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Sound Waves #9 Is Out!

And here it is, the Big Reveal that was hinted at in #4 and #7.

This is another case of editorial honesty.  The mechanics that I settled on to enable Rhapsody to survive underwater were simple.  In fact, a bit too simple.  If harmonizing is pretty much all it takes, there is no way Rhapsody should be the only human ever to directly interact with the merpeople.  Not only that, but there were probably other ways to get the same effect.  Since Rhapsody's song is a reflection of her true nature, people with questionable motives, simply due to what that means for their personal songs, would never be able to harmonize with the water and frolic with the fishies.  That was where the crystals came in.  Crystals have a resonant frequency (it's what powers your quartz watch).  Get a "programmable" crystal, set it to harmonize for you, and off you go.

This got me thinking.  If being with the merpeople is a result of being a good person, what happens when you remove that limitation?  I started extrapolating on the nature of a group of people who knew the merpeople and interacted with them, but as time passed, they lost their touches.  They developed an artificial means around their limitation, and the result was the Poseidens.  It was an idea that I just couldn’t shake.

However, it was also the beginning of the end for the series.  With this little revelation, it meant Sound Waves was going to end around issue #15.  Spoiler alert:  the two are going to be forced to go their separate ways.  I was already setting things up and even considering the release schedule when an idea hit me for Rhapsody and Melody reuniting years later.  Sound Waves 2.0 would have been a continuation.  But some of the plots I came up with could easily have been done with the girls in the current series.  So I added a couple more stories before the end of Sound Waves proper.  Ultimately, I just couldn't say goodbye to them, and ginned up stories to take place after that fateful issue that would eventually bring them back together.

But the fact is, the addition of the Poseidens expands the scope of the series considerable.  As I mentioned in my notes for issue #5, I just felt it was cheating for Rhapsody to never end up in a situation bigger than herself.  Consider, if you will, Star Trek.  Star Trek features the characters interacting with other places with the safety of their ship to return to.  They are never stranded, they are never confined, and no matter how unpleasant the experience is, home is always right there for them to return to.  Given that Rhapsody is human, all she has to do to be safe is stay out of the ocean.  When Sound Waves was only 5 issues long, keeping everything secret or keeping her away from the bigger elements of her new world was easy because her exposure was limited.  But with the increase in numbers, I knew it wasn't realistic for the worlds to never collide (for example, in an upcoming issue, Rhapsody's dad learns her secret).  I see a lot of all ages stuff where the threat is never really a threat and the world is always limited.  Given the emotional heart at the center of the series, expecting there to never be any heartbreak just felt dishonest.

A lot of story ideas and inspiration is often the result of necessity.  Originally, this was going to be a three issue arc, not two, with the middle issue showing the journey to Rosstello Island and Rhapsody and Melody going ninja to sneak in and out of the there.  Rosstello Island is based on the Hawaiian park with the black rocks, and I realized that was just waaaaaaaaaay too far for Rhapsody and Melody to travel without anyone noticing they were gone for a long time.  I thought about moving the island closer to California, but that just didn't seem right, either.  I wrestled with how to get them to travel that distance in a short period of time, and eventually came up with the noise gate.

The inspiration came from watching the video for Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday.  During the video, he moves away from the mic during a gap in the song.  A helpful caption explains he moves away from the mic so that the sound of him breathing in isn't picked up by the recording equipment.  I thought, "There's this device called a noise gate that can solve your problem, buddy."  Something about the name clicked, and it became the merpeople's equivalent of a stargate.  I figured out roughly how to make it work and even how to move it -- I needed them to be able to move it with them as they traveled to keep people from stumbling across it, but they had to do it without touching it, since touching it warped you wherever.  In a future issue, it's revealed that, you sing the song of the water you want to go, you warp there.  If you sing the song of the water backwards, the noise gate goes with you when you warp.  Problem solved.

This also became the source of a hasty rewrite.  Not only did it cut down the issues from three to two, but it meant Laminar would have to come with.  The girls are bold, but this just seemed too risky for them to do on their own.  Melody's dad would kill her.  This did raise the question of how Laminar knew what the water around Rosstello Island sounded like.  His pod couldn't have been there, since neither Melody nor Marina, the other trusted friend in the pod, would know about it.  I came up with the idea of the leader of the pod being a "ledger" (established in #7) and Rosstello Island was where they went for a sort of finishing school.  And that was how Laminar's pod suddenly got itself an official leader, and it was Melody's dad.  It did add a little more dimension to Rhapsody's first meeting with the pod in #4, since Laminar was pretty much the main contact in that issue.

I also loved the bit where Melody is trying to swim to the noise gate and Laminar is simply holding her back with the palm of his hand, and she's still trying to swim over.  That and her body language when Laminar does his, "I'm the dad" bit.

Yeah, I know, the Hannah Montana reference tips off I wrote this a while ago.  Sue me.

That said, I love the job I did drawing the state park.  I don't feature a lot of detail when the girls are swimming in the ocean since they are in the middle of the water and there's nothing to reference their position.  The first panel of Rhapsody walking in the park is a favorite of mine with all the trees and shrubbery, although, now that I look at it, I did blow it.  The bottoms of the plants are more or less straight lines along the ground.  Either I made a mistake or that park has the most OCD landscaper in the history of the world.

Rhapsody's way of returning the stone was born of necessity.  To make sure I had space for all the exposition about the Poseidens that I needed, I wrote up to her getting to the island and sneaking past the guard shack first, then her leaving the island and learning what was going on from Laminar.  When I looked at the pages I had left to show Rhapsody returning the stone, I only had two left.  Well, shit!  I was looking at having to make a whole other issue to show Rhapsody sneaking around, but making it interesting was not going to be easy.  Then, Rhapsody's brain to the rescue.  I know, it's an old trick that factors into a lot of con stories and folklore, but I did create Rhapsody to be smart and ingenious, and it was exactly something she would gin up.  The sneaky look on her face before she switches into her Actress mode with the guard, then her smile as she thinks, "Sucker!" are favorites of mine.  Although, if you ever see the original art, the guard gives Rhapsody her rucksack back at the end.  I started drawing the subsequent pages, and realized too late that I was forgetting to draw the rucksack back in her possession.  The easiest solution was to digitally erase the rucksack from the panel where she gets it back, and change the dialog to say the guard was confiscating the sack.

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