A Towering Babble

A Towering Babble Babble is an original graphic novel from Lee Robson and Bryan Coyle, due to be published in January 2013 by Com.X, both digitally and in print. Mixing elements of Quatermass and 28 Days Later, the story centres around Carrie Hartnoll, a girl lost in a life going nowhere fast, until a chance encounter with an ex-boyfriend affords her the opportunity of a whole new career in Ivy League America, as part of a research team attempting to resurrect the language of Babel – a language, it is theorised, that can be understood by any human, from anywhere in the world.

As Carrie pieces together her fractured personal life, she becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding the apparent suicide of the project's original team leader, which propels her to uncover the horrific truth about the language and why it was written out of the history books…

Writer Lee Robson gives us a potted history of the journey Babble has had to reach this point:

I'm not going to lie: Babble has taken a long time to get where it is now.

It started as a vague idea about a potentially secret language that we've all been forced to forget. From there, it became an unfinished bit of prose in an old notebook and then got kicked into shape for a comic strip that never saw the light of day. Shortly after I started to chip away at the UK small press scene, I got paired up with Bryan Coyle for a strip in the anthology FutureQuake (http://www.futurequake.co.uk); we worked together on some more shorts for Accent UK's (http://www.accentukcomics.com) themed anthologies and then started to talk about the possibility of doing a full length project, something that was actually longer than 8 pages. So, I pulled Babble out of the drawer to show him; we looked at it and started to break it down to rebuild it as a mini-series.

A Towering BabbleWe set out with a few goals for the story in mind: for one, we'd use zombie tropes to try and sell the project, but make it explicitly clear that this wasn't a tale of the undead. We'd keep the gore and violence to an absolute minimum; we'd try and keep it as grounded and realistic as possible, and we'd make sure our lead wasn't the atypical comic book heroine in skimpy outfits and pulling porn-inspired poses. We knew going in that we were taking risks with it and that we were going against what was perceived as wisdom when it came to horror comics at the time, but we were arrogant enough to believe people would take our hands off for it.

Which, of course, never happened.

Once everything was together for a pitch, we started touting it around – and I mean we shoved it under the nose of anyone who would take a look – but no one would bite. We tried publishers on both sides of the Atlantic and met with the same response from pretty much everyone: thanks but no thanks. There were a lot of factors to this, not least of which was that we were two complete unknowns with a story that, on the surface, looked like Yet Another Zombie Story, but we pushed on until we got some interest from Insomnia Publications in 2009.

Regular readers of Bleeding Cool may remember what happened with Insomnia, but at the time, they looked like a pretty exciting new kid on the publishing block. Looking back, it's easy to see what a mistake we'd made, but we were thrilled someone wanted to publish it. Suddenly, this four issue mini-series was an OGN and we were raring to get it done and out into the world as our opening salvo on the comics scene.

And, then, the wheels came off, leaving us in legal limbo. I know this will sound like I'm sucking up to Rich, but it's the truth: if Bleeding Cool hadn't broken the story, we wouldn't have had a clue about what was happening with Insomnia. Just being the creators, we apparently weren't allowed to know about problems with the company and how it would affect us.

A Towering BabbleWhile all that was going on, we started to look at other publishers in the vain hope someone might be willing to give us a second chance once we were free of our contracts. We'd considered approaching Com.X (http://www.comxcomics.com) – home of Forty-Five and Class War – before, but it was back when they'd just re-opened their doors and weren't accepting submissions, so we couldn't take it any further. When we found out they were open to subs again, though, we took a shot in the dark and sent them what we had of Babble.

And they loved it. Once the legal side of things was sorted out in 2010, we were back on course to complete this thing, with a publisher that was prepared to treat us as creators, rather than cogs in their production line, and let us hit the goals we'd outlined. So, we buckled down and worked through technical and health problems, which set things back even more, until we had the damn thing finished. A good three years after we'd started.

It finally started to get sent out to reviewers and press people a couple of months ago, and it's garnered some really positive reactions, which is actually pretty surprising and humbling. It seems like there is an audience out there for comics that don't feature superheroes or the usual horror tropes, but now we just have to cross our fingers and hope that they think the finished product has been worth the wait, too…

Babble is set for a simultaneous print and digital release in January 2013. However, you can still pre-order it with the Previews code OCT120971, or it can be pre-ordered from numerous on-line retailers.

If you want more information about the book, check out www.babblecomic.com.



About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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