By Denise Oliveira
It took patience, music and Twitter to launch artist-author-musician Alan Robert’s career as an award-winning comic book creator. “I was about to self-publish in 2009 when a comic book writer I really admire noticed me on Twitter and that led to a contract with IDW,” Robert, 43, said in a recent phone interview, just days after his Killogy Halloween Special won a Horror Comic Award.
I went to the School of Visual Arts and studied cartooning, but I got really into writing and recording music, and got signed right out of college. The first Life of Agony studio album came out in 1993 and we’ve recorded several studio and live albums since. We’ve toured with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and have shared the stage with Metallica. We made a comeback in 2014, we’d been off since 2011. We’re playing in Florida this April and this summer we’re playing with Kiss, Faith No More and Slipknot overseas.
What’s your instrument?
I’m a songwriter and bassist.
Where do you get your inspiration for songwriting?
Every day situation and real life stories. I write from things I know, not fantasy-driven stuff.
You graduated in 1993 but didn’t get back to comics until 2009, why?
All through my music career, I continued my passion for comics. In 2009 I was very inspired to release own my series. That was Wire Hangers. Crawl to Me, a psychological thriller came next. Then came Killogy; I had cast it with real life actors and celebrities and made them characters in my fictional story line. Right now we’re actually adapting that into an animated series for TV. [Editor’s note: Others of his series are being adapted into movies, and you can find a complete listing here.]
What re-sparked your interest in comics?
Music had just taken over my life for many years. I’d also been working on concept art and album covers and merchandising for the band all those years, and my skills grew over time, and also, technology got better and better. By the mid 2000s I felt I was finally able to create something I was prepared for the world to see. I felt more comfortable as an artist. When I first started working on the Wire Hangers story, I actually commissioned the artwork, but it was taking so long that I decided to do it myself. When I had success with the first series, I stuck with that formula of doing everything myself, though I try to adapt a different art style for each series. Some of my work is unrecognizable when you put it next to each other. I take months developing a style before I start working on a new series.
How do you find time to create comics with your busy schedule?
Since I started in 2009, I’ve never stopped – nights, weekends, all the time. I do all my own art, writing and lettering.
Do you feel like New York City is the place to be to do this kind of creative work?
This stuff can be done from anywhere honestly. Some of my comic series were drawn on tour busses all over the world.
What do you like most about New York?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn and I grew up here in the 70s and 80s and I’m a product of my environment. Living and working in New York toughens you up and prepares you to deal with the rest of the world. There are certain expectations here. And there’s so much competition in New York, it pushes you to be the best you can be.
Is being a cartoonist a very solitary activity?
I do attend the conventions in San Diego and New York, not just as a fan but as a professional. I get to mingle with my heroes and trade stories and buy artwork from a fan’s perspective. I also get to meet people on a professional level, and I hired some of my favorite artists to participate in my series as guest cover artists.
What do you do for fun? Or at least to relax?
I don’t have a whole lot of extra time. I’m juggling so many things, but I spend my down time with my family, I’m married and we have a daughter. But she’s not old enough to enjoy horror comics yet.
What advice do you have for aspiring cartoonists?
Read a lot and take in everything around you and learn from it. It worked for me. That’s kind of the inspiration I go on, it’s people who’ve done great things. The more you see, the more you realize that there are opportunities to expand on ideas, and go down different paths with your own style of work. In my genre, there’ve been groundbreaking books that made me say, “I could do this myself” – and I saw there was a market and audience for it.
What are you most proud of?
The way that I got my first publishing deal, without a representative. In 2009 I got on Twitter and started following some of my favorite comic book artists and writers like Ben Templesmith and Chris Ryall. I put together an animated teaser for Wire Hangers, and through Twitter Chris saw it and asked me about it. I didn’t know he was also the editor-in-chief at IDW. It was a dream come true and was the start of another career for me. Not only have I had the opportunity to release several series, but now some are being developed for film and TV, and I’ve formed my own production company, Wasted Talent Entertainment.