Over the last several years Life of Agony bassist/songwriter Alan Robert has built a fascinating second career as a author/illustrator in the world of dark, cutting-edge graphic novels such as Wire Hangers (2010), Crawl to Me (2011), and Killogy (2012). This month the multi-talented provocateur turns his attention to subverting and desecrating the adult coloring book craze with the delectably demented The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book — a “blood-soaked alternative” to usual coloring fare, in the words of its accompanying press release, that will take unsuspecting colored-pencil wielders “on a twisted journey through bizarre carnivals, the zombie apocalypse, serial killer lairs, and haunted burial grounds.”
“I think that the common theme with anything that I’ve touched is that I kind of do this stuff because I feel like I have to,” Robert tells Decibel. “There’s no other end result that I’m looking for except that I just have to express myself through these different ways. Even lyrically with Life of Agony, a song like ‘This Time’ for instance — where those lyrics are based on a real situation that Joey Z, the guitar player, had experienced — and by him confiding in me, because we were so close as friends, I was able to put those emotions into lyrics.
“It comes from a real place, and that’s why I think that people can relate to it so much, because these are common themes growing up around substance abuse and alcohol abuse and just dysfunctional family lives. We’ve all gone through it, and lyrically, and also through my art, all this, believe it or not, was therapy for me to cope with whatever feelings that I was dealing with, and these are the ways that I did it.
“The [tagline “Art Therapy for the Abnormal” is] kind of a tongue in cheek thing, because this adult coloring thing is considered art therapy, but this is probably the most bizarre book in the genre at the moment!”
To celebrate Halloween, the release of The Beauty of Horror, and all the light Robert has shined to us through the darkness over many years and mediums, here is his list of list of must-have graphic novels for horror-headbangers…
Batman: Arkham Asylum
This is the graphic novel that completely changed my thinking about what comics could be. Absolutely mind blowing painted artwork by Dave McKean. Haunting visuals that put the reader inside the mind of The Joker. Very poetically written by Morrison.
30 Days of Night
Brilliant concept about a gang of vampires that preys upon a small town in Alaska that doesn’t see sunlight for an entire month. Written by Steve Niles and beautifully illustrated by Ben Templesmith. Templesmith’s awesome texture work and incredible palette inspired me to approach the artwork in my first comic series Wire Hangers in a similar way.
Alan Moore’s fantastic take on Jack The Ripper’s Whitechapel murders. Illustrated in bleak and gloomy black and white ink by Eddie Campbell. Fascinating speculation on the possible suspects and killings. Don’t be put off by Johnny Depp’s loose film adaptation. The graphic novel is nothing like it. Way darker.
Really atmospheric and somewhat abstract supernatural tale illustrated by Jock and written by Scott Snyder. I originally picked up the single issue comics because I loved the artwork so much, but it’s even better compiled into the trade paperback. From what I’ve read, it’s being adapted into a motion picture by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B. Look for it!
Crawl to Me
Okay, I admit it — this next recommendation is shameless self-promotion, but if you haven’t read my 2012 graphic novel Crawl to Me by now, give it a try this Halloween. Just don’t read it before bed, because it will linger in your brain all night long. We’re actually bringing this to the big screen in 2017 with a live-action film version. We’re casting now and gearing up to shoot this winter. I promise that the movie will be even scarier than the book!
Life of Agony is finishing up its fifth full-length, A Place Where There’s No More Pain, for release next year. Rolling Stone posted a sample here. Life of Agony’s River Runs Red was inducted into the Decibel Hall of Fame way back in issue #7. For more information on Alan Robert’s many projects follow him on Twitter.