PEOPLE KNOW Scott McCloud from his canonical theory books on visual narrative (Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics), so when I first heard that his new comic book, The Sculptor, was being hailed as his opus, I was pretty excited to read it. I flipped through the nearly 500-page book in one evening. That alone speaks to its readability. But the romance at The Sculptor's center reminded me of a '90s movie—like a less crass Chasing Amy, if Chasing Amy included a magical sculptor guy, David, who makes a deal with death. A lot of it bothered me, particularly McCloud's female protagonist, Meg, who set off my "manic pixie dream girl" alarm. When I got a chance to interview McCloud, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to resolve some of my reservations.
MERCURY: At the beginning of The Sculptor, in the first 40 pages, we see David losing his shit—freaking out in a restaurant. Did you ever have those sorts of freakouts?
SCOTT McCLOUD: I'm a pretty pent-up, frustrated guy. There's a fair amount of me in David. I think I would have had the good sense not to freak out in a public place, but I was definitely freaking out in private places. I remember lying in bed, staring at the ceiling realizing I was in love with this woman that I was gonna stay in love with for another seven years in secret, because she was otherwise engaged.
Was that your now-wife?
Yeah, that was Ivy. That was the period in which she inspired the character Meg. This is a very old story. This goes back a few decades.
Meg's character struck me as a manic pixie dream girl type.
There are people like that. Ivy is a lot like that. Ivy was aware of that trope before it had a name, and she saw herself in those films—Amélie, Harold and Maude. I think it's interesting that our reaction to an archetype that recurs in generally female [targeted] genres is to want to destroy it, whereas our reaction to archetypes that occur in traditionally male genres—action films or westerns—is to want to reconstruct them, or come up with post-modern interpretations. No one ever thought we should try to get rid of the steely eyed loner or stoic detective. We just recast them in Blade Runner.
People have been calling this comic your opus.
No, no. Nobody is allowed to call what they do their magnum opus. It's like giving yourself a nickname. You're not allowed.