(Courtesy of IDW Publishing)
In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, Alan Robert discusses the latest installment of his bestselling coloring book series, The Beauty of Horror 3: Haunted Playgrounds (IDW Publishing)! The Life of Agony bassist and comic book creator reveals what it takes to come up with the black and white illustrations, that readers will have tons of bloody fun to saturate!
Explore more of Ghouliana’s monochromatic world just waiting for you to saturate it with red, black, or any color you can imagine (even pastels). You never know what’s lurking behind the next corner, so keep your eyes peeled for all the hidden pieces of the monster Ghouliana is trying to reanimate.
With The Beauty of Horror 3: Haunted Playgrounds out in stores, Robert talks about the horror and humor behind his illustrations, how amusement parks became his inspiration, and his upcoming projects.
Villain Media: Haunted Playgrounds marks the third installment of The Beauty of Horror trilogy. Was it more a challenge to start the series? Or keep it going?
Alan Robert: Starting the series was probably more of a challenge, than keeping it going. After the first book was published, I saw first-hand the overwhelming positive response from coloring fans. And it inspired me to explore Ghouliana’s universe even more. I got a chance to introduce a slew of new creepy characters and settings.
It really has been so much fun to work on this series! I just wrapped up work on The Beauty of Horror: Ghosts of Christmas Holiday Spooktacular! Now THAT was a ton of fun! It will be out this October from IDW. Ghouliana completely decimated the North Pole [laughs]!
VM: Tell me about using amusement parks as the setting for Haunted Playgrounds.
AR: Can you think of anything creepier than an abandoned amusement park? The pages in this book are filled with creepy clowns, circus freaks, and dangerous rides for the undead for coloring fans to go nuts with. If you’ve seen the mind-blowing color work they’ve done with the other books; this one should be even more insane. Can’t wait to see what they do with these scenes!
VM: You’re also a songwriter. The Beauty of Horror 3 kicks off and ends with a poem about Ghouliana. What’s more of a challenge—the songwriting or coming up with those intros/outros?
AR: It’s all fun! I enjoy working on deep, emotional lyrics for Life of Agony as well as the whimsical poems in The Beauty of Horror books. It’s a completely different creative mindset, though, so I really need to get into the right mood to do either.
VM: The undead magician performing his levitating trick, “The Lioness,” and “The Sword Queen,” are my favorite illustrations in the bunch. Tell me about coming up with the designs for these illustrations?
AR: For each Beauty of Horror book, I make out a checklist of concepts I want to tackle before ever picking up a pen to draw. Each book has over 80 pages to fill, so it’s quite a lot of illustrations, if you think about it. It’s really important to me that each book fulfills the expectations of the colorists when choosing the title. Each book has its own theme, and Haunted Playgrounds is focused on the carnival/circus feel running throughout.
My list for this volume included everything—from carnival barkers to wild rides and disturbing carnival games. I always picture these settings in more of a historic timeline, so there’s usually a more vintage or antique quality about them; which helps the pages to look very connected.
VM: A lot of the imagery stands out because of its dark humor. “Whack-a-Soul” and “Dunk The Dead” are wickedly hilarious! Tell me about running with the horror and the comedy in these illustrations.
AR: I never know if anyone finds this kind of tongue-in-cheek humor funny, but I definitely get a kick out of it [Laughs]! If there’s ever a chance to sneak a little humor into the pages, I usually try it to see if it works. That’s the great juxtapose in these books, balancing the dark with the light. And incorporating sinister humor is definitely part of that in my mind!
VM: On your social media feed, I love seeing how fans color in your pages. What surprises you when you see their finished pieces?
AR: I’m constantly blown away by the colorists! It still amazes me that people all over the world have these books and are applying their own creativity to them. It’s a big part of what keeps me motivated to keep making more! Some of the books have even been released in multiple languages for foreign territories; so you really get to see some wild stuff coming from just about everywhere. It’s definitely a trip to see the pages come to life!
VM: How did The Beauty of Horror 3 change you as an artist?
AR: Hmmm…when I first started out with book one in 2016, 88 pages to fill seemed like an almost impossible achievement within the timeframe I had to make a Halloween release date. Back then, I never dreamed this would become a bestselling series. So, I’d say that over the course of drawing all of these books, it gave me more confidence as an artist. And I think I found a distinct style along the way. Each volume allowed me to dig deeper and try new things. I’ve definitely found my groove as an artist.
VM: What are you working on now?
AR: The Beauty of Horror: Ultimate Nightmare drops in September and I just delivered the art for The Beauty of Horror: Ghosts of Christmas coloring book to IDW for an October release. Very excited about that one! I’ve been speaking with claymation animator Trent Shy to do something special around that title. So, stay tuned for more on that! Should be pretty insane.
Outside of the books, the Crawl to Me movie is very close to announcing its director… and some more things in the works behind the scenes for The Beauty of Horror in 2019. Life of Agony is currently on the ‘Rise of the Underground’ tour until November, and we have a new record coming out on Napalm Records in October, 2019.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]
The Beauty of Horror 3: Haunted Playgrounds Coloring Book is in stores now!