeptical about his being able to tell a story in comics, a real story, given that fact that for twenty years he has essentially been known as a comics theory genius. But the art here is breathtaking on every level, and in it he's putting on a clinic of art-making in his story about art-making. And the finish, set up only in part by the Deal, still manages a couple surprises, a couple twists. I liked it quite a bit. It's ultimately a meditation on time and making use of the limited number of days we are alive to live the best life possible. I gave it 5 stars on first reading and now, 2 1/2 years later, maybe informed by time and distance from it and wider reading in graphic novels, think it is maybe a 2.5 star story, with a 5 star art credit.
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews547 followers
November 9, 2022
We're so proud to have published this graphic novel!

Scott McCloud is one of the most thoughtful people in the comics industry we know -- he literally wrote the book on comics, after all! And with THE SCULPTOR, he takes all that knowledge abotu how comics works and fuses it seamlessly into a wonderful, engaging, magical narrative.

You guys should definitely check this one out!
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
July 16, 2017
WOW this took a dark twist I was not expecting! I'm just a huge fan of graphic novels that are LONG because it's so nice to see character growth and to have time to explore bigger plot arcs and intricacies that are lost on you in littler series, or shorter stand-alones. This stands alongside Blankets as one of my new favs, even though I didn't find myself going WOW at the end of this one. The art and dialogue and everything was just mediocre, but it's the characters and the story that really drove this home for me. Although the weird sculptor powers in exchange for death was pretty weird and it was executed strangely and unclearly, I loved how this book showed so vividly the topics of failure and frustration and poverty and overcoming hardship, and it was especially enlightening about the art community and the struggles that upcoming artists face every day. It was definitely a graphic novel that I connected with, but there were just some plotting issues that dragged this down for me because of the strangeness of it, like I said.
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 2 books3,298 followers
September 15, 2015
Booooooooo, what a bloated, saccharine, cloying, uninspiring book. Total, total letdown.

Scott McCloud is a comics heavyweight, and he's a big deal to Jugs & Capes -- his Understanding Comics was our very first book! So given his masterful status, we all had really high hopes for this one.


One of the brilliant ladies in my brilliant book club worked for his publisher when this book was getting made, and she told us that this is much improved from when the book first started, which, good lord. She also told us that McCloud had the idea for this book when he was in his early 20s, which is a verrrrry good argument for killing your darlings and letting those ideas from your early 20s stay buried in a drawer forevah.

I'm not going to really summarize this book too much because you can find a synopsis, but it's about this broke sculptor who does a Faustian deal to become the brilliant awe-inspiring artist he's always known he could be. He only has 200 days, but he can sculpt anything out of anything, and after those days are over and he's made his million masterpieces, he will die. Is that a bit heavy-handed, that he will literally die for his art? Yes, yes it is.

Thennnnn in the middle of his 200 days of brilliance, he meets Meg, just the worst manic pixie dream girl, the most appalling wish-fulfillment male-writer-imagining-his-perfect-woman bullshit. She's gorgeous, she's crazy, she's got very little personality but eeeeeeveryone loves her, boys and girls alike, and she's dated most of them, and then they break up but they keep loving her, ooh la la. BUT also pooooor Meggggg she has these episodes where she just pushes everyone away and she is soooo misunderstood and crazy and ooooonly our hero can get through to her and OH MY GOD SHUT UP ALREADY JUST STOP.

It's so maudlin and so predictable and so so so sappy. Guess what happens? After lengthy tortured rounds of can-we-no-we-can't baloney, where he loves her too much and she shies from him because she has a boyfriend but then omg he leaves her and that very night she realizes she loves our hero after all, they of course get together, and then bang! pow! earth-shattering love forever! Or at least for the like 124 days he has left because oh noooooo that deal with the Devil thing what shall we do what shall we do.

Guh I did a lot of summarizing, didn't I, after I said I would not. Well no more. This book is awful, and it made me so mad, and the end does not get better, it gets stupider, and cornier, and Nicholas Sparksier, or something, idk I've never read him, but I assume he writes about just the most overwrought heartstring-tugging-est of things, which makes me barf. Just like this book did. The end.

Also here is what we ate at book club. I don't know why I haven't been doing this all along:

j&c the sculptor jun 2015
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,649 reviews1,688 followers
May 23, 2015
Holy shitballs. I haven't felt this emotionally wrung out by a graphic novel since I read Blankets, but I liked this one soooo much more. I'm not sure The Sculptor is going to be for everyone, but oh man, if it hits you, it's going to straight up MURDER YOU.

The main character is David, a frustrated sculptor. It's more complicated and lovely than this, but essentially he makes a deal with Death. He will trade his life for the ability to create the art he can see in his mind and the chance to be remembered as much as one human being can be remembered among billions. He has two hundred days to live if he takes the deal. The alternative, Death tells him, is to walk away from his art, meet a woman, start a family and live a long life. David chooses his art.

What follows is part meditation on life and the role of art in life and memory and identity. And it all feels really, really personal. The story is part of it. We learn a lot about David as he creates his art, as he continues to fail, as he meets a girl he falls in love with. And all the while he's got this ticking clock of 200 days. A lot of it is also the artwork itself. This is actually one of my favorite things about graphic novels, the way that the whole medium works together to create an experience. It's not just the words or the characters or the story, it's also the colors and the lines and the way panels overlap and how fast you move between them and so many other things. In my opinion, this book uses all of those things perfectly to present its story.

I'm so glad I read it, and I need to get my own copy ASAP for eventual multiple readings.
Profile Image for Nickolas the Kid.
306 reviews70 followers
December 29, 2017
Πολύ δυνατό!!! Όπως είπε και κάποιος φίλος εδώ μέσα, καλογραμμένο και με φοβερή ατμόσφαιρα...

Η υπόθεση και το τέλος ήταν πάνω-κάτω αναμενόμενα αλλά η όλη νουβέλα σου δημιουργούσε δυνατά συναισθήματα!!
Profile Image for Calista.
3,873 reviews31.2k followers
December 29, 2017
One of my favorite books read this year. This book is intense and personal and inventive and artistic and entertaining.

I love the art and I love the characters and being able to see into the brutal art world. David makes a deal with death. To make it and be recognized he will give his life for his art. He has 200 days to live. He is assured he will be famous. Not a deal with the devil, but a deal with death.

I love his sculptures. They are amazing. I love the end of this book. Scott ripped my emotions out. A fantastic book. Really, if you like graphic novel's with a great story, you should read this book. Amazing.

It's nice to see someone with an other-worldly gift do something artistic with it instead of fighting and doing battle.
Profile Image for Chris_P.
382 reviews250 followers
March 2, 2018
It may have a couple clichés too many and you may even call it cheesy, but I absolutely fell for it for a second time two years after the first read. In a nutshell, it gave the softer, lovey-dovey side of me the most delicate of touches. Whether that's an easy or a hard-as-hell task, it's yet to be decided.
Profile Image for Book Roast.
48 reviews8,174 followers
December 17, 2017
I was NOT expecting this to be real. Do you have any insecurities about your existence? Well, this will illustrate those and will make sure to make it painful al over again! Haha. Loved it. But THE FEELS !!!
Profile Image for Kristie.
419 reviews187 followers
February 7, 2017
Tohle mě naprosto ohromilo. Ty poslední stránky jsem četla prakticky se zatajením dechem. Jsem teď úplně zahlcená pocity, které teď jdu hezky vstřebat. Ale prostě to bylo perfektní a jasné první pětihvězdičkové hodnocení tohoto roku.
Profile Image for Panagiotis.
297 reviews111 followers
March 3, 2018
Το Sculptor πρέπει να εισχώρησε στα αναγνωστικά μου προσεχώς πανταχόθεν: εξαίρετες κριτικές, προτροπές από φίλους εδώ μέσα, αναφορές από άλλους καλλιτέχνες σε συνεντεύξεις.

Το βιβλίο είναι μεγάλο, κοντά στις 500 σελίδες. Κι όταν το νερό έχει μπει στο αυλάκι, κάπου στις πρώτες 90-100 σελίδες, απορούσα τι θα είχαν οι υπόλοιπες 400. Ένα χιπστέρικο παραλήρημα, μέσα από τις προσπάθειες του καλλιτέχνη να εκμεταλλευτεί το χάρισμα που του δώθηκε με το ύψιστο, Φαουστικό αντίτιμο. Τα καλλιτεχνικά οράματα του πρωταγωνιστή όπως τα συνέλαβε ΜακΛάουντ είχαν ενδιαφέρον, αλλά πολύ σύντομα έκανα κύκλους γύρω από το ίδιο μοτίβο. Το οποίο καθώς δεν είχε καμία αποδοχή, ήταν λογικό να αφήσει τελικά και εμένα αδιάφορο ως αναγνώστη. Το νταραβέρι με την κοπελίτσα του, μέσα από μια κλισέ χορογραφία του αδέξιου που συναντάει τον ανεμοστρόβιλο, γρήγορα το βαρέθηκα. Ο αγώνας του ενάντια στον χρόνο καταντάει κωμωδία: το μοναδικό τέχνασμα που θα μπορούσε να προσφέρει συγκίνηση, γρήγορα πατάσσεται από το ίδιο το γραπτό, καθώς κανενός δεν του καίγεται καρφάκι, αρά γιατί κι εμένα του αναγνώστη; Και τελικά όλος αυτός ο κλαυθμός που αναδύεται από το γραπτό, και ο πόνος που πλασάρεται με τις απανωτές απώλειες στο τέλος, το μόνο που κατάφερε ήταν να με στεναχωρήσει και τελικά να με αφήσει εκνευρισμένο.

Μεγάλο, προβάλλει τον μέσο, καθημερινό άνθρωπο ως πρωταγωνιστή στο παραμύθι, το όνειρο και τελικά τον μεγάλο κύκλο της ζωής. Θα μπορούσε να ειπωθεί σε 50-100 σελίδες.
Profile Image for Peter Derk.
Author 24 books334 followers
March 3, 2015
I mean, of course it's good. What's it gonna do, suck? Was that even really possible?

I don't know that the plot and characters were perfect for me. On the other hand, I think a big part of this story is the messiness and sloppy nature of life, and the way that time goes by and makes us even less perfect than we already are.

It's also, on a more subtle level, about the struggle of creating memorable art versus living a good life. You'd think those things would go hand-in-hand, but a lot of times you have three factors at work.

#1 You have to live. By which I mean, you have to do things like work and buy food and make that food and then eat that food. This slides into things that are beyond biological imperatives too. I put working in this category. You might feel the need to dress a certain way, which takes a certain amount of your time and money away from doing other things. That's cool, but I'm putting this in category #1. Basically, category #1 is everything from your basic human needs up to the things that are less basic human needs but still necessary to living a life of sorts.

#2 You have to make the art. This part is cool. It's fulfilling. But on the other hand, while making art is really, really fulfilling, while finishing projects is great, it's not restful. It's not something you can do all the time when you're not doing the stuff in #1.

#3 You have to do things you actually enjoy. I mean that stuff that everyone says you'll regret on your deathbed. Which I begin to doubt more and more as I age. I've been thinking about this a lot in the context of video games. I've been working on a video game writing project with my brother, so this stuff has been on my mind. And I've been thinking how maybe when I'm on my deathbed, I'll be thinking that I wasted my life finishing the Perfect Run on Super Mario Galaxy 2. Maybe. Maybe I'll regret it. Although I kind of don't think so. I kind of think that I got joy out of it, and even though it's kind of fleeting, I don't think that necessarily means it's not worthwhile.

You've got these three things pulling you all over, and that's the main struggle in The Sculptor, as I read it, and it expresses the way an artist might feel while trying to do #2, while trying to make #2 into a full-time thing.

I regret numbering these now. "...the way an artist might feel while trying to do #2"? Scatological, for sure.

Anyway, here's what I like about The Sculptor.

#'s 2 and 3 are the main conflicts, but #1 isn't thrown out all the way. I liked how, in the story, even with the character's impending death (not a spoiler, don't worry, this is the point of the story, and you read to see how it's resolved) money is still a thing. It's still real. You still need a place to live, and you need enough macaroni&cheese to stay alive.

I also think the juxtaposition of #2 and #3 really spoke to me. It felt really good to read something like this, to see that someone like Scott McCloud maybe feels this way too, feels that his art is fulfilling and wonderful, and that sometimes he wants to be happy. Sometimes the art gets in the way of being happy.

I think most great artists are unlikely to regret a life devoted to art. But it makes me wonder. It makes me think about the things a person gives up.

I'm 31. I thought I was 30, but it turns out I'm 31. I almost corrected someone at the doctor's office, but I kept my mouth shut and did the math instead. And wouldn't you know, I lost a whole year right there while I waited for some doctor to come in and palpate my testicles.

I'm 31, and I've thought a lot about having children. For a long time, it was a No. Now Way, even. Because I didn't really like them. And I didn't think I would enjoy turning over the time I have to raising a child.

This isn't a screed against having kids or parents, by the way. I recognize this as a very personal choice, and nobody needs to justify their decision. Well, okay. Maybe that 19 kids and counting thing. They maybe could do a little justifying.

Anyway, kids didn't seem to be something I wanted in my life.

And now, now it seems even less likely.

Right now I spend days at work, and I spend nights working on writing and other creative projects. I'll call it "art" because it's a 3-letter word and easier to say, but just know that I don't consider the A-word to be a way of saying what I'm doing is great and important.

I spend most of the time I'm not at work still working on other projects. To the point that I don't really cook anymore. I make the same two or three dishes I can freeze and take to work because I don't want to take the time away from art. I hate cleaning my apartment because it takes time away from art. I haven't slept 8 hours every night for a week in...maybe since college. There's not a lot I do anymore outside of work and art.

It's made me a lousy boyfriend. Now and in the past. Especially in the past. At times it's made me a bad son. And brother. At times it's made me a bad employee. It's made me an absentee friend. All these things I want to do, all of those choices has made me into a kind of a shitty person from time to time.

What's weird, the more I think about it, the more I think there's no room for a child in my life. Because right now, right now I feel like I'm doing #1 at a minimum level, #2 enough but not as much as I'd like, and #3 for a couple hours, maybe, one day a week.

Because then, I have to assume that you have #1, #2, and #3, and it's not like you add #4. You add an entire new #'s 1-3. Your child's 1-3, that's on you now.

I'm hoping someday to get to a place where there's a better balance between #1 and #2. Where #2 becomes more a part of #1, where the art maybe provides just a smidge of what I need to get by. I'm hoping to get that balance to then get more of #3 back in my life. To go to the movies or go on a date, or learn a 4th fucking recipe for god's sakes.

It's a really scary thing. To think about this big part of life, and to be making a conscious decision to opt out. I think that's a really weird, really hard thing. But right now, it's how I feel.

This is probably the part where I should really tentatively try and wrap the review back to The Sculptor. It's going to seem tentative if you haven't read the book. But if you do, I think you'll understand more of what I'm saying, or really, you'll understand why I'm saying it.

The Sculptor's message, that we have a really limited time to do an unlimited number of things, it's not super new. But I think it talks about it in a new way, and it came at a good time for me.

Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews107 followers
March 1, 2015
There are many reviews on the "brickness" of this graphic novel, and I for one would have loved the heft if the story was any good. I'm a fan of the author's non-fiction, but am not impressed with his foray into fiction.

This is a story about a "stubborn, self-absorbed, and aggravating young man" - and that's what his love interest calls him! I'd add immature, whiny, and narcissistic. Is this what the emerging adults of today look like? I sure as hell hope not! The premise is an interesting one: a young artist with promise destroys his own career, and now is broke and uninspired. A classic lead-in to a dance with the devil, right? What will he give up for his art? Is it worth it?

There are so many things about this guy that annoyed me - his focus on fame and not his art, his infantile fixation on a girl, his ridiculous promises, his tempter tantrums - what is he, four?! There is no new ground covered with this story, and that is a shame, because the art, people. The art is fantastic. Lovely illustrations in black, white, and blue. I give the story 2 stars, and the art 4, so will average out at a generous 3 stars. It is the art that kept me reading to the end.
Profile Image for Charles.
Author 64 books120 followers
February 17, 2015
Stuff I Read - The Sculptor by Scott McCloud Review

I will say that this book does a lot of interesting things, and plays with some old ideas in ways that a lot of people will probably like. The art, certainly, is well done and I enjoyed the depictions of art, especially how his powers work and how he goes around creating art, how he uses materials in interesting ways. And I really liked the idea that a great part about art is the care and detail that goes into things that no one is going to see. Like with the shadowboxes, how so much went into the things that people would never actually see. That's great and I like that. There's something so very human about putting in that time for no one else, just really for the joy of doing it, of creating something that is more real.

That said, I had some issues with the book. Part of it stems from the fact that this book is entirely about David. Throughout, I got the feeling that it was saying that David is basically the most tragic of figures. And there is something kind of strange about that, something that just rubs me a bit the wrong way. Not that he doesn't get dealt a bad hand. Bad things happen to him. But he's special and that makes these things about him. The death of his family kind of becomes about him and not about his family. Even to some degree his sister being in a wheelchair and dying young. Even his relationship in the book with the love of his life, with Meg. Now, again, I like that she's a person with problems. But David thinks about those problems in terms of him. It's all about him, about his promises and his pain and his decisions. Meg really is never considered through that, and it made me uncomfortable.

Much more uncomfortable was when SPOILERS!!!!

Because then it just becomes about David's legacy. And his legacy is his art, obviously, but Meg's isn't. Her legacy is

But then maybe I'm just being sensitive to all of this. It's not the worst thing in the world. I sort of liked Death/Uncle Harry. I kind of liked his gay friend but not the gay relationship that his friend was in. And I just didn't really like how much importance it gave to David. It was all about him and I think it might be saying that you have to try and give it your all but it seems more to me that it's saying that some people are just special and talented and those are the people who get to endure. But I could be way off. As I said up top, there are things to like about this book. I just...it pushed some of my buttons and so I didn't end up enjoying it very much. So, for me, this is a 4/10.
Profile Image for Karima chermiti.
812 reviews153 followers
November 23, 2018

2018 has been the year I discovered that I actually like me some graphic novels from time to time. Since that discovery the sculptor has been on my radar, the idea of this graphic novel seemed too good for me to miss.

The sculptor revolves around David Smith, a struggling artist who is trying to make a name for himself as a talented sculptor and who is willing to do anything for the recognition his art deserves. It’s no wonder he doesn’t hesitate to make a deal that allows him to sculpt with his bare hands whatever he wants, the only downside is that he has only 200 days to live.

Story wise, the sculptor is a very fascinating tale that explores the struggle of being an artist and the difficulties, the pain, the doubts that come with failing over and over again of making it work and how willing some people are to delve into the darkness to be the artist they knew they could.

The book also deals with other issues like mental illness via the character of Meg, the girl David falls in love with but it felt a little problematic for me; how it felt for me like it was used to generate angst and romantic conflicts, not to mention that meg was the definition of Manic pixie dream girl.

I also didn’t like the characters in this book, whiny, self-centered and sometimes nonchalant, they left me feeling cold. I didn’t care of what would happen to David and how his story will end. I couldn’t connect with him and saw him so self-centered and selfish; everything was about him even when it shouldn’t. I also didn’t care about the romance; I just wanted Meg to get the help she needs for her illness and for David to just figure something out with his art because he was exhausting as a character.

Even that shocking and powerful ending was ruined by how dragged out it was. Now that I’m thinking about it, the story didn’t need to be that long. Longer doesn’t always mean better, I wish some author realize that.

Now, speaking about the illustrations, they were the most satisfying thing about this graphic novel, dazzling, brilliant and satisfying, I find myself multiple times just looking and looking not wanting to tear my eyes from them because they were so good.

All in all, the sculptor is a decent graphic novel that could’ve been a brilliant one if it wasn’t for the unlikable main character, how unnecessary long it was and the problematic representation of mental illness.


Book #3 in Tome Topple Readathon for the challenge : Read a graphic novel
Profile Image for Michael.
1,215 reviews114 followers
August 7, 2015
Scott McCloud's The Sculptor is a weighty read. And I don't just mean the actual physical weight of the book (though it is a thick, heavy book). I'm talking about the story, it's implications and how it's stuck with me even though I finished the last page months ago.

David Smith is a struggling artist. He's visited by the ghost of his dead uncle and given a choice -- give up art and live a long life with marriage, children, etc. or live two hundred more days and be able to create as much art as he wants. David chooses the shorter life and art, but he finds, as with all choices, there are pros and cons to it. A pro is he can create art faster and more effectively than ever before. A con is that his friends and agent find it hard to believe he's creating this much art so rapidly.

Another con is that just as David's life has an expiration date, he meets a girl and falls in love. At first it appears a one-sided love (she's dating someone else) but soon the two are falling in love.

The interesting thing about The Sculptor is that the love affair is rich, complicated, wonderful and messy -- sometimes all within a few panels of each other. Meg has her issues and isn't the "perfect" love interest. But she's a great fit for David -- at least for most of the run of this story. Where McCloud takes our characters and this story is profoundly moving -- going from the great excitement of the early days of a relationship to the hard work that comes in keeping the relationship going. McCloud doesn't shy away from some of the harder issues facing our couple nor does he come up with any easy answers for them.

All this might be enough but what elevates the story is the art work by McCloud. It would be easy to rush through the story, only glancing at the artwork but to do so is to sell The Sculptor very, very short. I found myself pausing many times to just marvel at the artwork and the world that McCloud had created here.

I also liked the fact that McCloud has created chapters to this story. As I said before, it's a long, thick, heavy book and one that I don't think necessarily benefits from being read in one sitting. I read it in several sittings and each chapter felt long enough to be satisfying. It also helps you to have a natural break so you can slow down, appreciate the art and maybe go back to revisit a few favorite panels or pages.

The Sculptor is a magnificent, well told, moving story. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Chad.
7,693 reviews868 followers
December 2, 2017
A fantastic read! The story of a young sculptor in NYC who's experienced success and now is hitting rock bottom. Death appears to him and offers him a trade. Death will give him the power to sculpt any material with his hands but he'll die in 200 days. This is the story of what David does during those days. Scott McCloud's art in the book is wonderful. His characters are so expressive and realistic. I also like how he captures the loneliness that occurs even when you are surrounded by 10 million people.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,650 followers
April 7, 2015
For more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Ouch. My body was not ready. When I pick up graphic novels, I expect something kinda fluffy. I mean, I first got into them with manga and my favorites are shoujo romances. The Sculptor has a couple kissing on the cover and it’s tagged a romance on GR. However, it’s also really sad, so be prepared for that. The fact that I’ve just been destroyed aside, it’s really fucking good.

The Sculptor is about this guy David who’s a painter. Haha, just kidding. He’s a sculptor. Ever since he was a kid, sculpting has been his dream. Now 26, David’s dreams are all but crushed. His family, who he loved, have all died by this point and he’s down to just one friend. His art career had a brief surge of popularity followed by crushing ignominy when his patron dropped him hard. David doesn’t have any money left and the lease is almost up on his apartment. He feels hopeless.

This is why, when his dead Uncle Harry shows up in a diner to offer him a deal, David accepts. David trades all of the rest of his life for one year of sculpting, in which he’ll be able to truly live his dream. Though he didn’t realize it, the true dream was to be able to sculpt metal and stone with his bare hands. David basically becomes a superhero and it’s so cool, though he actually doesn’t use his powers that way at all.

Everything for David is about his art. Though I’m not an artist, I love stories about people with the compulsion. David sees promise in everything and remembers things in artful statues in his mind. One thing I thought was so cool was that all of the sculptures, even the ones that looked like nothing were a clear, particular event for David. He’s a bit like Hercules, in that he trades his future for fame. When he can’t get popular even with his new ability, he becomes a rogue sculpturer, leaving creations around the city.

He also, of course, falls in love while doomed to die in a year. His love interest, Meg, is awesome. She starts out sort of MPDG-ish, I think, but she’s actually manic depressive. I just love the way their romance evolves, from him declaring himself in love with her the third time they meet and how adorable their first time was. I became very very attached to these people. They’re funny and real and I was rooting for them.

The one thing I’m not as sure about is actually the premise. I love it, but I also feel like there was something more I wanted to know about Harry’s character. Why does death get involved like this? What’s the point? It stands alone without that, but I was left with questions and curiosity.

The Sculptor surprised me utterly, made me fall in love, and broke my heart. Just so good.
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