New Batman: Arkham Asylum and Mr. Punch Editions – Dave McKean SDCC Panel

Peter S. Svensson writes for Bleeding Cool with the refreshing power of Gatorade.

McKeanDave McKean had a spotlight panel at Comic Con, where he showed off many old projects and one new one.

McKean introduced his manager/partner Allan Spiegel as his therapist, calling these yearly panels his series of therapy sessions, where he could "talk over some of his issues and hopefully come to some conclusion."

He then started a nice powerpoint presentation, starting with a new hardcover edition of Batman Arkham Asylum. "I can't escape this book." It's mainly just a new cover, with a 16 page appendix with other Batman art by McKean. He mentioned that it's been so long since he's worked at DC that he doesn't recognize anyone working there anymore really.

Vertigo will also be publishing a new edition of Mr. Punch, where McKean has gone back and touched up the scans of the art, as he did the original back when he had just picked up Photoshop for the first time and had yet to learn how to use the zoom feature. "It was terrible." he lamented. A great deal of supplemental material was made for Mr. Punch, his graphic novel with Neil Gaiman, which will be included in the 16 page appendix added to this edition.

A fan asked whether this would be hardcover or softcover, to which Allan Spiegel answered "Buy both!"

A new edition of Dust Covers, Dave McKean's Sandman cover galley is being released. It still has "The Last Sandman Story" from the previous release of the book, a collaboration between him and Gaiman. But as this is just a rerelease with a new cover, McKean wasn't too enthusiastic.

But he was far more impressed with Dream States, the companion book which collects all of his Sandman work from after the original series, including the entire cover run of The Dreaming and The Sandman Presents, and a new short story "Fish out of Water" written by Gaiman dealing with the Dreaming. The story was apparently inspired by a dream Gaiman had after a visit to Jordan.

"I'm happier with these than I am Sandman." explained McKean, who feels that his more refined later work in this volume is far superior to his earlier work on Sandman. "I learned how to use photoshop. Learned where the zoom button was." he joked.

The comprehensive book will include incidental art, such as a magazine cover McKean did for a university where he and Gaiman were speaking at, and will even include his covers to the current Sandman prequel mini. Sadly, McKean showed off covers 5 and 6 too briefly for me to get a clear look, other than that 5 was reminiscent of the Jesus Christ statue in Rio de Janiero backlit against a red sky.

As McKean didn't do much in the way of preliminary drawings, there will be some new sketchs and excerpts from his collection of related thematic works to fill up space, and he demonstrated a few of the pages. He's got images that were never published with Sandman, but would totally have been at home there included, new art in various media, and it looks gorgeous.

(The book has already been solicited, so go check it out from your friendly local retailer. Or Amazon if you must.)

McKean wanted to this book several years ago, but suddenly they were more receptive now than they had been in the past. "Regime change." is how he explained it.

We then got a glimpse of the upcoming second volume of Pictures That Tick, collecting the short stories that McKean did over various places, mainly stories told in gallery exhibitions.

Mckean showed off images of one of these experiences, a story that started at the entrance of the gallery, and then fragmented three ways, being told in comics and masks and other visual forms, requiring people to wander around the room and look to see what was going on. It turns out that there was a body hidden behind a partition which was had great importance to the narrative which many people missed. It was set in a deer haunt, and the visuals shown were stunning.

One trick in that installation was that there were several big objects with typography on them, which weren't legible unless you went to this mask which was placed so that when you looked through it, everything else was in the right perspective and you could read them. But then, you're now a stranger wearing a mask and thus part of the odd ambiance for everyone else.

The next preview from the book shown was a comic story involving blue trees. McKean explained it was an exhibition in his local town, and he got Spiegel to help him run around town and plant little blue branches everywhere.

"Dave wants us arrested." quipped Spiegel.

The next was the illustration of a story by an anonymous Chinese journalist about the abhorrent treatment of AIDS in China, and how the practice of people selling their blood has created a dangerous epidemic.

"The reporter would be penalized, probably killed." said McKean, explaining why the story had to be from an anonymous source.

The final selection was the comic that McKean drew when he turned forty. "I was so miserable." he joked. I think.

After many years, the illustrated Smoke and Mirrors, a prose short story collection by Neil Gaiman will be released. The delay mainly came because McKean decided to take a "stupidly slow style." and apologizes for the years it has taken to complete. He wants to go on and illustrate Fragile Things, Gaiman's latest collection, but will choose an art style for it that can be feasibly done.

He has a new book, called Jazz. It's a series of drawings inspired by Jazz. If you're at the con, you can find it at booth 4701.

Some of the pieces in the book are inspired by Mobius, because after a dinner with Alejandro Jodorowsky, he was inspired to look back at Mobius as an artisic inspiration.

He then related the story of the time that Alejandro Jodorowsky read the tarot of Kanye West. Apparently Kanye and his entourage invited Jodorowsky to visit, and didn't really explain what they wanted or made anything clear, but when Jodorowsky asked if he should read his tarot, as beyond being a film-making comic writing guru, he is apparently an accomplished Tarot reader, Kanye agreed. It should be noted that at this point, Jodorowsky had no clue who this "Kanye West" really was.

The first card was the Sun, which symbolizes wealth. McKean couldn't recall what the second card was, but that the art on the card also evoked the Sun in a grasping hand, symbolizing a man wanting to use that wealth for a purpose. The third card was of course… the Fool.

Another collection of McKean's work was shown, a celebration of silent cinema. He showed off some of the mixed media theatrical poetry jazz visual film work he's done in London.

He's going to be releasing a collection of his short films online at A physical DVD release happened, but due to issues with music rights only six got released and they had to be recalled. But the issue has been fixed, as McKean has composed new music and the release will soon happen.

McKean then announced his special guest, Stephanie Leonidas, from his upcoming film Luna. Which has been in production for years. Leonidas was previously in McKean's collaboration with the Jim Henson Company, Mirrormask.

"It's finally finished. We have a world premier in a month or two." said McKean, who joked that it felt like the past 27 years he'd been attending Comic Con San Diego had been apologizing for Luna not yet being released.

The film was made 7 years ago over a course of 22 days, and Leonidas has yet to see anything from it, as the rushed pace of production didn't leave time for rushes or screenings.

Leonidas spoke about her character in Luna, who is a very different person from the aggressive character she played in MirrorMask. "She's a warm hearted girl who is very sure of herself."

The film deals with the boundaries between reality and fantasy, as two couples get drawn into a tragedy, the loss of a child, and the introduction of a new person into their social circles. And there's odd things that McKean didn't quite explain…

McKean pointed out that with Stephanie Leonidas in Defiance, and Ben Daniel in House of Cards, that he couldn't afford them had the film not been done seven years ago.

There isn't much animation in Luna.

He's working on a new project, tentatively called Callisto and the Wolves, though the title will probably change, with a site-specific theatre company. They look at a place, it's architecture and feel, and tell stories associated with it. The story is set in the woods, dealing with wolves. Some narrative evolves from their improvised storytelling. Some actors dressed up as deer for the wolves to hunt. "I thought it was going to be about the Callisto myth, now it appears to be much more about the relationship between mothers and daughters." said McKean. He wants to make it both a fantasy story and a more "film story" about a homeless girl who runs away because she's pregnant. A tale of anger and frustration and love that gets passed on.
The animal inside us. The emotions that are associated with those animalistic things.

McKean also showed off Comics Unmasked, a project he was involved with in London, a museum showing off comics. Jodorowsky gave a quote to the project. "Kill Superheroes!!! Tell your own dreams."

The exhibition had comics, played with panels and lighting to create comic imagery, as well as displaying comics and comic-related art. Mr. Punch was a big part of it, due to a theme of anti-establishment protest, and the original props McKean made for it were on display.

The biggest thing that got displayed, beyond the original art for the Tarot deck that McKean used in Arkham Asylum (meaning the original cards themselves, not a deck that McKean creates), was John Dee's notebook. Alan Moore and Grant Morrison use alchemy in their works. (And in their bodies. Sorry.) But on display was the notebook of Queen Elizabeth I's court alchemist.

Their next exhibit was gothic themed, and McKean did a poster for it. It had Coraline images on display.

He had a show, writing and singing songs in public for a paying audience at the Sydney Opera House. Did it again at the British Library theatre.

He wrapped up the presentation with the trailer for Luna. Realistic. Angst. Drama. Then mystery. Magic? Horror. The place beween fantasy and reality. Luna.

The floor was opened to questions.

Cages was at one point proposed for an adaptation by an award winning French animation director, in collaboration with a Dutch animator, and while funding was raised, the project fell through.

Wolves in the Walls was adapted for the stage. Discussion of taking that to film was brought up, but also didn't make it anywhere.

A brilliant young artist asked what materials McKean used for Mr. Punch, as she was able to get similar results with Acrylic, Charcoal and Photography. McKean confirmed those were what he used for that project, and gave the girl hope as she worried about making art that wasn't conventional or traditional. "A lot of it is luck. Find someone who says 'I love your odd stuff.'"

Working with Lisa Henson, Jim's daughter, made McKean certain that Jim must have been an amazing person. The Henson home was heavily decorated in Muppets, with what at first appeared to be classic statues actually recreations featuring the Muppets. Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman went there to discuss making MirrorMask.

Dave McKean can appreciate pure fantasy, but can only make fantastic stories that have some level of grounding in the real world.

Peter S. Svensson would like to remind you all to attend the Pro/Fan Trivia Contest on 4:00 PM Sunday, where he will be competing for the Fan team. Also, he's on staff for the official Power Rangers convention, Power Morphicon, which is at booth #1000!

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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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