This post accidentally turned in to a love letter to Dave McKean.

“April sweet is coming in, let the feast of fools begin!”

Since April is indeed coming in, I thought I’d share my favourite panel from not only one of my favourite comics, but one of my favourite pieces of art; Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Written by Grant Morrison, mastermind author of The Invisibles and Doom Patrol, the writing alone in this comic is enough to make me fall in love with it. Morrison explores the madness that could come from being a superhero such as Batman, much like Moore did in Watchmen, and questions whether Batman is in fact so very different from those “mad” villains who he and Commissioner Gordon have locked away. However, what makes this one of my all-time favourites is definitely the artwork by Dave McKean.

While studying comics last semester at University I ended up doing a presentation on Neil Gaiman’s semi-biographical graphic novel Violent Cases, on which he also collaborated with McKean. Although I had previously admired McKean’s artwork in Arkham Asylum, I am ashamed to say I hadn’t gone out and found more of his stuff to have a look at and Violent Cases certainly didn’t fall short of my already high expectations. The story itself is a striking examination of the effects of childhood abuse on the child and the imaginative compensation that children use to cope with abuse. Like in Arkham, McKean’s artwork again lifts this story in to another dimension, using a dizzying combination of realistic drawing, rough sketching and collage, a technique he would later use again in The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch.

Violent CasesMr.Punch McKean

It’s this unusual amalgamation of different art styles that makes McKean’s artwork so bizarre and beautiful to me, and makes me want to pick up anything that he’s collaborated on. McKean also doesn’t limit himself to comics illustration like many comic book artists such as David Lloyd and John Romita Jr. tend to do, in fact he’s dabbling in everything from movie and stage show posters, to CD covers and even stamps. In fact, when I started digging deeper into the world of Dave McKean for this project I found that I had already become a fan of his through his design of the CD artwork of the Counting Crow album ‘This Desert Life’, which I’d always admired.

Anyway, this post seems to have gone off on a bit of a general Dave McKean tangent which, to be honest, I’m more than fine with. Why shouldn’t I have a bit of a moment when thinking about the man who gave us possibly the most terrifying depiction of the Joker in comics? So I suppose I’ll leave you with a little wisdom from the Joker himself and bid you farewell before I get even more carried away:

“Parting is such sweet sorrow, dearest. Still, you can’t say we didn’t show you a good time. Enjoy yourself out there… in the asylum. Just don’t forget — if it ever gets too tough… there’s always a place for you here.”

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