Exclusive Peeks at Friendo & Fearscape From Vault Comics

The Upstart Sci-Fi/Fantasy Publisher Continues its Genre Hot Streak

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Exclusive Peeks at <i>Friendo</i> & <i>Fearscape</i> From Vault Comics

Two months ago, Paste brought you the exclusive news that Vault Comics and British comics collective White Noise, made up of Dan Watters, Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel and Ram V., had entered a partnership for four brand-new original series: Deep Roots from Watters and Val Rodrigues; Fearscape from O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti; Friendo from Paknadel and Martin Simmonds; and These Savage Shores from Ram V. and Sumit Kumar. Today, Paste has an exclusive extended first look at half of that lineup, with the debut of interior pages from Friendo and Fearscape, along with statements from the books’ writers.

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Fearscape’s Ryan O’Sullivan:
“It’s Fearscape meets Fearscape

I was asked to explain Fearscape for this Paste article. To open up about the story, the characters, my influences and the overall point of the comic series. I tried to do this, swear to god. I sat down with a pot of coffee and tried to break down the most layered thing I’ve ever written into its composite soundbyte-friendly parts. But I just couldn’t do it. Anything I wrote just seemed to give the game away. If I were to talk about the plot, and how it links with my influences, then I’d give away a twist in the fourth act. If I talked about the nature of the protagonist, you’d immediately know where he was going to end up. That’s the thing with stories, sometimes talking about them can undermine the whole point of telling the story in the first place. Stories are like demons; once you know their true name they have no power over you.

And I want Fearscape to have power over you.

In a way it already does. You’re reading an article about it and that’s building a prejudice towards it in your mind. You have some sort of opinion of me as a writer based on my words here, and you’re going to expect a certain type of story based on people like me you’ve encountered in the past. This is dangerous though, because stories are supposed to exist in isolation. How many times have you read an introduction at the start of a novel only to have a big twist (one you’ve managed to avoid your entire life, despite how popular the novel is) utterly ruined for you? How many times have you heard a film universally lauded, only to discover it painfully average? This sort of thing happens to me all the time. This is the danger of stretching stories beyond their pages.

With that said, everyone reads book blurbs. Here’s the blurb for Fearscape:

From Ryan O’Sullivan, Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov and Deron Bennet comes FEARSCAPE. The Fearscape is a world beyond our own, populated by the manifestations of our worst fears. Once per generation, The Muse travels to Earth, discovers our greatest Storyteller, and takes them with her to the Fearscape to battle these fear-creatures on our behalf. All has been well for eons, until The Muse encounters Henry Henry—a plagiarist with delusions of literary grandeur. Mistaking him for our greatest Storyteller, she ushers him into the Fearscape. A fake man in a fake land…this is the story of the wrong person answering the call to adventure, and the doom that followed.

That explains the high concept well enough, but it doesn’t explain everything. Because nothing can. Because sometimes a story can only be explained by the act of experiencing it firsthand.

So go ahead, experience it below via the preview pages. And when you’re done with them, don’t forget to go to your local comic store on September 26th.

Because that’s when I’ll really explain what Fearscape is to you.

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Fearscape #1 Cover Art by Andrea Mutti & Vladimir Popov

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Fearscape #1 Interior Art by Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov & Andworld Design

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Fearscape #1 Interior Art by Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov & Andworld Design

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Fearscape #1 Interior Art by Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov & Andworld Design

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Fearscape #1 Interior Art by Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov & Andworld Design

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Fearscape #1 Interior Art by Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov & Andworld Design

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Friendo’s Alex Paknadel:

In brief, Friendo is an insanely violent satirical road movie where one of the travelers is an augmented reality marketing assistant. Think True Romance meets Spike Jonze’s Her and you’re about there. This failed actor called Leo Joof is given a pair of augmented reality glasses as a gift, and it comes preinstalled with this onboard AI marketing assistant called a “friendo.” This is a human-presenting artificial intelligence that’s rendered in your surroundings in real time in order to basically sell you shit and offer you voucher deals, etc. The system uses creepy Cambridge Analytica-type datasets to infer a crazy amount of information about the wearer so their friendo can complement their personality perfectly, becoming their platonic ideal of a best friend. Leo’s friendo is called Jerry, and when he malfunctions he ends up leading Leo very, very far astray.

Jerry is a better friend to Leo than his real friends, so he ends up taking Leo away from authentic (and messy) human contact; in the process he ends up establishing this self-reinforcing psychopathic relationship where Leo ends up doing things he wouldn’t have dreamt of doing six months earlier. It’s cult behaviour 101.

The germ of the idea came to me quite a few years ago when I was still working in digital marketing. My first book, Arcadia, came to me at the same time, so that should give you an indication of how long this thing’s been on the hot plate. Along with many, many others, I began to see the potential of direct marketing techniques to kind of maroon people in their own private worlds and I wanted to articulate that. However, after Vault had already accepted the book the world changed enormously with Brexit and Trump, really throwing into sharp relief that terrifying idea of the internet—and social media in particular—as a delivery system for radicalization. I knew I couldn’t write it exactly as I’d envisaged it when those two events occurred, and it’s become a much, much darker work in consequence.

I know this probably seems evasive—pretentious, even—but I’m being totally sincere when I say I’m figuring out what Friendo’s about as I go along. I don’t mean conceptually; the plot hasn’t changed appreciably since I had the idea a few years ago. However, the world’s changed enormously—and not for the better—so I’m constantly having to rethink the themes as I go along in order to keep pace with all the insanity going on around us. It honestly feels like trying to describe a building while it’s burning down, you know? The story has a really robust conceptual spine though, so it can absolutely support a more exploratory approach.

The book’s super fun and hopefully very funny, but what ultimately interests me is the slow process of psychological manipulation whereby average Joes and Janes with some disappointments in their lives can become monsters with staggering ease.

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Friendo #1 Cover Art by Martin Simmonds

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Friendo #1 Interior Art by Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe & Taylor Esposito

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Friendo #1 Interior Art by Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe & Taylor Esposito

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Friendo #1 Interior Art by Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe & Taylor Esposito

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Friendo #1 Interior Art by Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe & Taylor Esposito

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