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Hands in Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor: Repetition, Rhythm, Remembrance

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I spent the weekend reading through Scott McCloud’s new graphic novel The Sculptor. This was an immensely rewarding read and one I plan to revisit soon (and possibly teach); the ambition of this work reminded me, at times, of Asterios Polyp.

In many ways, The Sculptor lends itself well to be read as an anchor text for McCloud’s canonical work on comic books: Understanding Comics. The lessons McCloud etches across his academic text are made manifest in the pacing, the narrative imagery, the layout of panel upon panel.

As one example, I was particularly drawn to the deliberate repetition of the sculptor’s hands throughout the work. Specifically, McCloud draws significant narrative significance from the gestured look at one’s hands across the story. Here, a few examples lacking context:

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By the end of the 400+ page book, the gesture of looking at his hands has come to signal for the sculptor adoration, disgust, regret, love, remembrance, and much more. The panel is like the sculptor seeing his life flash before your eyes (perhaps it is). We garner this insight across the work. We are reminded of the layered meaning and significance of hands for an artist looking for acceptance and recognition each time McCloud repeats the gesture. The tone of the hands shifts from beat to beat in the book, but each tone is not forgotten. Like palimpsests of thought, the paneled image of the sculptor’s hands builds and layers; a new formation held within the calloused digits.

[Note: These are a fraction of the hand images in the book and I am trying to deliberately remove context here. In terms of both an argument for fair use of the images and to not squelch a powerful narrative, I offer a pittance of samples.]

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