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Dave McKean - Illustrator

About the Illustrator

Dave McKean was born in Taplow, Berkshire in 1963. He attended Berkshire College of Art and Design from 1982-86 and, before leaving, started working as an illustrator. In 1986 he met author Neil Gaiman with whom he has collaborated on many projects since. Their collaborations include Black Orchid (1988), Signal To Noise (1990) and Mr. Punch (1975). Dave has contributed all the cover illustrations and design for the popular Sandman series of graphic novels. Arkham Asylum (1989) written by Scottish author/playwright Grant Morrison, the most successful graphic novel ever published, was also illustrated by Dave. Between 1990 and 1996, Dave also wrote and illustrated the comic novel Cages, which won the Harvey Award for Best New Series in 1992, the International Alph Art award and Italy's Pantera di Lucca Award in 1999.

Dave has illustrated and designed several children's books, five with Neil Gaiman, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Coraline, The Wolves in the Walls, (NYTBR Best Illustrated Book of the Year) Mirrormask and Crazy Hair, and Varjak Paw with S. F. Said (winner of the Smarties Gold award in 2004).  He has also worked on a book with Stephen King (Wizard & Glass), the autobiography of John Cale, What's Welsh for Zen, and books and films with Iain Sinclair.

Dave directed the title sequence for Neil Gaiman's first TV series, Neverwhere. In 1995 he produced the image to launch Sony Playstation, and in 1996 was one of four photographers chosen by Kodak and Saatchi to launch their new colour film with a book, video and global ad package. He has also produced campaigns for Smirnoff, British Telecom, BMW/Mini, Nike and Eurostar.

Dave has contributed many illustrations to magazines including The New Yorker and has contributed promotional work for the films Blade, Alien Resurrection and Sleepy Hollow, and production designs for the second and third Harry Potter films. Dave has designed, illustrated and photographed over one hundred and fifty album covers since 1990, including releases by Michael Nyman, Tori Amos and Counting Crows. Also in 1995 he was one of the winners exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum for the National Book Awards for Mr. Punch, and in 2002 took overall first prize for his collection of short comics Pictures That Tick. Dave won a World Fantasy Award for the Sandman covers.

In 1996 he composed and performed the music for the BBC Radio adaptation of Signal to Noise. He has exhibited in America and Europe, including solo shows at The Four Color Gallery, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Madrid, and The Maritime Museum, Carlisle.

In the last few years he has concentrated on making films. His second short film
N[eon] won first prize at the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, the biggest short film festival in the world. He is currently designing and directing his first feature, Mirrormask, for Columbia/Tristar/Hensons.
 
He lives on the Isle of Oxney with his wife and studio manager Clare, and their two children.

Things you didn't know about Dave McKean

1. I fell in love with comics when I was off school with the flu, and my mother bought me copies of The Mighty World of Marvel, numbers 3 and 4.

2. My father worked in shipping. He used to look after the equipment for the then unknown Elton John (or John Elton as he called him). Nearly 40 years later I worked on Elton's musical Lestat. 

3. When I was 9, I drew a map of Ethiopia at school, and then presented it in person to the Emperor Haile Selassie during a visit to a local Agricultural Centre. 

4. I met my wife for the first time when I was 12. 

5. My first professionally published illustration was a dove for a cd cover for Isao Tomita. 

6. I recorded the music for the BBCRadio production of Signal to Noise at Real World in Box, near Bath. Peter Gabriel had just written a song that week called Signal to Noise, and came to see what we were doing. 

7. I have a storm-cloud coloured cat called Stormy. She was born on a stormy night. 

8. I play badminton twice a week, poorly, but with great competitive spirit, and employing any psychological advantage I can think of; distracting shirts, aggressive posture, unnecessary noises etc. 

9. In my film MirrorMask, I played the small porcupine in trousers and braces, the announcer on hospital radio introducing Close To You and Spiny Norman, who is a snail-like object on the Prime Minister's lectern.

10. The first piece of artwork that film director Guillermo del Toro bought was a page from my Batman graphic novel, Arkham Asylum.

Illustrator photo copyright: Clare McKean

Featured books by Dave McKean

Phoenix

Phoenix

9+ readers 11+ readers

Author: S. F. Said Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/08/2013

Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Book Award 2014   The supernova is coming ...one boy alone can save the galaxy! Lucky thinks he's an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing - and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him. Now he's on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew - and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair. Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way...

Other books by Dave McKean

Joe Quinn's Poltergeist

Joe Quinn's Poltergeist

Author: David Almond Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/03/2019

A dark, powerful and moving short story from the internationally acclaimed author of Skellig. Joe Quinn tells everyone about the poltergeist in his house, but no one believes him. No one that is, except for Davey. He's felt the inexplicable presence in the rooms, he's seen random objects fly through the air. And there's something else ... a memory of his beloved sister, and a feeling deep down that somehow it might be possible for ghosts to exist.

Violent Cases - 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Violent Cases - 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Author: Neil Gaiman Format: Hardback Release Date: 20/03/2018

Before The Sandman, there was Violent Cases, the first teaming of multi award-winning writer Neil Gaiman and innovative artist Dave McKean. Now, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this seminal work, Violent Cases is being re-issued in a hardcover edition of one of the most influential and groundbreaking graphic novels of all time. A sensitive and ingenious work, Violent Cases reveals the often murky nexus between memory and imagination through the narrator's cloudy childhood remembrance of a visit to Al Capone's osteopath - and the impact of his seedy stories on an impressionable youth.

The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch

The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch

Author: Neil Gaiman Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 19/11/2015

A young boy stumbles across a Punch and Judy show at the pier and enters a world of extraordinary magic. With disturbing mysteries and half-truths uncontrollably unravelling, this boy is forced to deal with his family's secrets of violence, betrayal and guilt in this dark fable of childhood and growing up. By the bestselling author and illustrator pairing behind the Sandman series and children's classics, The Graveyard Book and Coraline, The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch is woven together with Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's trademark eerie elegance and supernatural thrills. In addition to its new cover, each page of this unmissable 20th anniversary edition has been remastered and a gallery of uncanny, sensational original artwork by Dave McKean has been included for the first time.

Phoenix

Phoenix

Author: S. F. Said Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 11/12/2014

A BOY WITH THE POWER OF A STAR . . . Lucky thinks he's an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing to him, and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him. Now he's on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew - and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair . . .

The Magic of Reality How we know what's really true

The Magic of Reality How we know what's really true

Author: Richard Dawkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/06/2012

Magic takes many forms. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting that the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods' bridge to earth. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality - science. Packed with inspiring explanations of space, time and evolution, laced with humour and clever thought experiments, The Magic of Reality explores a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? What causes tsunamis? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, inspirational detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist too. Richard Dawkins elucidates the wonders of the natural world to all ages with his inimitable clarity and exuberance in a text that will enlighten and inform for generations to come.

The Magic of Reality How we know what's really true

The Magic of Reality How we know what's really true

Author: Richard Dawkins Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 21/06/2012

Magic takes many forms. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting that the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods' bridge to earth. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality - science. Packed with inspiring explanations of space, time and evolution, laced with humour and clever thought experiments, The Magic of Reality explores a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? What causes tsunamis? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, inspirational detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist too. Richard Dawkins elucidates the wonders of the natural world to all ages with his inimitable clarity and exuberance in a text that will enlighten and inform for generations to come.

The Magic of Reality How we know what's really true

The Magic of Reality How we know what's really true

Author: Richard Dawkins Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/09/2011

What are things made of? What is the sun? Why is there night and day, winter and summer? Why do bad things happen? Are we alone? Throughout history people all over the world have invented stories to answer profound questions such as these. Have you heard the tale of how the sun hatched out of an emu's egg? Or what about the great catfish that carries the world on its back? Has anyone ever told you that earthquakes are caused by a sneezing giant? These fantastical myths are fun - but what is the real answer to such questions? The Magic of Reality, with its explanations of space, time, evolution and more, will inspire and amaze readers of all ages - young adults, adults, children, octogenarians. Teaming up with the renowned illustrator Dave McKean, Richard Dawkins answers all these questions and many more. In stunning words and pictures this book presents the real story of the world around us, taking us on an enthralling journey through scientific reality, and showing that it has an awe-inspiring beauty and thrilling magic which far exceed those of the ancient myths. We encounter rainbows, our genetic ancestors, tsunamis, shooting stars, plants, animals, and an intriguing cast of characters in this extraordinary scientific voyage of discovery. Richard Dawkins and Dave McKean have created a dazzling celebration of our planet that will entertain and inform for years to come.

The Outlaw Varjak Paw

The Outlaw Varjak Paw

Author: S. F. Said Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 01/07/2010

Having saved the city cats from a fate worse than death, Varjak Paw finds himself the elected and popular leader of a new gang - a gang that supports freedom and kindness for all. But will the pressure take its toll on this brave yet sometimes naive cat? Soon the city erupts in an all-out gang war as the evil Sally Bones attempts to control the lives of all cats. Horrified and outnumbered, Varjak and the others must fight for their freedom or die trying; can Jalal's Way really be the best way? This is another thrilling adventure, eagerly awaited by all Varjak fans, both young and old.

Varjak Paw re-issue

Varjak Paw re-issue

Author: S. F. Said Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 29/04/2010

Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamian Blue kitten. He lives high up in an old house on a hill. He's never left home, but then his grandfather tells him about the Way - a secret martial art for cats. Now Varjak must use the Way to survive in a city full of dangerous dogs, cat gangs and, strangest of all the mysterious Vanishings.

Signal to Noise

Signal to Noise

Author: Neil Gaiman Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/06/2007

'Signal to Noise does not entertain. It scratches, it provokes, it frightens. It tells you things you don't want to know but then twists you inside out by saying, look harder and see the poignance, the beauty of light dancing on life's edge, truth that is as simple and direct as death' Jonathan Carroll, from his introduction. Originally commissioned and serialised in The Face, the comic strip Signal to Noise was then expanded and revised for its launch on the VG Graphics list in 1992 with an introduction by Jonathan Caroll. It tells the story of a film director, somewhere in London, 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 AD 999 approached - the midnight which the villagers were convinced would bring with it Armageddon. Now that story will never be told. But he still pointlessly works it out in his head, making a film that no one will ever see. No one but the reader.

The Outlaw Varjak Paw

The Outlaw Varjak Paw

Author: S. F. Said Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/09/2006

Having saved the city cats from a fate worse than death, Varjak Paw finds himself the elected and popular leader of a new gang - a gang that supports freedom and kindness for all. But will the pressure take its toll on this brave, yet sometimes naive cat? Soon, the city erupts in an all-out gang war as the evil Sally Bones attempts to control the lives of all cats. Horrified and outnumbered, Varjak and the others must fight for their freedom or die trying; can Jalal's Way really be the best way? This is another thrilling adventure, eagerly awaited by all Varjak fans, both young and old.

Mirrormask

Mirrormask

Author: Neil Gaiman Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/10/2005

MirrorMask tells the story of a girl from a family of circus performers who finds herself in a strange new world populated by mysterious creatures - a dreamworld in which she is about to embark on a most amazing journey. A funny, scary, and magical fantasy for young readers.

The Wolves in the Walls

The Wolves in the Walls

Author: Neil Gaiman Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/10/2004

When Lucy hears noises from behind the wall she tries to warn her parents that there are wolves banging about. But her parents don't listen. When the wolves finally take over the house and Lucy and her family are evicted to live in the garden her parents realise perhaps they should have listened. But Lucy is no shrinking violet and pretty soon she has the wolves out and the family back in the house. So what was that noise Lucy heard coming from behind the wall...? A brilliant, witty and inventive picture book with cutting-edge art, which is sure to be a hit with existing fans of Neil Gaiman as well as young readers.

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

Author: Neil Gaiman Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/10/2004

When a boy swaps his dad for two goldfish he does not really think through the consequences! Afterall, he is not the only person who can swap stuff. When the boy is told by his mother that he has to get his father back it is not so easily done. It seems that the father has a pretty high value as he has been traded by one child to the next leaving a trail that the son has to follow. Where will it all end?

Varjak Paw

Varjak Paw

Author: S. F. Said Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 03/06/2004

Mesopotamian Blue cat Varjak Paw has never been outside before, but Varjak is forced out into the city when the sinister gentleman and his two menacing cats take over his home. With help from a mystical ancestor, he manages to overcome the challenges of survival, but can he save his family?

Cages

Cages

Author: Dave McKean Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/05/2002

Finally, after years of critically acclaimed collaborations with comics legends such as Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum), Dave McKean, widely acknowledged as one of the most talented artists in the comics world, presents Cages. The engaging story of an artistic 'household', including:- our protagonist, Sabarksy, a painter searching for inspiration in solitude; Angel, a jazz pianist; and a host of other fascinating inhabitants, McKean's work is a conglomeration of character studies, beautiful artwork across a dazzling range of styles, and an exploration of the artistic process itself, coming together in a moving and thoughtful meditation which will thrill, inspire and captivate you.

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