You remember what Trent Reznor's Closer video* did for MTV? The first time I saw it, my jaw went slack, my body forgot the girlfriend I was making out with, tears of awe, disgust, and envy dribbled from my eyes. Afterwards, I could see its mark everywhere -- certain little stylizations being copied by every other musicvideographer on the market.

This is what Dave McKean has done for the world of graphic arts. You can see his style being duplicated everywhere -- that photo-collage/computeresque/stark/grainy style that now seems like an inevitability, but really wasn't a reality until Dave's Sandman covers.

In 1998 Dane McKean came out with a comic book of his own. Before that, he had done some collaborations with Neil Gaiman (notably: Black Orchid) and Grant Morrison (in the bloody fantastic Arkham Asylum), among others, blending the draftsman's sense of perfection with CitizenKanelike innovations to create graphic novels that not only deserve the title "graphic novel", but feel like they belong in a museum.

Dave's project was titled Cages. He had been working on it for eight years. Picking up little ideas from other projects and their writers, piecing them together, storing them up like an ironed-willed squirrel for some maniacal feast of the imagination.

He did good.

Drawn mainly in shocks of blue, black and white, the story is centered around an apt. building somewhere in the greater London metropolitan area. Jazz musicians, crazy ladies, screwy cats, blocked artist (of course), and a few sexy women all collide, or rather, collage in a wonderfully dynamic mess. From time to time the narrative fractures, and through the cracks seep brilliant otherly dimensions filled with colour, with photographic realism, with myth, fairytale, inner life, enigmatic long-legged bugs that trot the earth.

This is the best piece of art I have ever encountered, and I don't say that lightly. It's one of those things that tear you over, tear you up, make you forget the girlfriend you're making out with, because, first of all, it's good, and second of all, it's too good to even try to pretend you could better.

It's printed by Kitchen Sink Press, which unfortunately went 'rupt, so your best bet is getting it on loan from the local library. Find and digest at all costs.

* this video was directed by Mark Romanek. (thanks, Walter, for the info)

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