Sunday, 22 December 2013

Dust Covers IV

The ten volumes of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman tell a long story in sequential graphic art. The one volume of Dust Covers by Dave McKean tells the parallel story of how McKean created fine art covers for all seventy five monthly issues of The Sandman and one Special. Each cover is displayed, often with comments by McKean, Gaiman or both. The book also includes other art, including covers of some of the ten collections.

With all this art plus the comments and the introductory comic strip written by Gaiman and drawn by McKean, Dust Covers is a substantial volume, guiding its readers through the history of a creative process.

A comic book cover usually shows the hero in action in the same kind of graphic art that is to be found within the book whereas McKean quickly dispensed with images of the central character and even with merely representational art. Not really reflecting on the covers, I had not realized that some of them had had to be constructed physically before being reproduced as cover illustrations. On the sides of the cover of no 1, ten shelves hold miscellaneous items, including a book entitled The Gates of Dawn, which is both an evocative verbal image and appropriate for a beginning. However, we could not have known, until Gaiman tells us in his first note for Dust Covers, that McKean had scrupulously erased the name of the publisher, Mills and Boon, in case it was taken to imply that The Sandman was a romance.

I took for granted that the figure on the cover of no 3 was the guest star of that issue, John Constantine, but had not known that it was also McKean's friend, Neil Jones, who had already modelled for McKean's Hellblazer covers. It is obvious that nos 14 and 16 show the Corinthian and Morpheus respectively but not, until McKean tells us, that both were modelled by Gaiman.

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