Creator Spotlight – Dave McKean

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get started in comics?

I started working while still in art school in 1986. My first published short story was in Mr. X, and first graphic novel was Violent Cases with Neil Gaiman.

That book got us work at DC, so we did Black Orchid and Sandman there, and I did Arkham Asylum with Grant Morrison.

I only spent a couple of years doing commercial comics, and since then, I’ve continued to try and find new venues for comics, and writers to work with who are new to the medium. I’ve written and drawn Cages, Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash, Celluloid, Raptor, and two volumes of shorts, Pictures That Tick 1 and 2. I’ve illustrated books and comics for Iain Sinclair, Richard Dawkins, Stephen King, Heston Blumenthals, John Cale, The Rolling Stones, Bill Bruford, Simon Armitage, Ray Bradbury, Italo Calvino and others. I’ve made children’s books with Neil, David Almond, and SF Said, including Tyger which has just won the National Book of the Year award. I’ve also directed three features and several short films, and I created the missing scene for the Ultimate Cut of Caligula which just premiered at Cannes.

What is it about comics that you love?

It’s an intimate form, imagery and words whisper in your head. There is no motion, and no sound, but a good comic can encourage the reader to create the whole experience in their own mind.

I love storytelling, drawing and playing with a still woefully underused form, comics were my first love and I remain faithful to it.

As well as writing and drawing comics, you’re also a film director, a musician, a designer and have your own jazz label. Did you always intend to be a multi-hyphenate? And what is it about moving from field to field that you most enjoy?

I get bored easily, and so I enjoy the differences, and learning new skills. They are all basically the same, as they are about understanding a problem and finding solutions for it. But the different qualities of each medium talk to each other, and allow me to see new ways of telling stories by applying lessons learned in one form to another.

What are you working on right now / what do you have coming out this year?

The expanded paperback edition of Prompt: Conversations with Artificial Intelligence has just come out. This is an important subject, one that will affect everyone. The ethical questions and effects on humanity are still not understood. My 600 page two-volume retrospective Thalamus will be out later this year from Dark Horse. New illustrated editions of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Hodgson’s House on the Borderland, and Iain Sinclair’s Agents of Oblivion all come out this year. Plus I’m starting a new graphic novel with author/activist Robert Macfalane and actor/musician Johnny Flynn.