For most of us, the prospect of writing a comic book – even one based off of a popular franchise – is daunting enough to make us just want to get back into bed. For Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The musician-turned-author’s latest venture takes him deep into the nether realm of sequential art where he’s transforming his double concept album House of Gold & Bones from hours of scorching alt-metal into a visceral, eerie comic book mini-series from the madmen over at Dark Horse Comics. With Richard Clark’s uncanny artwork and Taylor’s many talents, it would seem that the blood red sky is the limit for this mysterious tale of a man who wakes up in a land he doesn’t recognize, only to be chased across a nightmarish landscape by a gruesome horde of men seemingly hellbent on his destruction. To get the inside scoop on what’s inside the House of Gold & Bones, I caught up with Taylor, who opened up to me about the challenges of adapting an album into a cohesive comic narrative, crafting the visual design of the world, and how to get 10,000 calories in a single sitting. Trust me – you’re going to want to write down the recipe.
Nerdist: I just read the first issue and it’s quite a doozy. You really manage to capture that feeling of lucid dreaming, and a creeping sense of unease permeates throughout. Tell us about House of Gold & Bones and what we can expect.
Corey Taylor: The great thing about issue one is that it sets up the mystery. That’s kind of what I wanted to do with issue one – kind of put as many of the key components in play as possible and leave people going, “What the fuck is going on here?!” You know? [laughs] It seems like with all the feedback that’s coming in, it seems like I’ve accomplished that in spades, so that’s kinda good. With each issue, I want to get more visceral and less esoteric; I wanted to start the series out more Neil Gaiman and slowly, but surely get a little bit more Garth Ennis, if that makes any sense. By issue three, I want the shit to really start hitting the fan; all the pieces really start falling into place by issue three. The idea was that it’s a mystery set in this crazy place. What would you do if you woke up in a place you didn’t understand, let alone recognize? What would be the first thing you would do? You stand up, wondering “What the hell is going on around here?” All of a sudden, you’re assaulted by a horde that comes out of nowhere and kind of chases you off. Right from the get go, I wanted to keep the Human off balance as well as the reader. I’m really looking forward to see how people react to issue two.
N: You were saying that you want to get less esoteric as the series goes along, which I think you accomplished even by the end of the first issue. Seeing that horde right behind him was a real “holy shit” moment for me.
CT: Yeah, exactly.
N: How did you craft the visual look of the world with artist Richard Clark?
CT: That was something that I was very adamant about; it had to be the right artist. Starting out, I had a very specific idea of how the comic should look. I didn’t want it to be – and this is nothing derogatory at all – too cartoonish or too stylized. I wanted this to look like an illustrated representation of a movie. This would be something you could throw up on a movie screen and watch like a movie. So, I had very specific ideas, and Richard was just perfect. They sent me a list of artists who were available to work with and were enthused about it, and Richard’s artwork just stood out, bar none. Based on the work he’s done on the Fringe comics, he’s got such a great way of doing representations of real people while also nailing fictitious characters. Most people can only do one, but Richard does both so well that I knew that he was the guy to do it. Watching all of the artwork start to come in for all the comics, honestly, each issue just got better and better. It got me so excited as a fan. I couldn’t believe I was going to get to put my name on this. I’m so grateful for how it turned out.
N: Well, we can’t wait to see what he has in store next. House of Gold & Bones is based on a double concept album, which is difficult enough to pull off in its own right. How do you approach adapting something like that for a visual medium like comics?
CT: Originally, the idea was to just do the albums and have the short story that I wrote to follow both albums. It was really as simple as that. To me, being a songwriter and also trying to be a storyteller, I knew that for this story to work, those two mediums had to work autonomously of each other. You had to be able to listen to the music without reading the story and vice versa, you had to be able to read the story without listening to the music. Then, when you combine the two, it’s a totally different experience altogether. That’s really where it came from. When I was writing the story, I was trying to write it very visually, and it was really coming together in such a way that the idea just popped into my head – this would be a perfect comic book. One thing lead to another, I said the wrong thing to a person, and they created more work for me. [laughs] Luckily, though! I really lucked out with Dark Horse. They understood that this would be a self-contained project, that it would be a four issue mini-series where we could explore this whole thing that’s going on musically and visually from a literary standpoint. It was really kind of the perfect piece to the puzzle to create those three dimensions to the story and I really hope that people can get into it as much as I have.
N: Horror is something that is difficult to pull off in comics, but I think you’re off to a good start because you have these elements of mystery and the supernatural that just draw the reader in and make you want to know more.
CT: Yeah, yeah – you’ve got to have that balance. To me, it made more sense to approach it from a dramatic standpoint, like if you were watching this as a movie or seeing it in a play. You have to approach it from a dramatic standpoint and then add in the elements of horror, sprinkled in. If I had approached it strictly from a horror standpoint, it wouldn’t have worked. It would have been too much and you would have been chained to it. But because I approached it from such a non-specific standpoint – as drama – because drama can really come from anywhere. I really think that gave it room to breathe without chaining it to the horror side of things.
N: I think that’s definitely a sound approach and it shows in the first issue.
CT: Oh, thanks, man.
N: You’re well known as a musician and a lyricist, but how does that process compare to writing a comic book? Which is more challenging as a writer?
CT: I can definitely tell you that I cut my teeth pretty quickly when it came to writing comic book scripts, man, because I had no idea how to do it. That’s where Dark Horse really came in and did me a solid by walking me through the process. It took me, I think, four drafts of issue one before we even got close to what could be considered a script. Each subsequent issue got better and better, but I’m so used to just writing things in my head that I didn’t realize that I had to balance that between describing to the artist what you wanted to see in the panels, describing on the page what you wanted the reader to take from it and leaving a little bit on the table so the artist has some levity when it comes to creating things and helping you create it. Yeah, it was definitely a challenge. I can write songs in my sleep, but it’s the stuff that’s challenging that I thrive off of. It was kind of the same way when I wrote my first book. The challenge was being able to carry a theme from page one to page three hundred. For me, with this, it was about finding out not only the right way to do it, but the way I wanted to do it and being able to have both of those work together to create a great comic.
N: It seems like quite the challenge from a scriptwriting perspective since you have to pay seemingly equal due to both the visual and and narrative elements.
CT: Let’s put it this way – I definitely ate my share of hubris while working on it. I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna be a natural at this.” And they were like, “Corey, not exactly.” And I was like, “Ah, shit.”
N: A humble pie eating contest?
CT: [laughs] Yeah, a little bit.
N: Sounds like you’re a bit of a comic book reader yourself – what titles are you enjoying right now?
CT: Right now? Ooh – I’m loving the current Avengers line and everything that’s going on with that. There’s a Nick Fury title that explores what he was doing in Cuba with the CIA and I’m loving that. I’m also loving the Before Watchmen stuff and other than that, I tend to look for writers who I really enjoy – people like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis – and anything they put out, I’ll buy. It doesn’t matter what the company is or the title is; I’ll buy anything those two dudes put out, no matter what, because I’m a fan of their style and the worlds they create. So, I just go trollin’ through the aisles to see how many more stacks I can add to the stuff at home.
N: One last question: what would be inside your ideal burrito?
CT: Ideal burrito… hmmm. That’s a really good question. Actually, I came up with this, coincidentally, before I left. I came up with the world’s best – in my opinion – the world’s best taco dip. It’s two pounds of taco meat and taco seasoning mixed together with two boxes of Mexican rice. After you cook them separately, you throw them together in a big pot. While it’s still warm, you throw in a whole bag of shredded three-blend cheese, melt it all together and get it nice and gooey. You throw it all together, put it in a bowl and then you add a whole package of one of the small little tubs of Philly cream cheese, mix it all together. Now, from a burrito standpoint, you take two big scoops of that and put it on a big 8 inch flour tortilla, add some sriracha, add maybe a little bit of sour cream to knock the edge off of it, roll it up and add some cheese on top.
N: I can feel my arteries preemptively closing – that’s how good that sounds.
CT: Oh yeah, this isn’t for the faint of heart. If you happen to be faint of heart, you’re gonna clog immediately. If you eat this, it’s probably gonna be 10,000 calories of “holyshitthisisawesome.”
N: So that’s what Michael Phelps has been eating.
CT: [laughs] Exactly, exactly!
Dark Horse Comics’ House of Gold & Bones #1 by Corey Taylor is in your local comic book store now. Have you read it? Looking forward to it? Want to try that taco dip? Let us know in the comments below!