This week, DC is kicking off its new DC Ink line for young adults with Mera: Tidebreaker, a original graphic novel about the warrior princess’ formative years.
Written by young adult author Danielle Paige, Mera: Tidebreaker spotlights the beginning of Mera’s relationship with Arthur Curry. At first, Mera’s poised to kill Arthur, but her mission becomes complicated when she starts developing feelings for the future Aquaman.
Stephen Byrne, who’s also doing the Wonder Comics Wonder Twins series, collaborated with colorist David Calderon on Mera: Tidebreaker to design a unique look for the graphic novel, one inspired by animation but with a watercolor style.
Newsarama talked to Byrne to find out more about how his satirical online art led to Mera: Tidebreaker, how he developed his style for the book, and what readers can expect from the first new title from DC Ink.
Newsarama: Stephen, your artwork has been all over the place and I bet people don’t even realize they’ve seen it. I think I saw a couple of your drawings before I knew your name. I know there’s a pretty long history to your satire work, but can you briefly describe how the “fan”/viral image side of you ended up bringing you to regular comic book work?
Stephen Byrne: Yeah I’ve done my share of fan art. It actually started with me drawing cartoons and comics with in-jokes for my friends. I initially made my social media art pages as a way to share my work online with friends that would be interested.
Very slowly over time I started to grow an audience. Eventually, I started making my own comics and posting them online, mostly just for fun. The instant feedback from an online audience was thrilling.
I always wanted to work in professional comics but didn’t really imagine it was possible, but after years of continuously posting art online, DC got in touch and asked me to do a two-issue arc on Green Arrow. I’ve been working pretty consistently for them ever since.
Nrama: Let’s talk about this upcoming graphic novel for DC Ink. What did you think of the whole idea of DC Ink when you heard about DC’s new line?
Byrne: I was super excited about the line even before I was asked to be a part of it. I had seen the news stories about DC Ink and DC Zoom and thought they would be a great way to bring comic books to a whole new audience. I also thought to myself that my work could be a good fit for the tone of the books. Shortly after, DC contacted me about Mera.
Nrama: What appealed to you about the story of Mera: Tidebreaker, and why do you think your overall art style was chosen for this story?
Byrne: I’m always a fan of well-written female protagonists. I love a bit of romance, action, and adventure. I really enjoyed the initial pitch they sent me. It felt right up my street.
I did some initial concept sketches that I think struck the right tone. I think one of my strengths is the ability to do an art style that can be friendly and accessible without feeling too childish.
Nrama: That’s a great description. What were some of your influences as you developed your style over the years?
Byrne: I think developing a style is a mostly unconscious thing. It happens organically over time. I have a background in studying animation and I’ve worked in animation and video games, so I think you can see some of that coming through in my work.
More recently, I’m inspired by all the insanely talented artists working in comics today. With social media, you have an endless stream of great artists sharing their work every day, which can be incredibly inspiring and motivating, and push you to absorb the best parts of all them.
Nrama: How would you describe the visual approach you took to this story in particular?
Byrne: I wanted to keep the line work and storytelling simple and accessible so that a new reader to comics would find it easy to pick up. I worked with the editors and colorist David Calderon in the beginning to define the monochrome watercolor-y feel of the book. David Calderon took that jumping off point and created a beautiful texture to the book that perfectly fits the story and setting. I think the book feels totally unique and I love what he did with the colors.
Nrama: What was the process like working with Danielle Page? Since she’s usually a prose writer, did you have a detailed script, or was it a different process?
Byrne: Danielle Paige was great to work with. There was really strong characterization on the page, which made it easy to find the expressions and emotions of the characters. Every writer has their own style when it comes to writing a script, but from my perspective, the process was more or less the same as any other comic I’ve worked on.
Nrama: Let’s talk a little about the protagonist in Mera: Tidebreaker. Why do you think Mera’s such an appealing character, and how does this story really capture that?
Byrne: I think this version of Mera is really interesting because we’re getting to see her at the beginning of her journey, as she learns to deal with the complexities of adult life for the first time. She’s a very conflicted teenager, torn about where her loyalties lie, which is a fresh take for a character people already love.
I think Mera is more relatable than ever in this story, as we meet her before she becomes the full-fledged superhero she is destined to be.
Nrama: I saw an image where Amber Heard and Jason Mamoa were checking out the artwork for Mera: Tidebreaker. What was it like to see that?
Byrne: Yep, that was very cool. It’s all very surreal. The things that happen in my life these days were unimaginable to me just a few years ago.
Nrama: Is there anything else you want to tell fans about Mera: Tidebreaker or your work overall?
Byrne: I think comic fans will really enjoy this new line of books from DC, but if there is a younger reader in your life that you want to get into reading comics, or just reading in general, Mera: Tidebreaker would be a great place to start ! Oh, and check out Wonder Twins (my other book with Mark Russell) while you’re at it.