[Visions Of Horror] Dave McKean’s Cover For ‘The Sandman’ #1

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Aware of our readers’ interest in comic book art, be it modern or vintage, minimalistic or elaborate, Bloody-Disgusting is excited to launch a new art column entitled, Visions Of Horror. With weekly commentary on the best horror artists and artwork the comics industry has to offer by BD writer Farah Al-Hakkak (ShadowJayd) and Lonnie Nadler (Lonmonster), this column will showcase specific pieces of work that made an impact on the comics industry. The reality is that comic book art is still largely under appreciated and we’re here to show just how important it is. In our effort to meet the various needs of our diversified and well-cultured readers, we hope Visions Of Horror encourages community engagement and proves to be a welcomed new addition to Bloody-Disgusting’s Comics section.

This week features the illustrious Dave McKean, and his ground-breaking, gorgeous, and haunting mixed media model, which he built to create the cover for Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” #1 (1989). Without further ado, hit the jump for our first of many Friday art columns.

Having produced the covers for every single issue of “The Sandman”, in addition to the graphic novels and numerous spin-offs, Dave McKean’s artwork became emblematic of Gaiman’s critically acclaimed series, the developmental nature of his work, and the era in which he lived. That is to say, in a time before many of today’s innovative photo editing options were even available in Adobe Photoshop. McKean was highly opposed to working digitally at first, though it would later become an integral part of his career.

McKean is an overpowering force of creative endeavors, spanning a wide spectrum of artistic fields, but his penchant for utilizing a mixed media style in the process of creating revolutionary multidimensional artwork, remains the most ground-breaking in its influence on an entire generation of artists. This is why Bloody-Disgusting has chosen to focus on his iconic cover art for “The Sandman” #1 to kick off Visions Of Horror.

McKean’s piece was constructed as a large, three-dimensional model. It’s authentic, raw, and meticulous in assembly. By placing found, everyday objects within a built-in structural wooden border, which surrounds his main, issue-relevant, acrylic paint portrait positioned in the centre, he chose to forego conventionality in terms of standard collage arrangements. McKean brings an extreme level of texture and realness to the cover, all of which go toward reflecting themes and motifs in the issue by effectively using items such as an hourglass, a leaf, the spines of modern books, a pocket watch, etc. After completion, he would have his mixed media art pieces photographed and sent to DC Comics for publication. This set a new and exciting standard for horror comic book cover art.

“The Sandman” #1 was published in January, 1989 by DC Comics.

The model:

The final cover:

Neil Gaiman said about the first cover, “The first cover of THE SANDMAN was the most exciting of all. Dave suggested the shelves on both sides (something I remember vaguely that he was inspired by the movie poster of THE BELLY OF THE ARCHITECT, of Peter Greenaway ), and together we attacked Covent Garden looking for things to put on the shelves, it was there that Dave found the Hourglass and the Buddha and black cat. THE GATES OF DAWN (“Gates of Dawn”) was published by Mills and Boon, famous throughout the British Empire for romantic books, and Dave carefully erased their names from the back, so that people do not take THE SANDMAN as a romance.

Sandman The image on the cover was inspired by Peter Murphy , the former singer of Bauhaus and Maxell tapes model because when the cartoonist Mike Dringenberg saw the original sketches for the character said “it’s just like Peter Murphy , “and we all feel very relieved that it appears someone. The first eight covers were conceived as a portrait gallery.”

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If you want Bloody Disgusting to cover one of your favourite horror artists, or a fantastic piece of horror-related comic book art, head down to the comment section, or hit up Farah or Lonnie on Twitter.