Comic Con 2012 – Dave Mckean Panel

Dave Mckean is an illustrator who has a number of great books under his belt. During this panel he talked some about what he has done but largely focused on his two most recent projects: “The Magic of Reality” and the film “The Gospel of Us.”

Mckean got his start in comics working on “Sandman”, “Batman”, “Hellblazer”, “Mr. Punch” and others. After that he went off to work on some books: “Walls and Wolves”, “Coraline”, “The Graveyard Book”, “The Savage” to name a few.

The first project he talked about was “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True”. This was a cooperative effort with Richard Dawkins. He is a well-known author and was aiming to have a book be both informative and entertaining. It was aimed at a young audience, giving them a book to help develop critical thinking skills. It was aimed to be both imaginative and to ask questions. The whole book is broken into 12 chapters, each of them starting with a question. In each chapter the question is answered. Each of these look into an aspect of reality and expand on it so the reader can come to understand it better.

Next he talked about the premise of the book, “What is Reality?” but also “What is Magic?”. A good quote from this book was “Our 5 sense do a good job of telling us what is real.” It is through our sense, McKean talked about the direct and indirect uses of our senses. It is through those uses of our senses that we could build a potential reality. Always you can return to your senses when you are questioning what is real and what is an illusion of misdirection or magic.

Now, McKean took some time to talk about the different kinds of magic. The first was talking more about Magic in the basic sense. It is a slippery term but it could be broken into 3 categories: Supernatural, Stage and Poetic. The first one he spoke on was Stage Magic. This happens but not always as one sees it. The audience can be deceived into thinking it is something supernatural when it is not. Those conjurers who work these tricks work with words and comedy to draw attention away from their hands. The more honest conjurers give some clue as to what they are doing without revealing the full trick. The more dishonest variety will go to make it seem that they can really pull off the trick itself.

The second type of magic talked about was Poetic. This one, according to McKean, draws from being moved by the universe itself. It is built on the principle that sight itself contains magic. The magic of words in poetry will find you deeply moved, exhilarated and feeling happy to be alive.

The third type of magic is the most well known: Supernatural. This rests in the world of fantasy, that of fairy tales. This form of magic sits well outside the bounds of reality cannot be explained by science. This is the magic of Glenda: The Good Witch of the North, of the Old Woman in the Cottage in Hansel and Gretel. The magic of Merlin and many others rest in this extraordinary category of magic.

Next was Science. The groundwork and foundation of what we know. McKean explained that Science thrives on the inability to explain something. It is the inability to explain something that draws though exploring it to inch closer to the truth. It is also a means to challenge what is perceived to be true and help bring around change. It can also be used to bring in some interesting results with cooking as well.

McKean took a brief tangent to talk about a science-based cookbook called “The Fat Duck” that he illustrated. Inside it gave a breakdown of recipes but also the science that went into building them as well. One example he gave that was blowing people away was the Hot & Cold Tea. This small cup contained equal parts of both Hot Brewed and Cold Brewed Tea. The phenomenal part of all this was that the drinker would have a half hot and a half cold tongue while enjoying the tea.

After a tangent on things going from Reality to Mythology he came to his second recent project: “The Gospel of Us: The Passion of Port Talbort.” Port Talbort is a small, very industrial city found in the UK. The film itself was shot and ready in a very short period of time. The entire movie was shot over the course of 3 days. Not only was it shot using simple cameras, it was intentionally done in a style that could involve all those that lived in Port Talbort as well. The lead actor, Michael Sheen, understood the project would demand that he stay in character for much of the time that they were filming. This meant that when the paparazzi was homed in on him he, in character, asked them to move back a bit. Along with him was another performer: Toni Tracks. She and Michael had worked together in “Breaking Dawn, Part 2” and done a good job together.

Toni talked some about getting to Port Talbort. It was chosen for its look of being very modern in its looks. This is a town dominated by factories and seems to hold very little regard for those who work and live their outside of what they do. McKean wanted to give them something more to talk about, to be more than the stinky town, as Toni heard the place called. The story came to involve the entire town and opened to sold out shows throughout town.

The story in the “Gospel of Us” is simple. It follows the story of the Teacher, a teacher who had gone into seclusion in the nearby mountains above the town. To promote and get people involved, they started a guerrilla art campaign to help spread the word about the movie. The people of Port Talbort simply knew that it was going to start soon but had no idea as to the when. You would see the image of the teacher just spray painted over a big-brother-esque sign to help things out. The movie opened with a 6 am “call to prayer”. There was one of the locals who headed out to do this singing. This was the cue that everyone in town knew would signal the start of the movie. They also knew it would start on a Friday. From there, the Teacher went to the ocean where he would meet the Stranger. The fellow would baptize the Teacher before he would head out into the world and begin to gather disciples. To help set the mood, after the story began, the Stranger would wander the town and tell stories of the events. This movie presented something unique as well. Because of the involvement with the community, you could see all the iPhones and Androids that were being used in some scenes to record the movie in its creation. He explained that the Teacher after his own walked about town would head into the hills for an overnight. Michael Keen insisted on actually spend the night on the mountain-side. There were a few amusing anecdotes from that night. The movie ends with the Teacher hauling his cross to the center of town. You could see the more somber mood even in the still photos that were presented.

Mckean left things off there, talking about a lucky charm of his: Luna. Luna was a Silver Origami crab that McKean kept around for the shooting of this movie and a few other projects. We were treated to a few shots of Luna in just odd little places at the end of the panel.