Life of Agony’s Alan Robert & ‘The Beauty of Horror II’ Adult Coloring Book [Interview + Exclusive Page Downloads]
Life of Agony bassist Alan Robert is a many of many talents. In addition to his role within the Brooklyn-based band, he is the mastermind behind the wildly successful, best-selling The Beauty of Horror coloring book, which has capitalized on the adult coloring craze that has exploded in recent years. The Beauty of Horror II: Ghouliana's Creepatorium is the latest addition to the series, and we spoke with Alan Robert about it all. He was also gracious enough to offer two pages from the book (seen at the bottom of the page) for exclusive download for you to color! Check out our chat below:
First, congrats on the overwhelming success of the first edition of The Beauty of Horror. Before its release, did you anticipate anything near this kind of reaction? After all, it seems like you had a niche market cornered in the rock / metal world that other publishers may not have been privy to.
Thanks so much. Before its release I knew I was onto something very different, but, I really had no idea that it would connect with colorists in this big way. I set out to create the ultimate horror coloring book... something that I would want to color myself, being a huge horror fan, because it didn't exist on the market. So I decided to do something about it... make my own!
The beautiful color work submitted by fans have been absolutely stunning and they really bring the pages to life in a way I never dreamed. That's probably the most rewarding part of it for me... seeing the finished, colored pages. That's what I love so much about making these books, the interactivity with the fans. Drawing the book is only half of the process. It's the fantastic color choices and color techniques that compliment the artwork so well. There is a whole coloring community that I've been welcomed into with these books and it feels great.
The Beauty of Horror has surpassed all my expectations. It has sold more than all of my graphic novels put together.
With adults as the target market, why was it important for you to keep the imagery centered around a more child-like figure?
The Ghouliana character is something I developed about halfway through drawing The Beauty of Horror. I ended up including her in a bunch of scenes with her undead pets and something just clicked. The more I drew her, the more ideas for new pages flowed out of me. That's where the poems spawned from, too. Little by little, Ghouliana had become the face of the book. It was a very natural progression of building her character. It was unintentional. I really didn't consider if adults would find it strange that she was a young, undead girl. I thought she was super creepy, so I just followed my instincts on it.
This is an adult-themed coloring book with tripped out macabre scenes, but your 9-year-old daughter helped with the concept for one of the images, so it isn’t exclusively for adults, but discretion seems to be advised. One of the most difficult events for a child to process is the loss of someone close to them. Do you think the ability to bring these dark themes into a more vibrant world in this coloring book can help as a catharsis for children regarding something traumatic like death?
Discretion is definitely advised for young kids with these books. Certain pages are probably not appropriate for little children. There is some seriously disturbing stuff in there! That being said, I've seen some of the darker content turn into beautiful, bright color work based on the palettes and color choices by some very talented colorists. The pages don't look nearly as scary when they're colored in with a rainbow palette.
Creepy visuals are getting more and more popular for young kids nowadays though. Monster High dolls are huge. My daughter loves them, too. They're more popular than Barbie!
I also think that some kids are just naturally drawn to creepy, dark content. I know I was early on. I grew up on all the slasher films of the '80s. Freddy Krueger was my hero. Back then, for Halloween, I made my own Freddy costume, because it didn't exist in stores yet - complete with a glove with rusted blades!
Coloring books have been proven to be great stress relievers for adults, so I can see how kids could possibly get benefits by coloring in some of the darker pages as a way to overcoming fears. For instance, my daughter has really come around with it. At first, I think it was too scary for her, and she wouldn't even want to look at the cover, but now she absolutely loves it.
You drew all of the images in the book yourself. When do you do most of your drawing? On tour?
Thankfully, my touring schedule didn't conflict with my book deadline, so I was able to take a few weeks off here and there to rock out with Life of Agony around the world. I honestly prefer to draw at home, because it's easier for me to get in the zone for countless hours. On tour, I only get limited time to draw backstage and there's always some kind of distraction. In the past, I've drawn comics out on the road. It did help to pass the time out there, but making comics is a whole different experience and mindset.
For The Beauty of Horror coloring books, it requires even more concentration and focus to get the pages to look a certain way. I discovered early on in the process of making the book that using thin line weights to produce the illustrations had to be consistent for it to work well as a coloring book. That style did not come naturally for me. I had to retrain my brain to achieve that look. In my comics, I typically use a lot of thick, heavy black lines, shadows and textures to create dark atmospheres. That approach doesn't work well in coloring books. You need to leave lots of negative space for the colorist to embellish and get creative. Consistency is key.
When did you first realize you had a talent for drawing and did you have any ambitions in the arts outside of music?
I've been drawing since I'm a little kid. My earliest memories of being inspired to draw was right after I saw Star Wars in the theater at age six. I couldn't wait to get home to draw all the characters and space ships from memory. As a teenager, I would draw my own little comic books and photocopy them. The local comic shop in Brooklyn would let me sell them. They were black and white, and pretty violent.
I was always heavily involved in the arts growing up, especially cartooning. I ended up getting a scholarship to The School of Visual Arts in NYC. I actually didn't pick up a guitar until maybe 16 years old. I'm self taught. I just played for fun.
Life of Agony formed in the summer of '89, and things were happening pretty fast for us. It was an exciting time. So by the time I graduated SVA in 1993, LOA had already signed to Roadrunner Records and we were about to release our debut album River Runs Red. Upon graduation, I had to decide whether I was going to pursue music or look for a full-time job in comics. I figured that the music thing was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I jumped in the van and never looked back. It turned into a two-decade long career.
Back then, with music taking the front seat, I thought of art as a backup plan. So, in 2010, when things started to cool down for the band, I put out my first comic series Wire Hangers through IDW Publishing, and in the years following, even though the band got busy again, I continued to create more titles, including Crawl to Me and Killogy.
Making art and music is a great balance for me. There is an intensity I experience that I can only get from playing music, and a calmness I feel only by zoning out creating art. It's healthy for my soul. They're both rewarding in their own ways and I wouldn't change it for anything.
Thanks to Alan Robert for the interview. Don't forget to print out the exclusive download pages below and if you're itching for more, pre-order your copy of 'The Beauty of Horror II: Ghouliana's Creepatorium' (out Sept. 12 through IDW Publishing) via Amazon. You can also purchase the first edition here.
Exclusive The Beauty of Horror II Pages for Free Download
*To download each image, right click and open in new tab then print out and start coloring!