The Power of Mercy, a gripping lesbian book by Fiona Zedde, about a black queer superhero, will become a graphic novel.
In a groundbreaking step, Ylva Publishing, which is a small indie publishing house, is using crowd-funding to help bring Zedde’s complex, kick-butt queer characters to life.
The Power of Mercy tells the story of Mai Redstone. To her family, she is weak. But when she dons a mask and becomes Mercy, a rooftop-climbing chameleon with at least nine lives, she finds her power. But when Mercy is called in by police to a murder case, her whole world threatens to crumble. The dead man made her childhood a hell. She is torn between giving the murderer a medal and finding the killer for her family. Amid it all is enigmatic Xóchitl, a woman with dangerous secrets who claws her way into Mai’s life.
Forty-three-year-old Zedde, a Jamaican-born, award-winning author of over twenty novels, splits her time between Atlanta and Madrid. How readers interacted with her book inspired the graphic novel.
“After The Power of Mercy was published as a novella with its very cool illustrated cover, a few readers wrote wanting to know if there were plans to make it a graphic novel,” Zedde says. “They were so eager to devour the story again in a new form. When I mentioned these responses to my publisher, she didn’t immediately laugh them off. A few days later, she gave me one of the best surprises I’ve had in a long time.”
Ylva Publishing’s CEO, Astrid Ohletz, decided to take a chance.
“I thought, why not?” Ohletz says. “It’s a brilliant story and it really lends itself to being told in art. We certainly need more women of color and lesbian superheroes represented in popular culture. And it’s great we have an ‘own voice’ author who brings us amazing women of color lesbian superhero. This is so important because even though the ice has started to melt for these kinds of superheroes in our entertainment, we are not nearly where we need to be.
“Ylva Publishing isn’t just about the bottom line. It takes the weight of our responsibility seriously, at trying to have more varied voices. Our comic book of The Power of Mercy is breaking new ground and I couldn’t be prouder.
“And I admit I have a personal interest too. I still have a huge comic books collection from my teenage years. Even though I’m not a teenager any more, I love that I have the power and the team to enable me to create a graphic novel, like what I loved as a teenager.”
As to why Ylva’s doing a crowd-funding campaign, Ohletz explains: “We’re only small, and we’re providing as much of our own funds as we can, but we need help to get over the line to bring this worthy project to fruition,” she says. “We have a top team and the expertise and this is the final hurdle. I’m so hopeful our community will get behind this project.”
The graphic novel will be created by the team at Streetlight Graphics, under artist Glendon Haddix.
The fact it’s even underway at all still hasn’t quite sunken in for Zedde.
“I actually couldn’t believe it for a long while,” she says. “First, it’s wonderful for me that Ylva believes strongly enough in this project to make it a reality—yet another indication that they support writers of color with more than just words.
“Second, I love Thunder (from the TV show Black Lightning) and absolutely crave to see more queer POC characters kicking butt and being the heroes of their own stories—both in print and on the screen. These characters who look and love like me are too rare. To paraphrase Toni Morrison, I’m writing the type of book/story/hero I want to read more of and am thrilled to be part of this fresh wave of stories happening right now.”
Zedde hopes her book will inspire readers to seek out more stories like The Power of Mercy.
“I want to leave the readers with a hunger for more graphic novels and stories like this that reflect people of color and powerful queer women. My biggest wish-list take-away: that these types of stories are not only valid and wonderful but they also sell well.”