Scott McCloud, MoCCA guest of honor, returns to fiction with ‘The Sculptor’

The “Understanding Comics” cartoonist releases massive graphic novel “The Sculptor”

Scott McCloud is most famous for his nonfiction graphic novels such as “Understanding Comics” and “Making Comics.”

The cartoonist returns to the world of fiction with his latest work, “The Sculptor.” The massive, nearly 500-page book chronicles a New York sculptor who makes a deal with Death to seriously amp up his artistic skills, but it comes with a price.

McCloud is a guest of honor at the MoCCA Arts Festival, running this weekend. He’ll be signing copies of the book at the First Second Books booth on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon, and he’ll be discussing his work at a panel on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

amNY spoke with McCloud, 54, about the book.

What inspired “The Sculptor”?

The basic story for “The Sculptor” goes back three decades, so a ton of art, music, movies, books, life experiences and other comics probably inspired the stuff in those pages over the years. The power fantasy aspect of it goes back to the superhero comics I was reading as a kid, and the romance was inspired by the woman I was secretly in love with for seven years in my 20s (who I eventually married).

How did you go about capturing New York City on the pages?

I lived in Manhattan for a little while in my 20s, but I had the misfortune to be stuck on the West Coast while working on this book. So I took any opportunity I could find to fly back out to New York, usually for something work-related. I made about 10 trips to Manhattan and Brooklyn, visiting locations, conducting interviews and taking about 10,000 photos. … It was also really helpful having Google Street View at times. I have a character walking from Williamsburg to Chelsea at three in the morning; it was nice not to have to make that whole walk myself and still be able to draw the real things that he passed on the street.

How is a work like “The Sculptor” indicative of the kinds of works people will see at the MoCCA Festival?

This is only my first time at MoCCA so I can’t speak for the festival as a whole, but I can promise that big fat graphic novels from established names is only a small part of the festival. From the guest list alone, it’s clear that there’ll be a strong showing of young, innovative and creative cartoonists from across the world, as well as giants of underground comix and the newly-growing kids comics movement. Unlike some of the big pop culture conventions, this one is all about the art of comics and the people making them.

Are there artists or works you’re looking to seek out at MoCCA?

I want to be surprised! … The real treasures are the cartoonists you’ve never heard of, showing off some miniature masterpiece.

If you go: MoCCA Arts Festival 2015 is Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at Center 548 at 548 W. 22nd St. with all programing at High Line Hotel at 180 10th Ave., Tickets $5 per day.

Scott A. Rosenberg