On October 4th, just in time for the Halloween season, Life of Agony bassist Alan Robert has a release coming out. Not, it’s not the next Life of Agony album (more on that later), but instead, his very own adult coloring book. The Beauty of Horror, A GOREgeous Coloring Book takes the adult coloring book trend and puts a dark slant on things. We spoke to Robert about how he he came to draw his own adult coloring book, what his inspirations were, and how he got involved in publishing.
Have you been following the adult coloring book trend for a while, and at what point did you notice it shifting from a niche thing to a full-on trend?
I’ve watched it grow from afar over the last year, but I never imagined that it’d turn into this huge phenomenon. I didn’t know many adults who colored before I decided to do this book, so when the trend finally invaded my home, I took a very quick interest! I came home to find my wife and daughter coloring in Johanna Basford’s Lost Ocean at the kitchen table, and my wife sparked the idea that I should draw my own book. I liked that idea a lot, but I really didn’t know what theme it should be at first. I played around with a punk rock concept and actually drew CBGB’s bathroom for fun and posted it on Facebook on March 31st. It was intended to be like an early April Fool’s Day joke type of thing, because I figured, what would be the exact opposite of these beautiful nature scenes that people love to color? Something absolutely disgusting, right?! Well, CBGB’s bathroom seemed like the most disgusting thing I could think of. People went nuts over it, downloading the page like crazy and posting their colored creations to my Facebook timeline. It was a lot of fun. I loved the idea of seeing different artistic flavors on my artwork and the interaction with the fans was super cool.
So that night I stayed up late and researched the coloring book market. To my surprise, I found that there was a huge void for horror coloring books. How did somebody not think of this before? That got me very excited. I immediately came up with the title, drew the cover and one page for The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book. On the afternoon of April 1st, I sent the artwork and concept over to my buddy Chris Ryall (Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief at IDW Publishing) who dug it immediately and mentioned that IDW actually had a few coloring books in their pipeline. Within the hour, he passed it along to IDW’s Jerry Bennington & Nate Murray who had worked together on other IDW coloring books like Locke & Key. They both instantly loved it and let me know they wanted to publish the book. It was the quickest green-light I ever received for any project. I had to double check with them that it wasn’t a joke, because after all it was April Fool’s Day!
Had you been familiar with other adult coloring books? Do you do them yourself?
I’ve got a young daughter who I love to draw with and color. We trade off drawing line for line on the same sheet of paper and create these crazy monsters together. We color her Monster High books and activities like that. So, no – I never graduated to the adult coloring books… I’m still on the kids coloring books (laughs)! And usually, when I find myself inspired to create artwork, I’ll color my own drawings. I’ve joined some online coloring groups to see what folks enjoy coloring and I have to say, there are a lot of talented colorists out there. Some of the stuff they come up with is truly amazing and inspiring. Some of my favorite Facebook coloring groups are: Coloring On The Darkside, Adult Coloring Worldwide, and Coloring Books for Adults. They’ve all welcomed me with open arms into their communities. It’s awesome. Sometimes I’ll post free pages in there for fun, like this one: http://bit.ly/2aMlDCE.
How did you come up with the idea to have a horror/gore-themed adult coloring book?
I knew that if I was going to commit myself to drawing an 80-page book over the course of three months, which is how long it took me to do this, that it was going to have to be something I really, really enjoyed drawing. I can draw monsters and ghouls all day long and never get tired of it, so that part was a no-brainer. This experience, like all of my other books (Crawl to Me, Killogy, Wire Hangers) was a labor of love. I worked countless hours getting every page just right stylistically, with all of the little intricate details and hidden objects this book called for. I would just draw and zone out listening to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast for hours, mostly. I must’ve listened to all of his episodes. Some twice, because they’re great. His show really got me through the long hours. As a thank you, I took a morning in June to draw a custom Marc Maron coloring page for his fans. He loved it and I was pretty stoked about that.
Is there a particular theme running throughout the book, or is it just horror in general?
I knew from the very beginning that I wanted every page to have a good balance of beauty and horror. If there was going to be a beautiful garden, it would have to have something creepy and decomposing lurking in the bushes. If there was a zombie with an axe in her head, there had to be beautiful birds perching on the axe handle and a flower in her hair. So that concept developed along the way. I definitely wanted to cover all of the classic horror imagery, like killer clowns, zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc. but then I came up with this character; a creepy dead girl named Ghouliana Belie. I started incorporating her more and more into the visual story of the book. All of a sudden, she was in several scenes and playing with undead pets. I wrote a poem about how she got lost in the woods at nine years old and how she would leave objects along her path to find her way out. Throughout the book, readers should search to find Ghouliana’s missing items. Ghouliana took on a life of her own naturally. I see a lot of potential for that character with more books and games. She appears in the video (above) too.
How many of these were just drawings you’d already done and how many were done specifically for the book?
Every drawing I did was specifically done for the book and I knew that I wanted the book released in time for Halloween. So to hit the print deadline for this 80-page book, I probably drew 10-12 hours each day over three months. It was a tough schedule, but I am so happy with the outcome. Wait till you see it. There are some samples on the site.
How did you get into the comics business, and what advice would you have for any aspiring comic artists?
Before Life of Agony got signed to Roadrunner Records to release River Runs Red, I had attended The School of Visual Arts to become a comic book artist. I had legendary Marvel Comics’ artist Walter Simonson (The Mighty Thor) as my teacher. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1993 – the same year that Rivers came out. It was an exciting time, with our debut album dropping and tour support provided by the record company, I figured, what the hell – comics could wait. I wanted to see where this music path would take me… well, that turned into a two decade long career. Along the way, I always drew tour posters and merchandise for the band, but I never gave up my dreams of becoming a professional comic artist one day. Fast forward to 2009, I got on Twitter and began following some of my favorite artists like Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night). Chris Ryall was the writer of a cool sci-fi, IDW comic that Ben drew called “Groom Lake.” Ryall and I began chatting up and back about music, he was a big metal fan. Long story short, I had intended to self-publish my comic “Wire Hangers”, but once Ryall heard about it we began talking about the possibility of publishing it through IDW. At that time, I just thought that Ryall was a writer for IDW, I didn’t realize that he was also the Editor-in-Chief of the company! IDW was publishing my favorite comics, too, so I signed with my IDW shortly after. I chalk it up to be good timing fueled by the power of metal music (laughs). I didn’t even have a literary agent. I’m convinced that it was fate and I am forever grateful to Chris for giving me my big break. I think I embarrass him sometimes on Comic Con panels when I tell this story, because I thank him so much. Pretty much every year since, I’ve pitched IDW a new idea and thankfully they always seem to dig it. I’ve done several titles with them so far: The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book, Crawl to Me, Killogy, Wire Hangers, and one that’s been in the works for a while now called The Shunned One.
Can you say anything about the next Life of Agony record?
Man, the new record is coming out killer. We’re all so proud of it. I just recorded my bass tracks for it last week. The drums and most of Joey’s rhythm guitar tracks are complete. Mina is up next and I cannot wait to hear her on this. “A Place Where There’s No More Pain” is such an exciting time for this band. Lyrically, it’s extremely dark. Musically, it’s thick and driving with tons of gritty attitude. I don’t want to give too much away this early, but we’re all so psyched about it. I think LOA fans are going to be very pleased once they hear it. More about all this very soon.