By Anthony Breznican
March 27, 2019 at 11:00 AM EDT

A beautiful redhead emerges from the sea, taking her wobbly first journey onto the land. She’s got something to prove to her father, and there’s a surprisingly kind prince on shore who is helping her along.

But this is no little mermaid. She’s a soldier, on a mission to assassinate that prince — who has no idea he’s the heir to an underwater kingdom.

This is the setup for Mera: Tidebreaker, the first in a series of new graphic novels aimed at re-introducing DC Comics heroes and villains to young adult readers.

It hits comic book stores on March 27, and will be available at other booksellers on April 2.

Forthcoming titles in the DC Ink series include Teen Titans: Raven from Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures, The Lovely Reckless), Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Chains), Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (Legend), Batman: Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz (Alex & Eliza, Blue Bloods), and Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle (Kissing Kate, The Infinite Moment of Us.)

Below, EW spoke about Mera: Tidebreaker with author Danielle Paige (Stealing Snow and the Dorothy Must Die series) and illustrator Stephen Byrne (the Serenity comics, Green Arrow.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is the first book in a new series of DC graphic novels. I know you’re not working on every one of them, Danielle, but what’s the mission of these books?
DANIELLE PAIGE: DC is doing their own young readers line, and DC Ink is the young adult part of that line. Each one focuses on a different superhero or character in that world. I am so excited to do the launch title. Or we are so excited to do the launch title.

Why do you think Mera is a good way to kick off this new series?
PAIGE: I think she’s just kick-ass, personally. [Laughs.] With the [2018] movie I think she’s part of the zeitgeist. Beyond that, I think that she’s a superhero that people don’t know as much about. A lot of people just know her as Aquaman’s girlfriend, and I really want to be in a place where people think of Aquaman as her boyfriend. I think she’s so powerful and intricate and amazing and complex.
STEPHEN BYRNE: It’s really exciting that audiences are going to get to see the Aquaman story from a different side and from a unique side, and from a side that’s going to be very accessible to younger readers as well.
PAIGE: Yeah. To me, she feels like justice. She’s like a Wonder Woman or a Batman, but we don’t know as much about her. Hopefully, now they’ll get another take on her.

DC Comics

Did you have a little license to explore and show a new version of Mera separate from the comics?
PAIGE: Right. One of the things about this line is that they’re out of continuity, so we get to create our version of what we think her origin is.
BYRNE: We get to see the young version of her as well. I don’t know if we’ve seen her this young or as much of a focus on her teenage years before, which I think is a cool thing about this version of the character.

One thing that jumps out about the art is that it’s monochromatic, apart from her vibrant red hair. Stephen, what was the thinking behind that design?
BYRNE: I think the monochromatic tone makes it feel more accessible and more easy to get into. I have to say that the colorist was David Calderon, and he was going off some of the early concepts I did where I was doing monochromatic blues with the pops of red for Mera’s hair. That’s just a unique little signature of this book that sets it apart from other things.
PAIGE: I think it also evokes the underwater, for me. When I saw it, that was my first thought.
BYRNE: And it’s got like a watercolor-y texture to it as well, and lots of uses of greens and blues. So yeah, I think it really complements the setting and the story.

DC Comics

How did you approach Mera’s design and how you wanted her to look? After the Aquaman movie, were you trying to give her an Amber Heard vibe?
BYRNE: I wasn’t matching her to Amber Heard as much. It was all on the page that Danielle wrote, so there was this strong portrait of a feisty teenage character who isn’t afraid to speak her mind or show her emotions, whatever they may be. I was trying to get that across in her expressions and her poses. When it comes to costume design, I was trying to veer away from the more traditional, regal-looking Mera that you see in comic books, because this is her when she’s a teenager. So I was going for her clothing being more casual underwater gear, the kind of things that a teenager living in Atlantis or Xebel would wear.

How about with the look of Arthur? He is unaware of his heritage and not yet Aquaman, and this is a dark-haired version, not the old-school blond.
BYRNE: For Arthur, I was excited to develop a teenage Aquaman that was loosely inspired by a young version of Jason Momoa. I think his design is another thing that sets this book apart and will make the character feel welcoming to casual and younger readers.

DC Comics

Danielle, this Mera tale is a resistance story. You make a connection to how girls her age might feel today in the real world, about fighting back, about standing up for what’s right.
PAIGE: I started writing it a couple weeks after the Parkland shooting, and it was around the time of Charlottesville. All of these things were happening in the world. I had started with a party scene, and she snuck out to meet friends. It just didn’t feel right, looking at what was happening. Watching those [Parkland] kids stand up for what they believed in, it made me think this is what real life is like for teens now. They’re not just going to parties; they are thinking about the world and their futures and what their voice and what their place is in all of that. I think the idea that you can have a voice, you can be a hero, was in the back of my mind.

DC Comics

You changed the opening scene to this protest outside of the Atlantian Embassy. Then Mera goes on a self-appointed mission as an assassin — to kill Arthur. She’s more than just a rebellious teen, not just an ambassador or a diplomat, but actually a fighter, a soldier.
PAIGE: We had to set up the stakes to be very, very high, for her to take this step. She firmly believes that this is the thing that she is supposed to do to help her homeland, so she doesn’t take it lightly, and I think Stephen did such a beautiful job of putting that on her face, and her pose, and in her body. You can see what a warrior she is. This is what she’s been trained to do. She’s been very much underestimated by her father and she’s trying to reestablish her place in her homeland as well, so there’s that element of the father-daughter relationship. On top of that, her mother was also a warrior and a fighter, and she wants to fulfill that.
BYRNE: I was just responding to the words on the page, and there was a lot of descriptions early on about her having tough facial expressions or looking stern or angry in the face of conflicts. But there are a few moments early on where you catch glimpses of her internal monologues or her looking at herself in the mirror, where you get a sense of the softer side of her. And then, yeah, as time goes on, that starts to unfold a little more.

Paige will be going on tour to promote Mera: Tidebreaker. Here are the dates and venues:

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