Maria was first introduced in the story "Fishy Business" in Belch Dimension Comics #35 (Mar 2008). Maria saved Jon's life after he fell over the side of Captain Maggot's during a battle. She brought him to a smokestack in a sunken tugboat (filled with air so he could breathe) and nursed his wounds. She was surprised that he healed from his injuries so fast; he was equally surprised to learn she was a mermaid. Jon revealed to her his secret, and she told him hers: she was once a student at Jigaboo Junction State University, studying ocean science. One afternoon she went out to Blood Diamond Bay to investigate reports of chemical dumping, where she found thousands of dead fish in a green, glowing chemical soup coming from a drainpipe. She got too close, however, and a load of the glowing slime suddenly spilled out of the pipe and landed on her legs. The slime--a "class-6 mutagen", as Jon describes it--caused the DNA of all the dead fish in the sewage to bond to Maria, turning her legs into a fish tail, and giving her fishlike abilities (for example, she can see for great distances underwater like a trout, and like a catfish she can smell prey from miles off). Jon quickly became homesick and worried about his friends' welfare. Maria, who had developed a crush on Jon, agreed to help him to return to the surface (though she secretly wished to meet Angela and size up her competition). Meanwhile Josh, Billy, and Ben were stranded on a deserted island, and Angela was trapped on board ship, glumly contemplating having to marry Maggot. After a joyous reunion, Jon introduced Maria, who revealed that the island they were on was a floating island, and could be pushed. She used a high-pitched "siren's sing", in actually a type of a echolocation, to persuade a school of neighboring dolphins and sea lions to help. However, the cry also jammed the radar of a passing cruise ship (the same one the gang was on at the beginning of the story) and threw it miles off course. The floating island struck Maggot's ship, then the cruise ship hit them both. Maria panicked and disappeared into the waves. Jon thanked her in absentia for her help in saving his friends and capturing Maggot and his crew.
Character Inspiration and Design
Maria's name was definitely influenced by Disney chairman Michael Eisner, appropriate since Disney produced the animated film The Little Mermaid. "Eisner" is also an anagram for "siren", with the extra e dropped. "Maria" also means "of the sea".
Maria appears to be a young Hispanic woman with long dark hair. This was deliberately chosen to contrast sharply with either the redheaded Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid or the stereotypical blonde Caucasian mermaid. In early sketches Maria wore a shell brassiere similar to Ariel's, but this was dropped as being cumbersome-looking, in favor of a piece of ships's sail over her breasts.
Maria is able to produce sound waves with her mouth, similar to echolocation in certain sea creatures. The wider she opens her mouth, the louder and further her range. Pursing her lips and whistling, for example, produces low sounds that are used to find objects (such as ships) below the sea. Opening her mouth wide allows her to "sing" to sea creatures, which she can summon and even control to a degree. It can also affect ships' and planes' radar and sonar, so she must be careful.
Like many species such as catfish, hagfish, and sharks, she posesses a powerful sense of smell. Her senses of taste and eyesight are also very keen, though her hearing is still somewhat average to below average (fish hearing is very poor). She can move very rapidly underwater and, because of her augmented lungs and skeleton, is able to comfortably decend to fairly great depths and rise quickly from them, going far deeper and faster than a normal human with scuba gear can safely.
She can breathe both underwater and above it, though she can't remain on dry land long because the mucus layer on her tail will dry out and make her ill. She also, obviously, cannot walk or move well on land.
- Fishy Business, #35 (Mar 2008)
- Desolation Row, #52 (Aug 2009) (nonspeaking cameo)