With this issue, we have the first appearance of Marina, a character that really charms me for some unexplainable reason. The story actually had a couple of hurdles that I had to get over to get this one done.
"The Lady Of The Lake" was one of the original five stories I had in mind when I decided to launch Sound Waves. For some reason, the thought of a mermaid trapped in a lake instead of living freely in the ocean couldn't shake out of my head, and I decided to run with it. I knew the story would be different, seeing as how the environment meant that Melody would not be factoring in. The series is Rhapsody's story, but the two of them are such great friends, I hate separating them.
Actually, it worked out well for separating them. As I finished up #2 and turned my sights on #3, I realized a bit of a problem. I had originally tossed in the trio of mermaids egging Melody on just to provide some justification for her trying to go into a supposedly haunted boat. Sound Waves in general was originally Rhapsody and Melody, and that's it. I soon realized how limiting that made things, to the point where I didn't want to do the series. Marina was going to be popping up in a story, so it made sense that there would be other mermaids as well.
When I started writing the story, I suddenly realized I had an angle. Simple question: why don't mermaids reveal themselves to humans more often? Rhapsody's singing was novel enough to get Melody to appear. It seemed to me that merpeople didn't exactly think mixing with humans was very smart. An idea occurred to me, which will be expanded on in future issues, and that formed the basis. This is why #2 ends with the trio just hiding from Rhapsody and Melody, while in #3, on the first page, they are confronting them. The "Your kind isn't welcome here" made sense to me, and what do you know, the circumstances of the story would be enough to get Rhapsody in good standing with the merpeople and enable her to hang out with Melody again. For an accidental plot, it really made sense. This is also why it is mentioned at the end that Melody had been grounded by her parents -- the characters may do risky stuff, but I don't want them completely unaccountable. Melody was busted, and she had to pay the price.
Of course, deciding to do "The Lady Of The Lake" left me with two problems from a story engineering perspective. 1) How exactly did Marina wind up in the lake in the first place with no one finding out? and 2) How exactly does she get out without anyone finding out? I came up with her falling in love with a man and she went to be with him, so he would have a vested interest in keeping her secret. Of course, it's pretty damned cynical of me to write that he soon simply lost interest and more or less abandoned Marina there. Originally, she was going to have been stranded there for seven years. But when I decided to make Marina part of Melody's pod, things changed. I had decided the merpeople were nomadic, traveling the ocean and setting up camps as they went. This is why they avoided detection -- they were never in one place long enough to be discovered. The idea that Melody's pod has been hanging out where they were for seven years not only didn't make sense, since that is more than enough time for accidental discovery, but also made me think Marina would be getting a little stir crazy stuck in the lake for so long with no one to talk to. So I shortened it to about two years. It was the best I could do.
Getting her out was another problem. I had started writing the script, and for the scene where Rhapsody is walking around Windy Lake and thinking, I still didn't have a solution in mind. I eventually hit on a dunk tank towed by a quad. A quick rewrite of page 5 put the dunk tank in everyone's mind so that there wasn't a "Where did that come from?" feel to it. Contrived, I admit, but I only have 16 pages.
The 16 pages also hit me when I had to write Rhapsody and Marina's first meeting. Originally, Rhapsody was going to dive into the water, harmonize with the water, and swim for a while because she didn't know what else to do with herself. While cruising around down there, Marina sees her, and things go from there. But there just wasn't space to do that without making everything seem rushed. So I came up with Rhapsody singing and Marina hearing it, which worked pretty well. And besides, I still love their first exchange -- "You're...you're not a mermaid." "Well, you got me there." I did rewrite page 10, though, because Rhapsody originally sang Marina's song to get her attention, and Marina called Rhapsody by name. Their brief meeting never established them learning those things, so they got the red pencil.
The hardest part, however, was Marina's appearance. Chibi art usually has characters two or three heads tall. Two is generally accepted, three isn't done often. I thought two made Rhapsody and Melody look too young and made them three (mature characters are sometimes depicted in two-head chibi style, but I can't see them as anything but kids with those proportions). In fact, the only character I've drawn as two heads tall is Cassie, Rhapsody's baby sister. Marina at three heads was also a problem. She's supposed to be an adult, but at three heads and right next to 14-year-old Rhapsody, she doesn't look it. First, I stretched her to four heads. But the real effect happened when I did the first drawing and did something wrong. The drawing worked, but there was something different. I soon figured out what it was -- Marina had a neck. A small one, but she still had one. Somehow, that added to her maturity. So, while Rhapsody and Melody's heads are squarely on their shoulders, Marina's is supported. Then it was the usual "enlarge the face but not the head", giving her actual fingers instead of "mitten hands" (Rhapsody's parents have fingers, so the idea that it indicates maturity has become a running theme in the book), and giving her more feminine curves, and Marina doesn't appear to be a teenager.
Yes, Rhapsody is doing the Felix pace on page 9.