Alan Robert is somewhat of a rennaissance man. While many know him as the longtime bassist of Life of Agony, he actually graduated with an bachelors degree from New York’s School of Visual Arts, and has three comic book series under his belt as well. Last year, his first coloring book, The Beauty of Horror, took a macabre dive into the otherwise genteel genre of adult coloring books. We caught up with him then about it, and the idea of a horror-themed coloring book for adults and morbid kids of all ages appears to have been popular enough for there to be a sequel. The Beauty of Horror 2: Ghouliana’s Creepatorium will be out on September 12th via IDW Publishing. We caught up with Robert to chat about the new book, whether creating it was as theraputic as coloring it in, the film adaptation of one of his comics series, and what’s coming up in Life of Agony’s near future.
How did making your second coloring book differ from your first? Was it any easier given the fact that you’d done it before?
Well, the first book was a huge challenge because it was something completely new for me. I had written and illustrated three, full-color comic series previously (Wire Hangers, Crawl to Me, Killogy), but the format and style for coloring books is very, very different. You’d think it’d be simpler right? Eh, not really, actually. Good coloring book designs have certain, specific elements that make them fun to color. Anyone can throw a bunch of black and white line art into a book and call it a coloring book for grown ups, but I’ve found that the best books out there have consistent line weights, style and lots of diversity throughout the designs.
For instance, in comics, where I would usually ink my drawings using lots of heavy black shadows to create dark, creepy settings, the trick with these coloring pages was to almost use the exact opposite approach. For the coloring books, I use super thin lines with no shadow work at all. I found that by using negative space cleverly it allows the colorist to fill in the blanks creatively. I had to kind of re-train my brain to think differently when drawing ‘The Beauty of Horror’. I would try to create depth by using different line patterns and detail as opposed to using thicker lines and heavy patches of black ink.
Another big challenge for book one was coming up with 88 pages worth of unique horror imagery. I was determined to produce the ultimate horror coloring book, so in my mind every single page had to stand on its own. Book 1 has everything from vampires and zombies to spiders and killer clowns. Book two dives deeper into Ghouliana’s world and her museum of oddities I call her Creepatorium. Once I established the Ghouliana character in Book 1, she really took a life of her own. She was the key to making this a series and she really ties it all together.
The new book, The Beauty of Horror 2: Ghouliana’s Creepatorium just flowed out of me this summer. The success of the first book let me know that there was already a huge fan base for it, and seeing what the amazing colorists have done with my illustrations inspired me to bring it to a whole new level.
Many people find coloring theraputic. Is it theraputic to illustrate the books themselves?
AR: Absolutely. Each page takes me about ten hours from start to finish, so I tend to just zone out listening to podcasts while drawing. Sometimes I get so focused that I lose track of time and forget to eat lunch or dinner. And while I’m on book deadline, I generally work every day until it’s complete. So these coloring books are 88 pages, plus the cover and dust jacket, so it can be a little overwhelming to wrap my head around to get motivated to start. Once I get cranking I’m fine. I figure a page a day is a good pace. If I get two done in one day, that’s great, but it’s rare. By the time I hit the halfway point, I’m already in a serious groove. I usually make a checklist of themes I want to draw beforehand, so that eliminates some of the stress when trying to map out the pages.
It seems like when your first book came out, adult coloring books were a legitimate trend. Obviously, there’s enough demand for you to make a second book, but it seems like a bit less of a trend now than it did, say this time last year. Am I off in thinking that?
I think a lot of publishers tried to cash in on the trend by quickly putting out low quality books and colorists saw through it. That’s why you see a decline. Companies thought that anything that was labeled an adult coloring book would immediately jump right off the shelf. Quality matters.
That’s why when a slew of generic, nature-based coloring books over saturated the market last year, books like ‘The Beauty of Horror’ stood out even more, because it was so different. So, while those books may not be selling, the unique coloring books that are geared towards niche audiences have found a loyal fan base. There are still many, many coloring fans out there. They are just getting bored with coloring in the same old stuff. Now you’re seeing more and more edgier coloring books rising to the top. That’s very encouraging and great to see.
How did you get inspiration for the second incarnation of the GOREgous coloring books. Did you have some of these ideas before that didn’t make the first one?
Once Ghouliana became the face of the series, I really wanted to expand on her universe. She really connected with the fans and I think there’s lots more that can be done with her in other mediums, too. Some very cool things are already in the works! Every now and then I’d ask my 9 year old daughter what she’d like to see me draw that day, so she inspired some ideas too. The illustration where Ghouliana is eating the ice cream cone that is about to bite her back was totally her idea brought to life. It was a lot of fun bouncing ideas off her. Now she’s excited to see how the fans color it in!
It was announced a few years ago that your comic book series Crawl to Me is going to become a movie. What’s the status of that?
Crawl to Me has a great team of producers behind it and the film is still in development. Right now, the screenwriters TJ Cimfel and David White (Intruders) are tweaking the script and we hope to be filming sometime this winter. Announcements about the director and cast will be coming as soon as we confirm. It is very exciting to finally see it come together. I am confident that it will be even more shocking than the graphic novel.
Do you think about your comics in cinematic terms when you write them? Do you have envisioned them all eventually becoming films when writing them?
Yes, absolutely. I am a big movie guy, so every comic panel is pretty much me playing director as if it were a frame in a movie. There are certain limitations in comics when working out page layouts to achieve the best storytelling experience for the reader, but ultimately my goal is for each panel to work on its own. Right now, each of my titles are being adapted into feature films or tv series, some animated and some live action, so I think there is potential for them all to translate into other mediums.
What are some of your favorite comic book film adaptations?
Probably Sin City and The Watchmen.
What’s the status of Life of Agony? The album came out earlier this year. Do you plan on continuing to tour behind it?
We’re out in Europe touring through September and then we head to the U.K. for a few weeks. Some East Coast dates in October, and then out West to do Ozzfest Meets Knotfest in November. Plans for 2018 are in the works.
It’s way early to talk about this, but when might the next LOA album be released? Have you had discussions or written new music for it yet?
We honestly don’t plan albums that far ahead. Our new record A Place Where There’s No More Pain was the first new music we’ve done in 12 years. I’m not saying we’d wait that long this time around, but we feel like there’s still a lot more life to this record and we plan to continue to support it. So far, the reaction to the new material has been incredible!