Ah, after the gloom and doom of the last three issues, here's a simpler story more in line with my original vision of the series. That isn’t to say the issue didn’t give me fits. It did, just in unusual ways.
The name of Melody's rival was originally Summer. It seemed like a perfect mermaid name. Then, I got a shock. I had gone to see the movie Panyo in the theater. I sometimes take my art pages with me so I can do something while waiting for the movie to start (I can't always take my computer with because most theaters assume anyone with tech is automatically trying to pirate the movie). So I'm sitting there while the pre-movie commercials are running (I was drawing the page from Sound Waves #5 where Rhapsody first enters the undersea home), drawing away. A commercial comes on for Fanta soda and shows the Fanta girls -- I think they're called the Fantinas or something. There was a contest to find a fourth member of the group to join Melody, Summer, and....
I didn't catch last name because my brain was too busy melting down. I jerked my head up to the screen in time to catch the name "Summer." Then I facepalmed. I put a lot of references in my work (like Rhapsody,in a daze, singing Baloney Sandwich by Brak on Cartoon Planet), and the last thing I wanted was for people to think my mermaid names were a tip of the hat to some dopey soda marketing campaign. On the way home, I started groping for some other name to give Melody's rival. The best I could come up with was Felicity. A while later, I was watching my Olivia Newton-John concert and remembered her character name in Grease was Sandy. That seemed like another perfect mermaid name, and went with it.
This is one of the few times where I didn’t like working in black and white. I wanted some way to differentiate the other pod from Melody’s, but I didn’t have many color choices. All I could really do was darken in the tails.
Popsicles are fun. And special popsicles are even more fun. At the start of the issue, Rhapsody was sharing a cooler full of Bomb Pops with Melody. But as I finished penciling the undersketch for page 1, I nearly had a heart attack. I am trying to minimize the Rule 34 bullshit as much as I can – this is the reason Rhapsody’s dress gets magically longer and goes over her knees in certain shots and I block the scenes so that no one can be accused of looking up her skirt. Anime has developed the disturbingly sick trend of fetishizing girls who are underage even by their standards. The trend is one of the primary reasons I’m not as into anime as much as I used to be. And Rhapsody sitting there with a popsicle in her mouth was looking waaaaaaaaay too Roman Polanski for my tastes. I promptly changed the Bomb Pops to regular popsicles so that Rhapsody and Melody are snacking on doubles instead of phallic-looking singles. Admittedly, that’s kind of a stretch (literally), but at least it doesn’t get the Pedobear Seal Of Approval.
For some inexplicable reason, I like incorporating the phrase "Death from above!" at least once into any project I work on, don’t ask me why. I thought for sure I would never be able to get it into Sound Waves – I couldn’t imagine any circumstances where it would come up. But when I decided Sandy was a hyper little mermaid, the character practically wrote herself. Greeting her old buddy Melody with a flying tackle made perfect sense to me. Then, I smirked. I changed the angle of her approach, and "Death from above!" became her introduction.
As I said, Sandy practically jumped to life. The bit where she’s talking so much, you can’t see it all in the word balloon is a favorite sight gag of mine. The entire exchange, including Sandy continuing to shake hands after Rhapsody removes hers (while Melody looks aside because she knows it won’t deter her) was a hoot to draw. Although probably my favorite bit is where Sandy is perched on Rhapsody’s head while Rhapsody does a slow burn.
The bit about timing by remembering a piece of music is actually an old idea and I heard of it long before Hudson Hawk, thank you very much. My first exposure to the idea was a short story about a music student who used a piece of music to time pitches in a baseball game.
Rhapsody has a tape player because I see plenty of cheap little tape players with a built-in speaker, but not CD players. I wanted something small enough that it could go in a small cooler and be taken out over the ocean, so a boom box was out. The make of the tape player, Nakashuma, is a reference to The 12 Gifts Of Christmas by Allan Sherman. The music of Count Basie seemed a perfect fit. Basie’s horn section was nearly perfect (the Manhattan Transfer based their vocal arrangements on it).
I loved drawing Marina’s appearance where she’s being courted by a merman. It just makes me smile.