In 1986, he met author Neil Gaiman, with whom he has collaborated on many projects since. Their first book, Violent Cases (1987), has been printed in many editions worldwide, and was adapted for the stage. They have also co-produced works such as Black Orchid (1988), Signal to Noise (1990) for The Face magazine, and Mr. Punch (1975). McKean has created all the cover illustrations and designs for the popular series of graphic novels Sandman, and a collection of this work, Dust Covers, was published in 1998. Arkham Asylum (1989), one of the most successful graphics novel ever published, also featured his illustrations.
In 1995, McKean collaborated with the Rolling Stones on their album Voodoo Lounge, and with Rachel Pollack on The Vertigo Tarot. Also in 1995, he produced the image to launch the Sony PlayStation, and, in 1996, was one of four photographers chosen by Kodak and Saatchi to launch their new color film with a book, video, and global ad package. He has also produced campaigns for Smirnoff, British Telecom, 3dfx Voodoo, BMW/Mini, Nike, the British Government’s Social Work Department, and Eurostar.
Between 1990 and 1996, Dave also wrote and illustrated the comic novel Cages, which earned a Harvey Award for Best New Comic and Best Graphic Novel, an Ignatz Award, an Alph-Art Award, and Italy’s La Pantera Award.
In 1996, he composed and performed the music for the BBC Radio adaptation of Signal to Noise with saxophonist Iain Ballamy, with whom he initiated the Feral Records label.
In addition to his work as an illustrator, McKean has also produced short films, one of which, N[eon], won First Prize at the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival. This work led to collaborations with Lisa Henson from the Jim Henson Company. MirrorMask, a feature fantasy film for Columbia/Tristar, premiered at the Sundance Festival in Utah, and was officially selected for the Locarno, Sitges, London, Edinburgh, Sarasota, Hawaii, and Dublin film festivals. The film also received nine awards, and was released in theaters in 2005.
His collection of short stories in comic form, Pictures That Tick (2000), won the Victoria and Albert Museum Illustrated Book of the Year Award, and several of McKean’s books are in the museum’s permanent collection.
He has contributed many illustrations to The New Yorker, Playboy, and other magazines, and done promotional work for the films Blade, Alien Resurrection, The King is Alive, Dust, and Sleepy Hollow. He also created concept illustrations for the second and third Harry Potter films, and designs for Lars von Trier’s interactive project in Copenhagen, House of Zoon.
According to artnet.com