I actually really like how I blocked the cover on this one. Rhapsody has a bit of boldness and adventure to her. So, when I started working on the cover, having Melody keeping a low profile while Rhapsody is a little more out there fit in my mind.
The story was cheap excuse to introduce Sherman. One of the cliches of shoujo is that there is a love interest involved. It's one cliche that's nearly impossible to avoid when you're as big a sucker for the stuff as I am. But I needed to do it in a way that incorporated Sherman into things. I didn't want him to be some separate element, I wanted him to integrate into Rhapsody's world, to know and appreciate having mermaids in her life, and factor into the stories once in a while. I enjoy depicting him as a gentleman, making her a sandwich and watching out for her just because.
This was the first really radical departure in the general tone of the series. It starts off with a mysterious atmosphere, and by the end, it employs an air of menace as Rhapsody tries to escape capture by the Professor. The shift itself had me going back and forth about doing the story. After all, I was already pushing my limits with #4, where an entire group of octopi die of old age. I was concerned the series was moving away from its fundamental atmosphere of lightheartedness and optimism.
I ultimately went forward out of editorial honesty. Rhapsody has an adventurous personality, but expecting her to never wind up in a situation bigger than herself, where she can't simply walk away, felt like cheating. My hope with Sound Waves has always been to make something a step above the milquetoast series like Strawberry Shortcake and that, where threats are never truly a threat and the outside world stays outside. Those kinds of series may be fine, but you don't get really wrapped up in the events because there are no real consequences, no real risks that things won't work out. You simply wait for the time when the situation rights itself. Rhapsody was created to be creative, smart, and hands on. So occassionally throwing her into a tight situation (in this case, by her own actions) seemed the right thing to do.
That said, the Professor was a real tightrope. I needed something relatively low stakes, but still high enough to ratchet up the tension. Originally, the undersea habitat was going to be naval research. But given all the security equipment such a structure would possess, the idea of Rhapsody sneaking in and generally avoiding detection just didn't work. Then I remembered a couple of hotels in Florida that are underwater -- you go in by scuba gear or a minisub. Perfect. The Professor was a real problem, though. Originally, he was just out to find out how Rhapsody got there, but I worried it made his pursuit of her seem psychotic or gave him a "creepy uncle", if you know what I mean, vibe that I wanted to avoid. Eventually, I settled on him connecting Rhapsody to the mermaids. Rhapsody wouldn't be in a life-or-death situation, she'd just be trying to protect her friends and her secrets from someone determined to get them.
More when #6 comes out and the story concludes.