Milton’s Mal Meehan reflects on a lifetime in the arts
You may not know Mal Meehan, but if you’ve been around Milton, chances are you’ve seen his work.
For the last two years, Meehan has drawn the official poster for Milton Theatre’s Zombie Fest, taking the approach of “Let’s zombie-fy it up.” This past year the festival was held in Dewey Beach, so to give it a Dewey flavor, he used the Bottle and Cork logo, which shows two people dancing, turning them into undead zombies in a graveyard.
“From a young child I’ve always been artistic,” he said. “I was also very technical. I would take my parents’ carriage clock apart and put it back together again and get it working. My brother, Richard, he’s older than me. He was always very good at art, and I would see his work and loved it.”
Zombie Fest posters are just one facet of Meehan’s art. A bookish man with glasses and a London accent, Meehan has dabbled in music, interior design, web design, video, advertising and comic books. He also serves as the co-owner of Inn The Doghouse with partner Annette Babich.
Meehan got his start at age 14, when he drew his first comic book and sold it at Forbidden Planet, a London cult megastore famous for selling comics, toys and movie merchandise.
“We sold 100 copies of this thing that we photocopied at my school,” Meehan said. “From that point I got kind of a buzz about doing comic book work. In England, we don’t have internships but we have work experience. I actually phoned up the local comic book company, which was Fleetway. They produced ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘2000 A.D.’ I said, ‘Listen, I will do anything to sit in your office and make you tea and coffee and be a part of it.’”
He spent three summer breaks at the company, and while the job was unpaid, Meehan loved the experience. He cut his teeth doing drawings on ‘Judge Dredd,’ the popular character who serves as cop and judge in a dystopian future.
Meehan went to school to study multimedia. He was interested in video, having run a community video workshop in Streatham, the town in south London where he grew up. That paved the way for his next artistic adventure.
“I went to London College of Printing and came out still not knowing what I wanted to do. But I became interested in the film industry and started at Samuelson Film Service. They supplied Panavision cameras to film sets. I was at Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree studios every day of the week delivering equipment, setting up equipment,” Meehan said.
While he couldn’t operate the equipment - those were all union jobs - he did get to assist productions. His first was 1989’s “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. He also worked on another 1989 blockbuster, Tim Burton’s “Batman.”
“I was just running around as a kid, laying cables,” he said. “I was there, long hours, flying cables across sets. It was very exciting, but ultimately it was the end of the film business. Video was coming in. So I moved into video.”
Meehan spent the next five years working as a video cameraman, doing newsgathering for ITV News and the BBC.
“I was the guy who sat outside Parliament and filmed the politicians,” he said.
As the world became more reliant on computers in the mid-1990s, Meehan moved into multimedia and computer graphics. He started his own company, doing CD-ROM publishing. His first client was Abbey Road Studios, which commissioned him to develop their CD+ program, a combined data and music disc that would allow for digital liner notes and artwork.
Meehan also did multimedia work in locales such as Spain, Ireland and Dubai. But as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s, the dot-com bubble burst and his clientele dried up. So he changed course again and moved into 3D rendering and web design.
“For the last 20 years now, I’ve done my own thing,” Meehan said.
He was living in Ireland when the housing bubble collapsed. Many of Meehan’s clients were in the construction business, and the downturn hit his business hard. His wife at the time was from New York, so in 2009 he moved with her back to the States. He picked up a job working as the video director for the Anti-Defamation League, a post he held for eight years.
Recently, he has resumed his career in multimedia, and this time, the project was unlike anything he’d ever done.
One of Meehan’s longtime hobbies is collecting and playing Moog synthesizers. Invented by Robert Moog, they were the first commercial synthesizers. When he lived in London, Meehan said, he had a large collection. He ended up selling the majority of them, but he still has a healthy collection of Moog and its smaller version, the Mini-Moog, at his home studio. A picture of Meehan and Moog, who died in 2005, hangs on the wall.
So when Moog’s children wanted to honor their father with a museum in Moog’s adopted home of Asheville, N.C., Meehan heard about it and put together a pitch. He included a booklet showing the layout of the museum with all the expositions, and to his surprise, the Moog family decided to build it.
The Moogseum opened in 2019 and is a fully interactive experience. Visitors can play the theremin, have a hands-on experience programming a Moog synthesizer, learn about the history of synthesized sounds, and learn about Moog’s life and career. The Moogseum uses video touch-screen displays and sound displays to bring Moog and the synthesizer to life.
“I knew Bob Moog. I knew his daughter, Michelle, and when she started to think about this two years ago, I approached her and said, ‘I really want to do this.’ She said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ I didn’t think she would build it verbatim,” Meehan said.
He said he would love to put together a similar experience locally at the Milton Historical Society’s museum.
After a divorce, he met Babich while they were both living in New York City. They soon grew weary of the big-city life and sought a change. They visited Lewes and quickly fell in love with coastal Delaware. They then looked to buy a house in the area when their realtor showed them Milton, and Meehan was hooked.
“I remember seeing a theater, seeing an Irish pub, seeing a bike store, seeing a comic book shop, and I was like, ‘This is it,’” he said.
They purchased a home on Chestnut Street that had been operating as an Airbnb. They decided to keep it going, renaming the business as Inn The Doghouse, renting out the two guest bedrooms upstairs. The couple has fully immersed themselves in the community, putting on the first Dog Days of Summer Festival in September, which featured food, beer, music and dog adoptions.
“We loved Milton so much, and we loved this place, we thought, ‘We should be here,’” Meehan said.