It’s time to give Danielle Paige her due, y’all. With Mera: Tidebreaker, the charming and always cool author of the Dorothy Must Die series not only created a refreshingly different take on one of DC’s most beloved female heroes, she also launched a brand new, first-of-its-kind Young Adult comic imprint for DC. That’s a pretty heroic task in and of itself (accomplished without the use of superpowers, we might add—at least, as far as we know). Combine that all with the fact that Mera: Tidebreaker is Paige’s very first graphic novel and…well, that utterly amazing cream cheese omelet we made this weekend no longer seems like the world-shattering accomplishment that it did yesterday.
Anyhow, we don’t get much of a chance to talk to actual superheroes, either in Ink Spots or on DCComics.com, so we were thrilled when we were given the opportunity to toss a few questions to Paige, who’s currently at the end of her month-long Tidebreaker tour. The result was a lively chat on all things Atlantis and Mera with plenty of geeking out about DC heroes and Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman. It also taught us that love has the ability to end wars, that underwater romances are only slightly cooler than relationships between writers and artists, and that Paige’s critically acclaimed Mera story was almost a super dark Aquaman story inspired by a classic fairy tale.
Maybe we’ll see that in the sequel?
Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you wind up being the very first author of the very first DC Ink book?
I never expected to be the launch title. I met with Michele Wells, my editor and the genius behind the DC Ink line) at Book Con a couple of years ago. We had an epic conversation about the DC Universe and about the then recently released Wonder Woman movie and all the characters we love. (I am a huge fan of Batman and Catwoman and Superman and…well, you get the picture.)
Michele told me about her plans for a new YA imprint at DC and I pitched a couple of ideas. The first one was a dark take on “The Little Mermaid” with Aquaman having to choose between a girl on land and Atlantis. Ultimately, that pitch morphed into a story from Mera’s perspective. I am so psyched for readers to get to see her story and Stephen Byrne’s incredible art.
Growing up, I truly never imagined that I would write for DC let alone be a launch title for a new line. My six-year-old self is pinching myself!
You mentioned a few DC heroes you were into, but have you always been a fan of Mera and her world? How much did you know about it before starting on Mera: Tidebreaker?
I love Mera, but I confess that I did not know everything about her! I did a deep dive with the help of my DC editors and discovered that she was even more amazing than I already knew. To me, she exists in the same rarified air as Wonder Woman. She is a warrior and she’s royalty and she holds the fates of three kingdoms on her trident—Xebel, Earth and Atlantis.
You’ve had some experience taking existing characters and presenting them in a new light. Did your experience writing the Dorothy Must Die series help you with writing Mera: Tidebreaker?
Dorothy Must Die is the story of another girl who lands in Oz and has to fight a now-evil Dorothy. So, I have a history dealing with some really iconic characters. In the case of Dorothy, I got to play with the hypothetical of “what if Dorothy turned wicked?” And I got to reimagine the world of Oz as a much darker place.
In Mera: Tidebreaker, I got to take on one of DC’s icons and reimagine her origins and the first sparks of her relationship with Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman. Taking on Mera would have been more daunting if I hadn’t written Dorothy before her. (Or my Snow Queen in Stealing Snow.) But I think the key to writing a beloved character is to honor the core of the character, while also telling a story that feels like your own. In the case of Dorothy, Dorothy takes a very dark turn, but she is still loyal to her famous friends and she still has her shoes. In Mera: Tidebreaker, I got to tell the story of Mera as a teen, but she already has her fierce will and passion. I hope that readers that don’t know Mera will get to know her better in my iteration and I hope that super fans feel I honored their Mera.
Let’s talk about the romance. Mera is a fiercely independent young woman. What does Arthur bring to her life that she finds so intriguing?
I think that Arthur has an uncomplicated sense of goodness that Mera cannot help being moved by. And he seemingly has lost his mother like she has. Arthur is very much innocent and even though Mera came to Amnesty Bay prepared to kill him as the heir to Atlantis, she has to rethink her own moral compass when faced with that innocence.
Mera’s feelings for Arthur help defuse a potential conflict between Atlantis and Xebel. Do you think love has the potential to end wars…or does war just make a good backdrop for it?
God, I hope so. In Tidebreaker, the more Mera gets to know Arthur the harder it is to kill him. I think the more you can humanize “the enemy” the harder it is to strike against them.
Stephen Byrne’s art is phenomenal in this book. How closely did you collaborate? And did you have any role in choosing the aquatic color palette?
We had a long-distance writer–artist relationship. I didn’t get to meet Stephen until the day we saw the advanced reader copies at New York Comic Con. We mostly talked through our editors, Ben Abernathy and Michele Wells. But we were fast friends when we met in person. Stephen is such a brilliant, intuitive artist. He has a way of translating what I was thinking and elevating to something more powerful.
Now that Tidebreaker is done and out there, do you feel you’re done with this world, or do you have more stories about Mera you’d like to tell?
Mera is supposed to be a standalone, but I definitely have an idea of what comes next for her and Arthur! I would love to get to do that one day! And in the meantime, I have a few other ideas I am pitching DC!
Are you in the Los Angeles area? Catch Danielle Paige on the last stop of her book tour tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Vroman’s Bookstore in conversation with Amerie. Get info here: https://www.vromansbookstore.com/event/danielle-paige-conversation-amerie-discusses-and-signs-mera-tidebreaker