This past Friday, I was blessed with an opportunity to see Scott McCloud speak at The Art Institute of Chicago. I ended up falling into a few free tickets, so I grabbed some educational and comic homies, and we made the trip into the city for the event. Mr. McCloud was there to celebrate the Chicago Humanities Festival and discuss his new graphic novel The Sculptor.
The venue was small, the crowd was awesome, and McCloud was great discussing his craft. After the discussion and Q&A, I was able to briefly meet Scott and get my copy of The Sculptor signed. Man, I look like a huge orc in this photo…
Yesterday, as you may know was Valentine’s Day, and during a break from our Valentine’s Day festivities, my wife and I took some time to do some reading. I quickly and eagerly picked up The Sculptor and tore through the almost 500 pages in less than three-hours, and what follows is my review.
I will begin my review with a similar tone as my Craig Thompson Blankets review: frustration. I’m not frustrated with the story, the art, or the concept, for as you will read, I actually really like the book. I was, yet again, frustrated by yet another amazingly done graphic novel that I will not get to teach in my classroom. While this book is fairly liberal with its “F-Bombs,” it’s the nudity that will keep it out of my classroom. I will say, that if this book did not contain the nudity that it does, I would have ordered over thirty copies for the Graphic Novel class that I will be teaching next school year. I understand that most of the nudity comes from a place of innocence and reality, but there’s no justifying that to a school board. I’m hoping to get an interview with McCloud, and if I do, I will for sure engage in a discussion about censorship and the classroom because I do not feel that it would have been difficult to make “edited for the classroom” versions of this book, but if he feels like the art would have suffered, I completely understand…but not really, for while I get the nudity in this work, I do not feel that without it, the story, tone, themes, or work as a whole would have suffered.
There are a growing number of teachers out there using graphic novels in the classroom. I’m sure many of you that read this blog are in that grouping of educators. We really need to let these publishing companies and authors know that we want to use their books in the classroom. We really need to let these publishers and authors know that while book stores and comic shops are dying, we have an audience of thousands that for lack of better phrasing, we can make read their work. But we can’t make them read things that we cannot justify. This book could have such a larger audience. Do you know why Shakespeare is still the best-selling author in the world? Schools buy classroom sets.
OK. I had to get that out. And I really look forward to what you think about what has been said here, but I want to devote some time to the actual review of this book because it’s really good.
Through this epic monochromatic tale, Scott McCloud is able to break many comic conventions in order to deliver a story that not only moves its readers but makes them think as well. But this is no surprise considering that he is the genius behind Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics.
The Sculptor is about a young man, that because of some tough luck, decides to make a deal with Death and exchange life for the ability to create sculpture; he only has 200 days to live. The story moves from there. The concept is nothing new, right? If you only had a short time to live, what would you do type stuff, but where McCloud makes this concept unique is in the idea that his artist struggles to take advantage of his amazing gift (maybe for the entirety of the story, maybe not…I’m not spoiling anything). It also finds an interesting angle by giving the artist’s love interest a serious mental condition. I guess what I enjoyed most about the book was that it was, at times, both what I expected and what I did not expect, and it left me thinking…about mortality, motivation, success, and the future.
Sound like a book you’d like to teach your high school kids? Me too, but wait (read above).
Sorry about that. I just hate to see an opportunity where I can give an author, artist, and publishing house more money…disappear.
If you are a fan or comics, art, story-telling, etc. read this book. You will not be disappointed. But be wary of recommending it to kids, and I’d keep it off of your classroom shelf. I know The Comic Book Teacher may disagree with some of what I’ve said here, and I hope he responds with a re-blog and his own take on the issue. I love Scott McCloud. I love comics. I love teaching. I just want to be able to bring more stories like this and Blankets to my classroom, and small artistic decisions are preventing me from doing so. Some of you might think that I am selfish. Some of you may think I’m crazy for even considering that an artist alter their work for any audience, and seriously, you may be right, but I’ll tell you this…if we want future comic readers and comic teachers, we have to get books like this into their hands because while I love books like I Kill Giants, this book (as well as Blankets) is just more literary.
I look forward to your thoughts. Please feel free to contact me and follow me on Twitter!