Where'd the sewer speak come from?
Dregs? Ka-Flush? Equis? Where's the language come from? As mentioned in a previous blog, Dylan and I were the guests of The Mercantile Library's Graphic Novel Discussion Group-- a beautiful historic library with an amazing collection.
MeSseD Seasons 1 and 2 were discussed with their regular group of participants. We had a fun time talking about MeSseD art, story and themes as they relate to comic book and popular culture. One of the questions asked was, "I noticed that Lilliput and the other characters have a different language. Where's the language come from?" Here's my response:
While doing research with Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, Sanitation District 1 of Northern Kentucky, and the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, I got to talk with the workers. I noticed that they had their own lingo. Nothing as extreme as Lilliput, but I thought I would take that further. The life of a MeSseD sewer worker is a solitary one, there are hours or even days with little communication. When they do talk it's usually through recorded data hub messages or CB radio. Those are very right-to-the-point communication styles. I imagined Lilliput and the other workers just developed a shortcut in their language framed by their solitary shifts and sewer experiences.
Here's some of the regular words we use in MeSseD:
DREG Admittedly, I wanted my daughters to enjoy the books I'm writing so I made up my own swear word, "dreg." It's been fun incorporating the occasional "dreg" or "dregging" as the story allows. Also, writing the s-word just seemed too obvious for a comic book set in the sewers.
I was trying to come up with a unique way to say "beautiful" or "amazing" when describing the fungus forest / allicroc graveyard in Season 1, Chapter 2: Garden Graveyard. I came up with "equis," which is a short version of "exquisite."
OLD BLACK JOE In Season 1, Chapter 3: Scrape, Lilliput is surrounded by filaments. The situation is dire. As she faces possible death, she says, "Old Black Joe." This comes from the song by Stephen C. Foster (and famous for "Camptown Races"). I use to work at the Cincinnati Museum Center, and one of our historic actors would perform Foster songs, dressing the part as well. I really liked the idea that "Old Black Joe" is a phrase that MeSseD sewer workers use to describe a deadly situation-- like a "Hail Mary"-type prayer or mantra. "Old Black Joe" is their name for the Grim Reaper or Angel of Death.
KA-FLUSH Premiering in Season 1, Chapter 1: Choke, this is our favorite sound effect. I think Dylan came up with it. We needed a noise for the piper grenade clearing the worm choke. I prefer not using typical comic book bubbles like, "Boom," "Wham," or "Splat." So, some back and forth later, "Ka-Flush" was born!
When world building MeSseD, I was excited to use something as familiar like the sewer system as the foundation. However, just as we don't know what exactly happens after we flush, I wanted the world in our spotlight to maintain that sense of familiarity but have alien elements like the language.
For example, in Garden Graveyard, the premise is two friends meet up and go to the park for lunch. This is a familiar and even common premise. However, what if you work in the sewer tunnels, your friend happens to be a four-foot tall cockroach and the park you're going to is a massive fungus forest grown from the carcasses of generations of dead allicrocs.
I've really enjoyed writing Lilliput's equis adventures in the sewers. Thank you for taking that journey with us!
Later, no gator!