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Dave McKean

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David "Dave" McKean (born December 29, 1963) is a British comic book and cover artist, illustrator, graphic designer, filmmaker, photographer and musician who worked on the comic adaptation of Alien Resurrection for Dark Horse Comics.


Born in 1963 in Maidenhead, Berkshire, the UK-based McKean is most well known for his years of work as singular cover artist on the iconic much-acclaimed Sandman series for DC/Vertigo Comics throughout the 1980s and 90s.

His art pieces and covers often incorporate drawing, painting, photography, collage, found objects, digital art and sculpture.

After a trip to New York in 1986 during which he failed to find work as a comics artist, McKean met writer Neil Gaiman and the pair collaborated on a short graphic novel of disturbing childhood memories, Violent Cases, published in 1987. This was followed in 1988 by a Black Orchid miniseries (again with Gaiman) and Hellblazer covers for DC Comics. Beginning in 1989 he produced the covers for Gaiman's celebrated series The Sandman, all its collected editions and many of its spin-offs, and the Batman graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, with writer Grant Morrison (1989). His work during this period was often compared to that of Bill Sienkiewicz. In 1995 he wrote and illustrated a book for The Rolling Stones called Voodoo Lounge to tie in with the release of their album of the same name. In 2001 he produced the short comic Pictures that Tick.

In 2005, he designed the poster for the 32nd Telluride Film Festival. In 2006, he designed projections, sets and directed film clips for the Broadway musical Lestat, adapted from Anne Rice's novels with music and lyrics by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. His most recent projects are directing an original feature called Luna, and a book with the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Between 1990 and 1996 McKean wrote and drew the ten issues of Cages, an ambitious graphic novel about artists and creativity, illustrated in a stripped-down pen and ink style influenced by Alberto Breccia, José Antonio Muñoz and Lorenzo Mattotti. Cages was published as single volume by Kitchen Sink Press in 1998, and in a new edition by NBM Publishing in 2002. In 2010, Cages was released by Dark Horse Comics in paperback for the first time. Cages (1998) by Dave McKeanFurther collaborations with Gaiman produced the graphic novels Signal to Noise in 1992 (previously serialised in The Face magazine), about a dying filmmaker and his hypothetical last film, and Mr. Punch, which explored similar themes as Violent Cases through the imagery of the Punch and Judy show.

McKean has also created a few books documenting his travels using only illustrations. Examples include Postcards from Vienna, Postcards from Barcelona, Postcards from Paris (2008), and Postcards from Brussels (2009). He also wrote another book of 200 pages called Squink (éditions BdArtist(e)) that gathered a number of drawings in 15 chapters.

McKean has also worked as an artist for the music industry, providing CD covers for:

  • Alice Cooper
  • Altan
  • Tori Amos
  • Iain Ballamy
  • Believer
  • Bill Bruford and Earthworks
  • Buckethead (for whom he also created a 3D animation in 16 mm)
  • John Cale
  • Counting Crows
  • Dali's Dilemma
  • Disincarnate
  • Download
  • Dream Theater
  • Fear Factory
  • Front Line Assembly
  • Bill Laswell
  • Machine Head
  • Mediaeval Babes
  • James Murphy
  • My Dying Bride
  • Michael Nyman
  • Paradise Lost
  • Skinny Puppy
  • Stabbing Westward
  • Suicide Silence
  • Testament
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket

He has done book covers for:

  • Jonathan Carroll
  • Iain Sinclair
  • Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
  • The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
  • Coraline
  • The Graveyard Book
  • The New Yorker

He has also published four books of photography:

  • A Small Book of Black and White Lies (1995) and
  • Option: Click (1998),
  • The Particle Tarot: The Major Arcana
  • The Particle Tarot: The Minor Arcana

McKean designed and illustrated John Cale's autobiography What's Welsh for Zen, a further biography called Sedition and Alchemy, a box set of cd's called Circus Live, and used John's Welsh-by-way-of-New York voice as the narrator for his short film N[eon].

More recently McKean has collaborated with Neil Gaiman on two children's picture books, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1998) and The Wolves in the Walls (2003), and illustrated Gaiman's children's novels Coraline (2002) and The Graveyard Book (2008), as well as S F Said's Varjak Paw (2003). The Wolves in the Walls: a Musical Pandemonium premiered as a play in Glasgow in 2006 with Improbable and the National Theatre of Scotland. He also illustrated David Almond's The Savage published in April 2008, and Slog's Dad published in September 2010.

In 2008, McKean collaborated with Heston Blumenthal on The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, an autobiography, compilation of key recipes and insight into Blumenthal's scientific method. The book was nominated in the James Beard Foundation Awards for Cooking from a Professional Point of View and won the Photography/Illustration award.

McKean created six images for Royal Mail's Mythical Creatures collection, which featured depictions of mythical creatures found in British Folklore, including Dragons, Unicorns, Giants, Pixies, Mermaids and Fairies. The collection was released in the UK on 16 June 2009. The Presentation Pack contains short descriptions of each subject by author Neil Gaiman, someone whom has worked with McKean many times in the past.

MirrorMask, McKean's first feature film as director, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005. The screenplay was written by Neil Gaiman, from a story by Gaiman and McKean. A children's fantasy which combines live action and digital animation, Mirrormask was produced by Jim Henson Studios. Before MirrorMask, McKean directed a number of television intros and music videos as well as several short films, such as The Week Before (1998) and N[eon] (2002), which are included in the compilation DVD of McKean's work Keanoshow from Allen Spiegel Fine Arts. McKean was also a conceptual artist on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).

McKean has won numerous awards and accolades. Over the years, he has been nominated 5 times for a World Fantasy Award in the category of "Artist", and in 1991 he won the award. His graphic novel Cages won the Alph-Art, Pantera, and Harvey Awards for best Graphic Novel] He has been nominated 6 times and won 3 Spectrum Awards in the categories of "Advertising", "Book", and "Comic". His collection of short comics, Pictures That Tick won the V&A Museum Illustrated Book Awards Overall First Prize. In 2004, McKean won a BSFA Award in "Short Fiction" along with Neil Gaiman for their work, The Wolves in the Walls. His film MirrorMask was nominated for the William Shatner Golden Groundhog Award for Best Underground Movie.

McKean is also an accomplished jazz pianist, and founded the record label Feral Records with saxophonist Iain Ballamy.


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