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“I never minded Dave being an astonishing artist and visual designer. That never bothered me. That he’s a world class keyboard player and composer bothers me only a little. That he drives amazing cars very fast down tiny Kentish backroads only bothers me if I’m a passenger after a full meal, and much of the time I keep my eyes shut anyway. He’s now becoming a world class film and video director, that he can write comics as well as I can, if not better, that he subsidises his art (still uncompromised after all these years) with highly paid advertising work which still manages, despite being advertising work, to be witty and heartfelt and beautiful… well, frankly, these things bother me. It seems somehow wrong for so much talent to be concentrated in one place, and I am fairly sure the only reason that no-one has yet risen up and done something about it is because he’s modest, sensible and nice.”
Neil Gaiman

Dave McKean was born in Berkshire in the UK in 1963. He attended Berkshire College of Art and Design from 1982-86 and, before leaving he started working as an illustrator. In 1986 he met author Neil Gaiman and they have worked together on many projects since, including the Sandman series, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Coraline, The Wolves in the Walls, Mirrormask and The Graveyard Book. In his career as an illustrator, Dave has won Harvey Awards for Best New Comic and Best Graphic Novel; he has won the international Amid Award for the best album cover of the year; in 1995 he produced the image that launched the Sony Playstation; and he has contributed promotional work for the films Blade, Alien Resurrection and Sleepy Hollow and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Dave is also a published writer and photographer, a musician and a film-maker. He lives on the Isle of Oxney with his wife and studio manager Clare, and their two children.

Essential Reading:

Dark Horse, 1998

McKean tells the stories of the inhabitants of a single building. The psychological toll of persecution. The tension between structure and experimentation in art and music. The pleasures of adult conversation. The pain of old age. A breath taking work of art.

Paul Gravett says:
McKean rediscovers the power of making marks on paper, and in its best passages the power of comics to record life’s fleeting details and get inside the minds of his characters. McKean creates a personal creation myth to free his cast from their cages.

Pictures That Tick
Dark Horse, 2000

Pictures That Tick collects Dave McKean’s groundbreaking short comics stories from the 1990s and early 2000s. A true iconoclast, McKean mixes illustration, painting, photography, sculpture, and digital art for a comics experience unlike any other. Some pieces are poignant, some are silly, but all are beautiful and thought provoking. Each is completely unique, and gathered together they represent a tour-de-force achievement. Pictures That Tick stretches the boundaries of comics art, and the short-story format allows him to create an even broader artistic vision.

Paul Gravett says:
He pursues Cages’ direct, strong drawing in two silent fables in Pictures That Tick. His tense penwork in Bitten & Bruised transmits a husband’s growing paranoia of what his wife might be hiding beneath the sheets. One dangerous image can spark a story: a head pierced by a shard of glass urges McKean to re-examine his father and His Story, now that he is a father himself; a branch growing through a girl unleashes the dark cautionary study Ash.

Fantagraphics, 2011

A woman arrives at an apartment, but her partner can’t get away from work. She is disappointed and settles in for a night alone, but finds a film projector with a reel of film loaded. The film is scratched and blurry, but she can make out a couple making love. When the film burns out, a door is revealed which leads to a misty town square… and a series of fantastical sexual encounters. Celluloid is a rare instance of a top-flight cartoonist working within erotic parameters, with the intent of creating a genuine work of art.

Dave McKean says:
There are so many comics about violence. I’m not entertained or amused by violence, and I’d rather not have it in my life. Sex, on the other hand, is something the vast majority of us enjoy, yet it rarely seems to be the subject of comics. Pornography is usually bland, repetitive and ugly, and, at most, ‘does the job’. I always wanted to make a book that is pornographic, but is also, I hope, beautiful, and mysterious, and engages the mind.

Signal To Noise
with Neil Gaiman
DC/Vertigo, 1992

Somewhere in London a film director is dying of cancer. His life’s crowning achievement, his greatest film, would have told the story of a European village as the last hour of 999 AD approached - the midnight which the villagers were convinced would bring Armageddon. Now that story will never be told. But he’s still pointlessly working it out in his head, making a film that no-one will ever see. No one but us.

Paul Gravett says:
For style bible The Face magazine, McKean and Gaiman were commissioned to serialise a graphic novel and then expanded it into a book for Gollancz in 1992. In Signal To Noise, an elderly film-director with terminal cancer can’t stop planning his last film in his head, set at the end of the first millennium, when the world is expected to end. This is his way of trying to make sense of the end of his world, to detect a signal amid all of life’s noise. Not the light, easy read The Face may have wanted. The story partly reflects McKean’s passion to make a movie, but more significantly taps into his father’s death when he was 14. Look beyond its demanding formalisms and its content is touchingly bittersweet.

Mr Punch
with Neil Gaiman
DC/Vertigo, 1994

In his grandfather’s failing seaside arcade, a young boy encounters a mysterious Punch and Judy Man with a dark past, and a woman who makes her living playing a mermaid. As their lives intertwine and their stories unfold, the boy is forced to confront family secrets, strange puppets and a nightmarish world of violence and betrayal, in a fable of childhood innocence and adult pain.

Paul Gravett says:
From a boy’s perspective, adults loom as ‘threatening creatures’, seething with the sort of violence against the family that Mr Punch gets away with. McKean deliberately confounds readers’ expectations, by enacting some of the disturbingly ‘real’ everyday scenes with puppet-like figures and sets, in contrast to the ‘unreal’ dreaming and remembering recorded in photographs.



As writer/artist:
Celluloid (2011)
The Coast Road (2009)
Squink (2008)
Narcolepsy (2003)
Pictures That Tick (2000)
Cages (1998)
Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge (1995)

As artist, with writer Neil Gaiman:
Crazy Hair (2009)
Mirror Mask (2005)
The Wolves In The Walls (2002)
Caroline (2001)
The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish (1996)
Mr Punch (1994)
Signal to Noise (1992)
Black Orchid (1998)
Hellblazer: Hold Me (1989)
Violent Cases (1987)

As artist/designer:
Slog’s Dad (2010) with David Almond
The Fat Duck Cookbook (2009) with Heston Blumenthal
The Savage (2008) with David Almond
The Homecoming (2006) with Ray Bradbury
What’s Welsh For Zen (1998) with John Cale
Dust Covers: The Sandman Covers (1997)
Slow Chocolate Autopsy (1997) with Iain Sinclair
Vertigo Tarot (1995) with Rachel Pollack
The Tip Of My Tongue (1995)
Hellblazer: The Magus (1991) with Jamie Delano
Arkham Asylum (1990) with Grant Morrison

Short Stories:
The Rut (2010) in Hypercomic App
Desolation Row (2009) in Bob Dylan Revisted
Black Holes (2009) in Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption
Tales From Somnopolis (1987) in Mister X Archives

Postcard Series:
Postcard From Brussels (2009)
Postcard From Paris (2008)
Postcard From Barcelona (2007)
Postcard From Vienna (2006)

The Particle Tarot: The Minor Arcana (2006)
The Particle Tarot: The Major Arcana (2000)
Option: Click (1997)
A Small Book Of Black & White Lies (1995)


Official Sites:
Dave McKean
Gaiman & McKean Books

Film Sites:
Mirror Mask

Online Resources:
Paul Gravett’s Articles
Gaiman on McKean
The Art Of Dave McKean
Dave McKean Collector

Allen Spiegel Fine Arts
Bleed Bleed
Dark Horse
Fantagraphics Books


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