For its line of young adult graphic novels geared toward ushering in a new fan base for its iconic characters, DC Entertainment tapped a bestselling YA author and a character that just made her big splash on the big screen.
Danielle Paige, the New York City-based author of the “Dorothy Must Die” and “Stealing Snow” series, makes her comic book writing debut with “Mera: Tidebreaker,” beautifully illustrated by Stephen Bryne, about the future wife of DC’s underwater hero Aquaman. It’s the first book in the new DC Ink line, which aims to offer stories that “focus on everyday aspirations, struggles and triumphs,” according to a DC news release. Of course, they also tell fun, exciting stories using these familiar characters.
amNewYork spoke with Paige about “Mera.”
How did you come to write “Mera?”
DC Comics approached me, [editor] Michele Wells, who is the guru of this entire thing. We met at BookCon last year and she just wanted me to pitch whatever character I wanted. And I actually picked Aquaman [aka Arthur Curry] originally, and I pitched Aquaman as “Little Mermaid.” My pitch was "Aquaman: A Whole New World." And it was basically, Aquaman falls in love with a girl on land and he has to choose between the land and the sea, but then DC informed me that actually Aquaman always, always, always grows up on land. So my story did not work. We started talking about Mera, who did grow up in Xebel, which is the penal colony of Atlantis. And because of the rivalry between their colonies, Mera decides she’s going to kill Arthur. And she comes to land and actually falls in love with him and has to make the decision what she’s going to do.
This is your first comic work. How did your writing background help prepare you for this?
I started out writing soap operas. I worked at "Guiding Light" and "Days of Our Lives." And so for me, it helped with going back to script writing and that was actually really fun and easy for me. So it’s not the same thing obviously, but writing a script versus writing a novel, it’s kind of good getting back to the basics.
“Mera” launched the new DC Ink line. In general, what do you see as the importance of this line and what do you hope readers get out of it?
I took it very literally. When I think of superheroes, I think of superhero origin stories. I think it’s that moment where someone chooses whether they’re going to be a hero or a villain. And I think that really relates to what teens are doing. They’re coming of age and [deciding who] they’re going to be, and who they’re going to love. So I think I threaded that through my book, and I think all the books do it in very different ways and take on different aspects of what it means to be a teenager.
What was it like working with artist Stephen Byrne? What was going through your mind when you saw the first piece of art he did for the series?
It’s like Christmas. You had this vision in your head of like, oh, this is what she looks like. And when I got the first piece of art, like, oh my gosh, beautiful! She’s just beautiful and powerful and funny and all the things that you see in your head, but better. And I think he just did such an amazing job with that.
How do you see Mera as a modern character, and how does she fit with what’s going on now in society?
When I was writing this, actually it was a couple of weeks after Parkland, it was around the time of Charlottesville. There was so much going on in the world. I think when I first started writing, I wrote a party scene as our opening scene. Then I just scratched it and rewrote it because I started thinking about what teens are going through now and how they actually do have a real voice in what’s happening in their futures and trying to figure out what that is and how to do that. And whether it’s holding up a [protest] sign or if it’s like Mera and she’s capable of doing something much more powerful in a different way, I think that the kids are part of their futures and they’re doing everything they can. So I couldn’t leave that out of my book.
What else are you working on?
I’d love to write more for DC, but I’m still working on a bunch of novels. I’m working on a Fairy Godmother origins story for Bloomsbury. I do a lot of fairy tale stuff obviously, and so it’s the story of how she comes to be and what the heck is she doing there helping Cinderella? So I’m enjoying that.
You live in New York City. How does the city inform your writing?
I love New York. I went to Columbia [University]. I’ve been here since then. I have a bunch of friends who are writers, which is really nice having a community here. We meet all the time and talk about our writing and sit and write together. I think that having that community is very, very important. … So just being a part of that is one of the things I love. And also just being in the city, which is so filled with life and music and art and culture and theater. It’s just wonderful.
If you were going to cosplay, who would you go as?
Well, I would have to be Mera, although I might need to stop eating [laughs], but I love her. But who else? Maybe Wonder Woman. I was a big Wonder Woman fan growing up. And now. … And for Halloween I have been both Catwoman and Wonder Woman before, so I have to do Mera this year. … At Midtown Comics, I would love to see a ton of cosplayers there. I absolutely love cosplayers. I’ve been following a ton of them on Instagram and we sent a bunch of them “Mera," and I am so supportive of what they do and how beautiful they all look.
IF YOU GO
B&N at West 82nd Street and Broadway is hosting a book event with Danielle Paige on Tuesday at 7 p.m. There will be another event with Paige tied to the launch of "Mera: Tidebreaker" at Midtown Comics Grand Central on Wednesday at 7 p.m.