From her tweens through much of her teens, Melusine van Velden was the precocious Mutant star of a wholesome, eco-forward edutainment adventure series – but that feels like a lifetime ago now, to her. Still, and despite a decidedly rough landing in the wake of the show’s cancellation, Mel does appear to have retained her desire to save both the planet and the people destroying it, cross as those purposes can often seem. And maybe that’s why the switch to costumes and punching things: nobody listened when she was asking nicely.
- 1 Public Record
- 1.1 History
- 1.2 Appearance
- 1.3 Demeanor
- 1.4 Known Superhuman Powers
- 1.5 Digging Deeper (Circumstance-specific IC knowledge)
- 1.6 Hooks
Melusine might not be a genuine household name, might not have even cracked that magical million-follower ceiling, but so much of her life has been lived in front of cameras that the basics of the story are readily available for those who want to go looking. This section, then, represents the kind of information floating around message boards, podcasts and archived news articles. General knowledge, if you will.
For much of the 2010s, Melusine: Mermaid Adventures occupied a relatively unique, perhaps even historic space as one of television’s few programs to feature a body-atypical Mutant (let alone as its star). Openly Mutant casting has often involved body-typical talent that’s at least functionally sapien at a glance – and it must be said that, undeniably different though Melusine van Velden might look, even she grew into the figure of an Immediagraph yoga model. Nonetheless, such roles had almost invariably been supporting before, or simply played by sapien actors in laughably token prosthetics and makeup. From 1985’s My Neighbor Can Fly to a number of Very Special Episodes(tm), Mutants were frequently relegated to one-off explorations of their curiosity from a sapien point of view.
Melusine, on the other hand, placed its eponymous Mutant star front and center, using her amphibious nature to casually explore the world’s oceans in ways the average human never could. Accompanied by her stepsister, Sanne, and with scientific commentary from her mother, marine biologist Valerie van Velden, Melusine sailed the globe aboard her stepfather Han’s fantastically advanced submarine, the Valusian Star. Then, halfway through season two, Mel rescued a girl named Gabriella from a shipwreck some kilometres off the Etoile Isles. Orphaned by the disaster, ‘Gabs’ soon became inseparable from Mel and Sanne, with the three sharing equal screen time for the rest of Mermaid Adventures’ production.
Environmentally conscious and unafraid to call out governments and corporations, the show had a hard time finding a large American audience; it proved most popular in Australia, New Zealand and Melusine’s adoptive Dutch homeland (along with Sint Maarten). As its star grew more vocal and obviously powerful, though, sponsors in these places became uneasy, too; well regarded critically but never a ratings bonanza even at its height, production eventually sputtered for want of distribution partnerships. Difficult to find now, Mermaid Adventures remains fiercely beloved (if often only in recollection) by a small but devoted following among Mutants who grew up in the 2010s, for whom it may have represented one of the first times they felt truly seen.
What came next isn’t exactly uncharted territory: child star has abnormal upbringing, outgrows vehicle that brought her to prominence and then, unable to effectively move on, flames out in spectacularly public fashion. Of course, being born very obviously Mutant meant that Melusine was probably never going to have a normal upbringing no matter what. And, in her defense, the outgrowing of a show that brought her a measure of fame had more to do with network and sponsor trepidation about superpowered Mutant environmental activists than anything else.
The flaming out in spectacularly public fashion bit, though? Yeah, that one’s on Mel.
Predictably impetuous teenage restlessness combined with the show’s cancellation to see Van Velden strike out on her own following her 18th birthday. Well, ‘her own’ – it wasn’t a genuine parting of ways with her family, and indeed her stepfather’s fortune funded what quickly became a sort of bacchanalian rumspringa. Angry, adrift and unsure of who she was supposed to be without Mermaid Adventures, Melusine apparently decided the answer could only be found by getting away from everything and everyone associated with the show. And maybe such a vision quest could actually have yielded real revelations if it hadn’t almost immediately devolved into a drunken spree crisscrossing much of western Europe. Endlessly embarrassing antics ensued and the tabloids proved only too happy to document them all (in fairness, Mel was proudly posting much of it to her own social media anyway).
There were incidents in Italian fountains and on Ibizan beaches, she’s still banned from a certain trappist abbey and at least one ski resort outside Montreaux, but it was in France that things went truly sideways.
Unfortunately, We’ll Always Have Paris
At the height of Mel’s European debauch, a wouldbe influencer named Sydney Raquel happened into the Mutant’s orbit. Taking a ‘gap year’ to party her way across the continent, this Los Angeles native soon became a fixture of Van Velden’s Immediagraph feed as the pair seemed determined to hit every beach and nightclub from Barcelona to Nice. After running out of (French) Riviera, Mel and Sydney turned north for the City of Lights, where it all went wrong.
Clearly shot from a surreptitiously hidden camera, the footage of a Paris hotel room is undeniably illegal under French laws requiring the consent of parties to be filmed – consent neither woman on the recording claims to have ever given. Other forms of consent, however, feature prominently in the poorly framed but undeniably explicit video that soon circulated with #tartarsauce. Though Sydney has always denied involvement, a suspicious Mel plainly blamed the American for what she came to see as a self-serving publicity stunt, and the two parted ways almost immediately after the recording surfaced. Raquel tackled the resulting furor head on, confronting it with a mixture of righteous indignation and admonitions about Mutant rights, proactively trying to seize (or manufacture) narrative high ground while Van Velden retreated to a succession of Amsterdam hotels in which she sought refuge from the paparazzi.
To the Rescue
For Sydney and her primarily American audience, the video’s content became the focus of the scandal, drowning out the violation of privacy that actually stuck in Mel’s craw. While perhaps not deliberate in a conventional sense, her Eurobender had essentially been an embittered exploration of whether she still entertained people – however misguided, the agency had at least remained with Melusine. Having that taken away was infuriating, mortifying, and it’s not hard to imagine someone with significant superhuman abilities lashing out badly from a place of darkness, but in the midst of whatever brooding Van Velden was indulging that summer in the Netherlands, former co-stars Sanne and Gabriella swooped in to save the day. Ensconced with them in a penthouse suite over the next couple of weeks, Mel came to realize just how unmoored she could become when cut off from her closest confidants, from the only people who love her without question and for who she is, no matter what. When the trio finally emerged to stride arm in arm in arm past a small collection of tabloid cameras in the lobby, the smirking, profanely snarky Van Velden of today was already on full display.
Mel disappeared from the public eye for some time, but late 2019 saw her attend a smattering of gala events in the Netherlands; by early 2020 her Immedia account was active again. The usual, personal posts were interspersed with pictures of the Mutant in what seemed like an aquatic-themed costume, and there soon followed an image of her ‘returning’ a number of leaking drums to the main reception area of Crey’s Nerva Archipelago offices, toxic cargo Mel claimed had been unceremoniously dumped out in the Atlantic.
She’s ranged far and wide ever since, tackling environmental disasters, rescuing the crews of stranded vessels and confronting smugglers, pirates or powered villains who endanger the seas (or those on or near them), but Melusine does seem to spend a fair amount of time around the US northeast. Likely this is due to the region’s high concentration of Crey Corporation and Cage Consortium facilities, two companies not exactly known for their sterling environmental records, but such proximity to some of the planet’s major nexuses of superhuman activity has also seen Mel engaging more in conventional, on-the-spot heroism. Seeing her turn up in response to things like Rikti bombing raids or the high seasonal weirdness that accompanies many holidays in the region isn’t unheard of.
Though ultimately more human-looking than not, certainly more than the likes of Mako or the Coralax, the aquatic nature of Mel’s physical mutations remain very much on display – “exotic” is probably the most charitable of many problematic adjectives employed by the press in describing her over the years.
Most of Van Velden’s flesh is stark white and rubbery smooth, not unlike the undersides of orcas; her neck, shoulders, back, flanks, outer biceps and outer thighs, though, all possess varying coverage by essentially symmetrical gray patterns comprised of rough dermal denticles similar to those found on sharks; also like with sharks, Melusine’s incisors are jaggedly sharp triangles that frequently fall out as new ones grow forever in (her molars remain quite sapien). When submerged, gill flaps open towards the backs of her lower ribs, and bioluminescent nictitating membranes slide over her eyes if conditions become too dark or her adrenaline levels spike. As if all that weren’t enough, Van Velden’s ears are noticeably pointed, their tips peeking out through straight, glossy hair that grows in a dark and improbably natural viridian.
Brusque, sarcastic and standoffish, Mel can’t even with any of this. All too familiar with haters, trolls and worse, knowing full well that her appearance hijacks most first impressions outright, Van Velden treats just about everyone with the kind of disdain to which she herself has long since become accustomed; the only exceptions seem to be her family and the rest of the Valusian Star’s crew, on whom her Immedia posts often lavish jarringly heartfelt sentiment.
Such combative attitudes extend to heroism as well, by which Melusine seems more exasperated than anything else. Though apparently dedicated to confronting what evils she perceives in the world, Van Velden does so with obvious annoyance. Frustrated by humanity’s habit of preying on each other, of stubbornly perpetuating social injustice, corporate malfeasance and so much more, Mel positively radiates dismissive, self-righteous contempt for a people whose short-sighted pig-headedness only serves to make her job that much harder.
Known Superhuman Powers
Melusine is probably most associated with the high-powered saltwater blasts and geysers she routinely unleashes; though limited in range, these torrents pack truly destructive force and arrive so cold that chunks often freeze in place. Throw in flight, a serious degree of superhuman toughness, modestly superhuman strength and being able to swim as fast as any creature ever clocked in the sea? Just about the only thing Mel’s missing for aqua-heroine bingo is the ability to talk to fish.
Ok, it’s never been confirmed that she actually TALKS to them – in fact, Van Velden herself denies it. Vociferously, and with inevitably obvious aggravation. What’s undeniable, though, is that she’s able to create dark, disc-like surfaces from which things leap to snap and bite and drag back to… wherever. Huge, wet things with jagged scales, dead eyes, and far too many dagger-like teeth for even their gaping maws, creatures of which deep-diving super-explorer Benthic once said, “I’ve seen everything down there, and I’ve never seen THAT.”
Nor are these portals limited to terrorizing foes with deep sea nightmares; Mel’s been seen diving bodily into one only to shoot from out another, sopping wet and hundreds of feet away. Objects and people can also be pulled to her from elsewhere in this fashion, by literally reaching her hand through and grabbing what’s on the other side; anything thusly transported does arrive soaked and bitterly chilled, however, as if having been dragged through half-frozen seas.
Digging Deeper (Circumstance-specific IC knowledge)
Those who follow certain communities, live in particular places or have specific areas of interest may know more about Melusine and the company she keeps...
While the actual video of her with Sydney Raquel is practically neolithic by the standards of social media’s ephemeral attention span, that footage continues to cast a long shadow over Mel’s online presence. The fact that Van Velden’s Immediagraph regularly features the Mutant in things like bikinis or artfully blocked out states of undress seems to leave those unclear on (or uninterested in) concepts of agency feeling like they have free license to troll her mentions by @’ing Raquel’s feed, referencing #tartarsauce or outright posting links to whatever dark little corner of the web is hosting the recording until the next takedown notice catches up with it.
This toxic and unwanted, unwelcome following combines with Mel’s own abrasive attitude, semi-militant environmentalism, status as a Mutant and lingering questions about just how far behind her that partying lifestyle really is to keep most brands wary of seeking Van Velden out. Not that she’s ever seemed terribly interested in such things anyway, but this does keep her feed more ‘real,’ free of paid endorsements, sponsored partnerships and the like. But while there are indeed those trepidatious of having their brands associated with her, Mel has walked red carpets and runways for a handful of (primarily Dutch) fashion phenoms. Is draping your designs over a Mutant who just also happens to be conveniently leggy and lithe performative, even exploitative? Maybe. Does Mel care? Apparently not. Used to being stared at, to being made uncomfortable in her own skin, Van Velden seems happy to return the favor by showing off and claiming her looks for herself.
The United States
Online ‘culture’ being what it is, if a random American knows about Melusine at all, odds are it’s because of #tartarsauce. Of course there are some in the States who actually did see Mermaid Adventures or who follow B-list capes, but it’s hard to compete with salacious viral video when it comes to search results. One exception may be south Florida, where Mel’s mother, Valerie, has been a well-known voice for conservation and environmentalism since the 1990s; indeed, the Van Veldens split most of the post-Rikti War 2000s between Miami and Sint Maarten before the launching of the Valusian Star took them all over the world to film Mermaid Adventures. The family still return to the area with some frequency, and Melusine has even battled the odd supervillain here, so she gets some genuine love from the 305.
Valerie van Velden
Though born and raised in Iowa, this midwest farmer’s daughter has spent her entire adult life with one foot in the sea. Valerie Stillwater first rose to regional fame in south Florida as a wildlife and environment advocate during the early 1990s, where cynics will tell you this had more to do with the messenger than the message – while her agent dreamed of cashing the tall, tan, blonde Val in on a supermodel trend taking off at the dawn of that decade, Stillwater had other ideas. Minor modeling success did help pay for her studies at the University of Miami, but the waves were Valerie’s true passion, and she was soon leveraging her profile to start conversations about green causes instead.
That media experience is probably what eventually inspired Mermaid Adventures, even if Val’s motives when putting her daughter in front of the camera were, by all accounts, a far cry from anything like the stereotypical nightmare of a stage mother. Indeed, Valerie has spoken openly and often about having wanted the show to normalize Mel’s appearance and build her confidence, to say nothing of Val’s long history of working with groups that advocate for and support Mutant children and their families; she’s even testified on the importance of those issues before United States Congressional committees and United Nations panels.
Outside the narrow context and community of parents with Mutant kids, however, Van Velden remains most well known for her environmental work; with advanced degrees in fields such as marine biology, meteorology and oceanography, Valerie features frequently at academic conferences. Such expertise has also combined with her elevated profile to occasionally translate into appearances as a guest expert on Dutch and American television.
As she spends so much time abroad, Melusine’s status in the continental Netherlands is closer to that of a visiting minor celebrity, and she’s still generally regarded as American there despite being a Dutch citizen (by adoption). Mel has, nonetheless, engaged in crimefighting in the Netherlands and Europe when circumstances demanded such action, and while her post-Mermaid Adventures spate of bad behavior wasn’t especially well received, Van Velden remains generally welcome here, even popular; with much of the country below sea level, Melusine’s anti-global warming stance is an easy enough sell, and the show’s oceanic focus harkened to proud Dutch traditions of seafaring. Though occasionally (maybe even often) ham-handed about it, Melusine is an enthusiastic booster of most things Dutch, especially when it comes to the Indo (Dutch-Indonesian) background of her stepsister and stepfather.
Where Mel enjoys genuinely high esteem, though, are the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, as both she and the Star have histories of hurricane rescue and relief work in the region. This is particularly true on Sint Maarten, where the Van Veldens spend significant time almost every year. Ironically, other parts of the Dutch Caribbean like Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire have a more contentious relationship with the heroine – generally outside the hurricane belt and heavily involved in the refining and transport of Venezuelan oil, these islands usually neither need nor want attention from a certain superpowered someone who says a main pillar of their economy is an existential menace to the planet.
Much as Mermaid Adventures may have meant something to certain members of a particular generation of Mutants, the show’s star herself has never seemed especially interested in The Cause. Not that she really cares to speak on the subject at all, but when Mel has, it’s usually been to cast aspersions at those who insist on seeing Mutants as a somehow superior ‘next step’ in human evolution. Though she also quite vocally has no time for those who treat Mutants worse than anyone else, either, Melusine is very much on record as cleaving to the idea that everyone involved is ultimately just human and that they all, collectively, have bigger (environmental) issues to deal with, together.
The Valusian Star
Many who make their living from the sea have at least heard of this gleaming white submarine, though whether as potential savior or antagonist is probably a matter of just how that nautical keep is earned.
The Star’s true capabilities remain disturbingly mysterious to navies (and intelligence agencies) around the globe, but Han van Velden’s flagship has few, if any equals beneath the waves. Alarmingly stealthy, especially for its apparent speed, persistent rumors swear the vessel’s also armed to the teeth. How any of this might have been achieved is a matter of pure speculation, though Melusine’s vocal dislike of atomic energy would seem to suggest it can’t have been through the power of the atom.
Fueling further suspicion regarding the true nature of the Star is the fact that its crew seems about as rough and ready as they come. An eclectic bunch, to put it mildly, many hail from places like the Gulf of Guinea, Horn of Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Caribbean (or South and Central American nations with shores thereon); others are former human trafficking victims or Levantine refugees rescued in the Mediterranean. Some observers also claim that, in recent years, a number of women aboard the Star have adopted trappings reminiscent of the now-defunct Knives of Artemis, though the gender-integrated nature of the crew would seem to argue against any actual connection.
Whatever their backgrounds, those aboard the Star have long demonstrated an unshakeable, even zealous loyalty to Han van Velden and his family – especially when it comes to the man’s stepdaughter, Melusine, of whom they appear to be extremely protective. Though mostly endearing, some believe this closing of ranks may have a dark side, particularly in regards to the death of Thomas McClean, a director who worked on the first two seasons of Mermaid Adventures. Officially declared drowned after falling overboard, his family has long believed this impossible on a ship of such incredible facilities as the Star, let alone when it’s home to an aquatic Mutant who readily teleports herself and others. The McCleans are convinced something untoward happened to Thomas, but the Star’s crew seem uninterested in discussing the matter, save perhaps to blythely observe that the sea is cold, unforgiving and no stranger to tragedy.
Han van Velden
Though invariably coy about (and seemingly entertained by) it when asked, Han van Velden is suspected by some of having been the latest (and perhaps now, last) in a line of costumed, seagoing rogues who employed the cheeky monicker of ‘Dutch Courage’ for almost a hundred years – and whose full history with piracy likely goes back much, much further.
The family name first turns up in this context with Erasmus van Velden, an early-17th century corsair who eventually found his way to an admiralty in the Dutch East India Company, with which the Van Veldens then made a fortune. Sometimes merchants, sometimes pirates (sometimes both), the family remained mainly in the Dutch East Indies until Indonesian independence following World War II. Indeed, the years prior to that conflict saw the emergence of the first Dutch Courage, widely believed to have been one Willem van Velden. Whoever he really was, Dutch Courage practiced something like ‘vigilante piracy,’ though his definition of what constituted a wrong in need of righting proved both extremely flexible and heavily influenced by a colonialist mindset. After the Empire of Japan occupied Indonesia during World War II, Dutch Courage and his crew became partisans; deprived of what had previously been exploitable safe (surface) harbors, they captured a Japanese submarine and operated from this for much of the war, beginning a tradition of underwater shenanigans that continued throughout the century.
Following Indonesian independence, the Van Veldens relocated to Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, and later iterations of Dutch Courage appear to have followed; as recently as the 1990s, a newer version of the captain (and his submarine) enjoyed a complicated relationship with the now long-defunct, Miami-based superteam Justice X. Sometimes aiding Fathom Force, Eclipsar and Satur9 against other nautical ne’er-do-wells more vicious than himself, Courage was just as often on their bad side for other reasons. Much like his sometime-nemeses, though, Dutch Courage hasn’t been seen since before the Rikti War. The most logical answer to the why of this absence, of course, would be that he, like so many others, perished in that conflict, but there remain those who insist on combing every new picture of the Valusian Star for what they imagine are hints of design similarities with Dutch Courage’s last known vessel.
Van Velden Marine
Begun as a mid-20th century shipbuilding concern, this firm’s focus has shifted dramatically in recent decades. During the Cold War era, VVM supplied submarines to the Dutch navy and offshore drilling platforms to Royal Dutch Shell – lucrative business which more than restored the fortunes of a family that would have otherwise been ruined by the post-World War II collapse of the Netherland’s colonial control over an Indonesian archipelago in which they’d resided for centuries. Though their defense contracts eventually dried up, the offshore oil industry eventually left the Van Veldens wealthier than they’d ever been, but current patriarch Han’s end-of-the-millennium epiphany would radically alter the company’s course.
Previously quite content to simply grow an existing business, Han seems to have had a ‘boat to Damascus’ moment about environmentalism in the early 2000s – i.e. right around when he married Valerie Stillwater. For reasons about which Van Velden remains cagey, he abruptly and radically refocused the company away from supporting fossil fuel extraction, but neither did he exactly abandon the offshore platforms that were VVM’s bread and butter. Instead, Han began advocating for the use of these structures as relocatable coastal housing for the millions soon to be displaced by rising sea levels. This should have been commercial suicide for Van Velden Marine, but it caught the attention of certain persons in the so-called seasteading movement.
Born primarily from eccentric dreams of extraterritorial microstates, the 1990s saw some among the decade’s emerging tech elite become fascinated with the idea of havens from taxes and regulation floating out in international waters. To these wealthy, libertarian fantasists, Han van Velden became a man of vision, an ally sent by providence itself; a number of projects didn’t survive the bursting of the original internet buble, but several remain in various stages of development with VVM. In the meantime, though, the company has kept itself more than, ahem, afloat by also building extravagant (if, yes, cutting edge and eco-friendly) yachts for the billionaires in whose circles Han now moves like something of a seasteading svengali.
If better judgement fails and you find yourself looking for Melusine, there are a few potential avenues of contact and/or shared interest...
Are you on social media? Mel’s Immediagraph is mostly concerned with the sort of aimless navel-gazing and flaunting self-promotion common to many ‘celebrity’ feeds, but it does also touch on costumed matters and current events. Whether she checks her DMs is an open question, but Van Velden has definitely been known to wade into the mentions, for good or ill.
Are you a scurvy dog? Melusine (and the Valusian Star) are most active throughout the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, but they can turn up just about anywhere. Whether piracy, smuggling, environmental destruction or strangeness in the deep, Van Velden is likely to at least investigate anything nautical if there’s credible information involved.
Do you hate Crey or the Cage Consortium? Mel sure does! The abysmal environmental records of these companies are her primary peeve, but their malfeasance tends to be so widespread that she’s not picky about opportunities to mess with them.