20 November 2007

"Nooooooo!" he wailed. "I don't want to be a waiter!"

I was chatting the other evening with a friend of mine, off in the distant Borough of Lough, who was telling me how she'd seen Mirrormask earlier that night. She loved all of it, she said; utterly entranced by Dave McKean's brilliance she kept raving about how the light in the film was incredible. It's a fair statement - the Brother last year described the film as sumptuous, and my nieces, who saw it only a few weeks ago, have watched it three or four times since.

McKean's stuff is really a treat on every level - and if you're not familiar with it you should either rush out and buy something now or at the very least have a thorough rummage around this site.

I've been a fan for years. Sitting on my shelves now I have not merely the book of Mirrormask and the illustrated screenplay to the film, as well as the film itself, but The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, Black Orchid, Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, Mister Punch, the 'Hold Me' issue of Hellblazer, The Sandman Dustcovers, and the BBC video of Neverwhere, for which Dave did the credit sequences on his Macintosh, much to the astonishment of the more seasoned professionals.

If any bells are rung by that list, there's a fair chance that they're being rung by Neil Gaiman, with whom McKean has collaborated time and time and time again, never with results that were anything less than interesting and occasionally to profound effect. For my money, though, it's The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish that stands the best chance of withstanding time's ravages.

Gaiman's hand is involved in almost everything I have by McKean, with two striking exceptions. Cages has fair claim to be deemed McKean's masterpiece to date, a magnificent example of just what comics can be at their best. It's definitely one of the supreme examples of what can be achieved in the form. Grant Morrison's Batman book, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is, on the other hand, a book about which McKean has never felt comfortable. The character of the Batman, he says, meant nothing to him and he simply didn't like drawing him; oddly, this ambivalence led to one of the book's visual triumphs, as McKean's Batman is shadowy, amorphous, and indistinct.

And it's with that in mind that I'd like to point you towards this remarkable fanfilm, a real trailer for a non-existent film, the film being Morrison and McKean's Arkham Asylum. It does a hell of a job of bringing McKean's terrifying and murky visuals to life. I have no idea who Miguel Mesas, its creator, is, but I hope people start throwing money at him soon, as he has a real gift for showing how comics could be adapted to the big screen while staying true to their illustrative roots. Seriously. Check out his interpretation of Pat Mills and Simon Bisley's exotic if cumbersome Sláine: The Horned God just so you can see that the Arkham Asylum film isn't a fluke.

While I'm on the subject of Dave McKean and YouTube, it's probably worth pointing out to you that someone has posted the Quay Brothers' eerie, sinister, utterly spellbinding Street of Crocodiles up there. I attended a Q&A session with McKean following a showing of Mirrormask at Manchester's Cornerhouse last year, accompanied by a Brightonian friend of mine who I'd asked along as I thought she'd enjoy the film, not least because some of Mirrormask's action takes place in her home town. At the Q&A Dave raved about 'Street of Crocodiles', and now that I've seen it, I can see why.

If you like his work, you shouldn't let this pass you by.

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