Scott McCloud's Comic-Con International panel gave eager audiences the chance to not only spend an hour with the master himself, but to share in the excitement of the upcoming release of his latest creation, "The Sculptor." Decades in the making (he first imagined the concept back in high school), and five years of serious writing/drawing have produced a five hundred page monster. But before you get too excited, you may be interested to know that First Second Publishing won't be releasing it until February 2015. An earlier release had been planned, but according to McCloud, printing problems have led to a delay.
Speaking of delays, early technical difficulties made for a slow start to the session, which offered (among other things) a glimpse into McCloud's creative process, as seen through the creation of "The Sculptor." Being called McCloud's masterpiece, it's a story that explores the dichotomy between what we desire to do, and what perhaps we should desire to do.
Explaining that "desire is so central to story telling that many people lay it down as a rule," Mc Cloud said "the great fuel that drives these [story] engines is often the power, the intensity, the passion of those desires. That's what makes for the kinds of stories that I'm really interested in."
This idea became clearer when McCloud shared some excerpts from "The Sculptor," the story of a young David Smith who, having seen some early fame and success as a sculptor, has been rejected by the very public that so recently embraced him. He ultimately makes a deal with Death to reclaim his artist prowess, in return for living only another two hundred days. Believing sculpting his only passion, and recognizing that with Death's help he could certainly sculpt his heart out in the agreed upon time frame, he agrees to the deal. Sadly, he meets the love of his life during that time, causing his motivations and desires to change dramatically.
The visual storytelling is multi-layered, taking the reader beyond the story of protagonist David Smith, and into the hidden stories of the many anonymous characters that occupy McCloud's backgrounds. Speaking of New York as a setting for his book, McCloud expressed a love and delight for the physical architecture of the city, but more over the landscape and architecture of the people that inhabit it. Many panels in the story are designed to offer hidden delights for the reader willing to look beyond the front and center story.
"These little characters in the background all had their own secret inner lives," McCloud said, "the notion that the interior and the exterior life, and how they mix sometimes in New York. That's the landscape, that's the human landscape. And also, the way that we focus on some people and filter out others, I tried to capture that graphically, as best I could."
McCloud went on to talk about the importance of creating a world where the desires and motivations of all the characters, whether main characters or background, can live.
"Those who work on animation are story architects. People who work at Pixar and Disney... or on Studio Ghibli films, they are architects in the sense that they are creating structures that are capable of literally supporting thousands of people."
Employing the voice talents of his wife Ivy, and daughter Winter, McCloud shared a couple of excerpts from the book. One, a rather lengthy slice of life segment, was superbly drawn and nuanced. The biggest surprise, however, was at the end of the melancholy scene, a cliff-hanger punch that rippled through the audience, leaving everyone wanting more.
Too bad we have to wait until next February.