Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

McKean, Dave

Entry updated 6 February 2023. Tagged: Artist, Comics.

Icon made by Freepik from


Working name of British artist David Jeff McKean (1963-    ), primarily known for his work in Comics and Graphic Novels, though he has also painted book covers and engaged in other activities. After attending Berkshire College of Art and Design from 1982 to 1986, McKean visited New York to seek work in the comics field and met Neil Gaiman, forming a friendship that would be central for some years to both their careers. Their first collaboration was Violent Cases (graph 1987 in monochrome; 1991 coloured), a short Graphic Novel about childhood memories of an encounter with Al Capone's osteopath. Other early works included some haunting covers for DC Comics's Hellblazer and Sandman comic books; the three-part miniseries Black Orchid (graph 1988; omni 1991), written by Gaiman; the bestselling Batman graphic novel Arkham Asylum (graph 1989), written by Grant Morrison; Signal to Noise (1989 The Face; rev graph 1992), written by Gaiman, about a dying film-maker plotting out his last movie in the knowledge that he will never make it; Cages (1991-1992 US), which McKean both wrote and drew, a long episodic piece about creativity and Cats; and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (graph 1994), again written by Gaiman, and also – like Violent Cases – mixing Gaiman's autobiography and fantasy, creating what is perhaps the two collaborators' finest work. McKean also began producing book covers, beginning with a striking effort for Geoff Ryman's The Child Garden (1989) juxtaposing a winged human figure with a rose and other unlikely images. McKean's comic art and book covers almost immediately stood out because of his subtle, sophisticated techniques – including collage, the reworking of photographic negatives, the use of found objects, and a transformative take on most categories of twentieth-century art – which challengingly extended the potential range of the form. In recognition of his achievements, he won the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1991, and his cover for Stephen King's The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997) – a collage with a central image of a man holding a bullet in his teeth – won the 1998 Spectrum Award.

However, even as he continued doing artwork for comics and book covers, the restless McKean also began moving into other areas during the 1990s: he formed the theatre group The Unauthorized Sex Company with Colin Greenland, Simon Ings and Geoff Ryman, first performing in 1991 at the Mexicon Convention (Harrogate, North Yorkshire) and on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; he crafted some album covers, most notably Alice Cooper's The Last Temptation (1994) and Counting Crow's This Desert Life (1999); he illustrated some children's books by Gaiman, including The Day I Swapped My Dad for a Goldfish (1998), Coraline (2002), and The Graveyard Book (2008); he began doing artwork for film and television, beginning with the titles for Gaiman's miniseries Neverwhere (1996), and later moved into directing, his most prominent effort being a feature film written by Gaiman, MirrorMask (2005); and he has published numerous books of art and photography. Documenting all of his activities during the last two decades would require an enormous amount of energy; it is little wonder that McKean's website has not yet gone live because, as the artist reports, he is "just too busy" to complete the necessary work. [RT/GW]

David Jeff McKean

born Maidenhead, Berkshire: 29 December 1963


  • Pictures That Tick: Short Narrative, Part One (Pacific Grove, California: Hourglass/Allen Spiegel Fine Arts, 2001) [experimental fiction: some pieces are formatted like graphic novels, while others more resemble short stories with illustrations: hb/Dave McKean]
  • The Weight of Words (Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2017) with William Schafer [coll/anth: stories by various authors in response to paintings by McKean: illus/hb/Dave McKean]

graphic works


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies