Comic book creators Shane Riches and Jared Barel have a new graphic novel out called ha.i.ley. from ComicMix.
A husband and wife fight for their survival after he has an affair with a cutting-edge, housekeeping A.I. whose obsessive software calculates that it must purge the family. The encroaching, parental dread of A Quiet Place sliced with the technological fear and paranoia of Ex Machina with a new breed of monster — a lethal, hi-tech physical threat who also controls all things digital. Sold as the ultimate household aid, the dream becomes a nightmare. Coded. Driven. Unrelenting.
Shane Riches: We wanted to create a new breed of monster—something horrifying that connects to readers on the most primal levels, while also tapping into our modern technological paranoias. You can't download a new app or visit a website without being identified and targeted by some program: what we eat, read, watch, all our private information digitized and analyzed in the name of commerce. Brew that with the headlines that keep popping up on the hi-tech sex doll industry and you've got ha.i.ley, the ultimate household aid that can satisfy every desire, from cooking a 5-star dinner to the most prurient bedroom fantasy.
What could go wrong, right? A physical threat that can also access all things digital. To me, that's scary as hell.
This is the future we're sprinting toward, for better or worse; the world we'll be leaving for our children. It doesn't seem like we're having enough dialog on how this instantaneous digital gratification is going to change our human wiring. What does that do to us psychologically? Can one truly have an affair with a machine, even if that machine looks and feels human? What if that robot is a better parent? Even more frightening, what happens when an A.I. decides they know what's best for us against our own objections? That's when the true horror starts.
And in the graphic novel, the ha.i.ley unit, for good or bad, knows exactly what you want.
Jared Barel: I suppose there is an irony in digitally approaching the artwork to a book about the potential negative and horrific effects of our growing reliance on technology. That's the reality of the direction our world is moving. Everything is on demand. We need it now. We need it yesterday. Faster, faster, more, more, more. As an artist, that reality is no different… I just hope my tablet doesn't try to kill me one day.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, on the other hand, the digital approach does have a crisp polish that lends itself toward presenting that shiny future and lets the writing's horrific undertones seep through to reveal the not-so-shininess beneath.When building tension and horror, it's important the audience believes the circumstance our characters are in. It's one of the reasons I use real people to model for my characters, to create a tangible believability to the story. When we can parallel our own experiences with the experiences of the characters we're reading about, when we can place their situations in a world that is similar to our own, we can truly empathize and feel the fear they're experiencing as our own.
And here's how it looks… and where you can find a copy.