Corey Taylor is not one to rest on his laurels. The lead singer and songwriter of the Grammy Award-winning band Slipknot and Grammy-nominated Stone Sour, Taylor is turning some of his artistic attention from music to comics, forging ahead into new territory with “House of Gold and Bones,” a four issue miniseries from Dark Horse Comics.
Featuring artwork by Richard P. Clark and covers by Jason Shawn Alexander, “House of Gold and Bones” is Taylor’s debut in in visual storytelling. The comic is part of a larger, multi-media project encompassing two albums from Taylor’s band, Stone Sour, via Roadrunner Records, along with video and Internet content. Each element of the project follows a central, core story told in the pages of the “House of Gold and Bones” miniseries and expands upon them in song.
The first installment of the two-part album series was released October 22, 2012, with the second scheduled for release in the summer of 2013 while Dark Horse’s “House of Gold and Bones” issue #1 will hit stands April 17. Comic Book Resources spoke with Taylor and series artist Richard P. Clark about the project and what’s involved in channeling sonic energy onto the comic page.
Though it is a fictional story, “House of Gold and Bones” draws heavily on Taylor’s own life as the writer strives to relate a universal story of self-discovery and redemption. “The last 10 years of my life have been the most formative,” Taylor told CBR News. “I realized I was on the threshold of the rest of my life — I had an ideal of who I wanted to be as a man and I realized who I was at the time didn’t exactly jibe with what that idea was. So I started the process of changing for the better — it took me a long time, but I feel like I’m a lot closer than I ever was to who I want to be. [‘House of Gold and Bones’] is loaded with that journey, but it also has a lot of pieces from my friends’ lives — some are a lot more ahead of the curve than others, but we are all doing the same thing: trying to figure it all out. That’s why I wanted to tell the story in the first place — to put it all in perspective and find my place in it all.”
In telling his story, Taylor began to transform his own journey into something of a contemporary fable, laced with science fiction and fantasy elements. “The hero wakes up in a world he doesn’t understand, is bombarded with strange characters and in the end finds out more about himself than he ever could have imagined,” Taylor explained.
The story’s hero, The Human, guided by Peckinpah, sets off on a journey to find his answers before the looming event known as The Conflagration is set to take place.
“[Peckinpah] seems to have more answers than he lets on, but he’s a very solid dude who jumps to The Human’s aid when he needs him the most,” Taylor said. “The antagonists of the story include Black John, who is the vicious leader of a massive group called The Numbers, and of course our main villain: Allen. Allen is The Human’s twin, loves to play dress up and takes a sick pleasure in tormenting The Human at every turn. He also turns into a woman for a second, for no real reason. Allen was awesome to write.”
“I consider [‘House of Gold and Bones’] a surrealist and extreme take on facing one’s inherent conflicted nature,” added series artist Richard P. Clark.
“The internal idea is much more subtle and real,” Taylor continued. “It’s about making choices and trying to get to the next phase of your life. It’s about realizing your potential and learning from your mistakes. We all stand at our own version of a crossroads in life — sometimes more than once in our lives. This is one of those times.”
The Dark Horse miniseries is just one facet of the larger “House of Gold and Bones” project that Taylor is undertaking, as the comic is telling a story mirrored in the two Stone Sour albums of the same name.
“I wanted the music on the albums to represent the inside, the story in the story, the internal dialogue of the characters in that particular moment,” Taylor explained. “The songs run parallel to the story itself, but only move the story a little bit. The music is more about giving a little background on the thought process in certain scenes.”
In coupling the forms of music and comics, Taylor is attempting to allow one to complement the other — to fill in the expressive gaps where one form may fall short. “Both genres are fathomless when it comes to possibilities,” Taylor said. “But in music, you only really get the emotion of the singer or the music, which makes it hard if you’re trying to convey the emotion in a scene. With comics, you get that snapshot of emotion: the looks on the faces, the color of the sky, the veins in people’s necks, but you don’t get the fluid feel of being in the moment, like film or music. I hope between the two, we’ll be able to put these pieces together perfectly.”
For his part, Clark has sought to take atmospheric cues from the first Stone Sour “House of Gold and Bones” album in forming the aesthetic language for the book.
“Visually, ‘House of Gold & Bones’ blends the believable world and a dream reality in an aggressive, gritty and dynamic package,” Clark said. “I often listen to music while working and find a playlist influences my images’ mood quite a lot. The changes in tempo and audio ‘feel’ taking place on the record help maintain the balance between displayed and reigned-in aggression in mark-making, page layout and approach to line and form. For instance: the first three songs on the record (‘Gone Sovereign,’ ‘Absolute Zero’ and ‘A Rumor of Skin’) really bring a lot of heat — fast-pace, driving beat and soaring vocals — before ‘The Travelers, Pt. 1’ reels everything in for reflective moment. It’s my intent to pull off a similar trick with the visual aspects of the series.”
Taylor is thrilled to see the world he has imagined being brought to life under Clark’s hand, a world at once fantastic and grounded in the everyday. “I wanted a look that felt real, that gave depth to this crazy world I could see in my head but no one else could,” Taylor said. “Richard has that balance down so well — it was what drew me to his artwork in the first place. I loved how he could re-imagine real people in a way that blends a portrait and a picture. That’s what I wanted for this comic. I wanted this crazy place to feel real. I knew Richard was the perfect man for that job.”
“‘House of Gold and Bones’ creates an entirely new world, and while that world does reflect our own, it’s tweaked just enough to require a careful bending of standard pictorial rules,” added Clark. “Fortunately for me, Corey’s written enough description to impart very important specifics — he’s a naturally visual writer — and leave enough wiggle room to have some fun.”
Taylor, though new to writing for the comic book form, is a longtime reader and fan of the genre. He picked up his first Spider-Man comic at the age of six, and spent his childhood as an avid Marvel Zombie, but fell out of reading comics for much of his teenage years.
“Then, someone handed me ‘Preacher’ by Garth Ennis,” Taylor recalled. “I started collecting again in a frenzy, finding great titles along the way, like ‘Transmetropolitan’ by Warren Ellis. I learned that it didn’t necessarily have to be about the character — the writer was just as important. So I began following writers like Ennis, Ellis, [Brian] Azzarello, [Brian Michael] Bendis, [J. Michael] Straczynski and others. Because of those writers, I finally thought to myself, ‘This is something I could do — I don’t have to be an artist to make a comic book.’
“The wonderful thing about comics is that it’s the perfect blend of the visual and the literary,” Taylor continued. “Some of the most interesting stories I’ve read in the last twenty years have been in comics.”
Comics provided an opportunity for Taylor to try and bridge the gap he saw between the short story that provided the armature for his albums, and his music. Along the way, the project has also allowed Taylor to fill out his characters and narrative structure, and to let some light back in.
“It’s been fun to stray a bit from the story and play with some of the interaction between the characters — add a little levity that may have been lost in the cracks a bit,” Taylor said. “Overall, I think this is the perfect way to give this story scope and shape what will come next. My ultimate goal for these albums is two full-length movies. The music and the story are there, the comics will bring that extra dimension and really give this tale the legs it needs.”
Taylor appears to have a nearly bottomless well of creative energy. He isn’t content to look back on what he’s already accomplished but is consistently looking forward to future projects and new ideas. Much of his creative output delves into dark territory: fear and addiction, as well as hope for redemption.
“[That energy] could come down to a lot of things: repression of creativity when I was younger, the various bouts with abuse I’ve gone through, the anger I have fought for a long time — who knows, really?” Taylor said. “I guess the difference between me and someone who uses his issues and problems for a crutch is that I have been able to channel both my creativity and my anger into positivity. I know both my bands are perceived as darker and more aggressive, but everything I say with my music, and otherwise, has a positive ending — maybe not happy, but positive nonetheless.
“That’s what I try to put out there: the idea that no matter how bad things get, if you hang on, everything will be all right. Same with the comic — if you know what you want in life, it’s just a few steps to knowing who you want to be in life.”
For more on Corey Taylor’s first comics project, check out his CBR TV interview from the 2012 New York Comic Con! Taylor dropped by our luxurious Tiki Room where he discussed “House of Gold and Bones,” his love of the comics medium from an early age and more.