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Dave McKean

Dave McKean
Born David Jeff McKean
(1963-12-29) 29 December 1963
Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom
Nationality English
Area(s) Illustrator, photographer, writer, filmmaker, and musician
Notable works
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook
The Sandman
The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch
Violent Cases
The Wolves in the Walls

David McKean (born 29 December 1963)[1] is an English illustrator, photographer, comic book artist, graphic designer, filmmaker and musician. His work incorporates drawing, painting, photography, collage, found objects, digital art and sculpture. McKean's projects include directing an original feature titled Luna and a book with the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.


  • Career 1
    • Comics 1.1
    • Illustration 1.2
    • CD covers 1.3
    • Book covers 1.4
    • Books of photography 1.5
    • Collected Short Stories 1.6
    • Work with John Cale 1.7
    • Children's picture books 1.8
    • The Fat Duck Cookbook 1.9
    • Stamps 1.10
  • Films 2
  • Jazz musician 3
  • Awards 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6



After a trip to New York City 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.[2] This was followed in 1988 by a Black Orchid miniseries[3][4] and Hellblazer covers for DC Comics.[5][6]

In 1989, he illustrated the Batman graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, with writer Grant Morrison.[7] Comics historian Les Daniels observed that "Arkham Asylum was an unprecedented success, selling 182,166 copies in hardcover and another 85,047 in paperback...McKean produced 120 pages of paintings for Arkham Asylum, offering powerful visual reinterpretations of the classic characters."[8] From 1989–1997 McKean produced the covers for Gaiman's celebrated series The Sandman, all its collected editions, and many of its spin-offs.[9][10] In 1998, the cover images from The Sandman were released as one compiled volume titled Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers.[11] Further 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 The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch, which explored similar themes as Violent Cases through the imagery of the Punch and Judy show. In 1995 McKean 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.[6]

Cages (1998) by Dave McKean

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.[12] 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.[6]


Mckean designed the posters for the Raindance Film Festival[13] for five years from 1996-2000. In 1997 he wrote, directed and edited a ninety-second trailer for the festival. In 2005, McKean 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.

McKean has 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 wrote another book of 200 pages called Squink (éditions BdArtist(e)) that gathered a number of drawings in 15 chapters.

CD covers

Book covers

Books of photography

He has published four books of photography:

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

Collected Short Stories

  • Pictures that Tick - Volume 1 (2001).
  • Pictures that Tick - Volume 2 (2014).[14]

Work with John Cale

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].

Children's picture books

McKean has collaborated with Neil Gaiman on three children's picture books, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1998), The Wolves in the Walls (2003) and Crazy Hair (2009), 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. The National Theatre of Scotland adapted The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish into a promenade performance for young people in 2013. He illustrated David Almond's The Savage published in April 2008, and Slog's Dad published in September 2010. In 2011, McKean collaborated with Richard Dawkins on The Magic of Reality, a science book for children.[15]

The Fat Duck Cookbook

In 2008, McKean collaborated with Heston Blumenthal on The 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 the 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.[16]


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 and stars a British cast Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Rob Brydon, and Gina McKee. 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),[17] which are included in the compilation DVD of McKean's work Keanoshow from Allen Spiegel Fine Arts. McKean has directed The Gospel of Us, a film of the National Theatre Wales's Passion play in Port Talbot which stars Michael Sheen.[18] A new feature film, Luna, written and directed by McKean and starring Stephanie Leonidas, Ben Daniels, Dervla Kirwan and Michael Maloney debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2014.

McKean was a concept artist on the TV mini-series Neverwhere (1996), which was created and co-written by Neil Gaiman, and the feature films Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).

Jazz musician

McKean is an accomplished jazz pianist, and founded the record label Feral Records[19] with saxophonist Iain Ballamy.


McKean has won numerous awards and accolades. Over the years, he has been nominated five times for a World Fantasy Award in the category of "Artist", and he won the award in 1991.[20] His graphic novel Cages won the Alph-Art, Pantera, and Harvey Awards for best Graphic Novel.[21] He has been nominated six times and won three Spectrum Awards in the categories of "Advertising", "Book", and "Comic".[22] His collection of short comics, Pictures That Tick won the V&A Museum Illustrated Book Awards Overall First Prize.[21] 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, the other nominated films were Green Street Hooligans, Nine Lives, Up for Grabs and Opie Gets Laid.[23]


  1. ^ "Dave McKean".  
  2. ^  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle.  
  5. ^ Irvine "John Constantine Hellblazer" in Dougall, pp. 102–111
  6. ^ a b c Dave McKean at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 240: "Written by Grant Morrison, with painted artwork by Dave McKean, Batman: Arkham Asylum was an innovative and complex examination of Batman's Rogues Gallery."
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 238: "The Sandman saw a variety of artists grace its pages...Illustrator Dave McKean's mixed media pieces garnished each cover."
  10. ^ Bender, Hy (1999). The Sandman Companion. DC Comics. p. 40.  
  11. ^ Gaiman, Neil; McKean, Dave (1998). Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers, 1989-1997. DC Comics. p. 206.  
  12. ^ Meesters, Gert (November 1997). "Dave McKean". Archived from the original on 31 July 2013.
    Meesters: 'Some parts of Cages remind me of José Muñoz's art.'
    McKean: 'Yeah. And the artists that influenced him. German illustrators of the thirties and during the war, with thick black lines. Wonderful stuff. Muñoz is wonderful, Mattotti is wonderful.'
  13. ^ "Poster notes: Raindance film festival".  
  14. ^ "Pictures that Tick - Volume 2".  
  15. ^ - new book by Richard Dawkins this Fall"The Magic of Reality". The Richards Dawkins Foundation. 10 May 2011. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Mythical Creatures". 16 June 2009. Archived from the original on 12 August 2012. 
  17. ^ "Mirrormask interview". 1 March 2005. 
  18. ^ "Port Talbot Passion Play to be filmed".  
  19. ^ Robinson, Tasha (28 September 2005). "Dave McKean".  
  20. ^ "Award Winners & Nominees".  
  21. ^ a b by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean"Coraline".  
  22. ^ "Dave McKean". The Locus Index to SF Awards. 2011. Archived from the original on 20 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Tyler, Joshua (10 January 2006). "Shatner Gets His Own Award". Cinema Blend. Archived from the original on 25 May 2014. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Official fansite forum and shop
  • Official site for children's books with Neil Gaiman (UK publisher) and (US publisher)
  • Dave McKean at the Internet Movie Database
  • Dave McKean at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
  • Dave McKean at the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators
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