This week’s first issue of the new Wonder Comics series Naomi made it clear that there’s a much bigger secret behind the character’s origin and the town in which she lives.
In fact, Naomi co-creator Brian Michael Bendis told Newsarama that the mysteriously “gigantic” secret world being created in Naomi is something he’d tentatively compare to Jack Kirby’s addition of the Fourth World to the DCU.
“David and I are not comparing Naomi to that, but we are very aware we’re in the same position and are at least attempting to go as crazy with our inspiration as he did with his,” Bendis said.
Created by Bendis with writer David Walker and artist Jamal Campbell, Naomi focuses on a young, high school girl who’s discovering an enormous secret that’s being hidden by her entire town — and is connected to how she was orphaned and adopted 17 years earlier.
The first issue ended with a confirmation that Naomi’s suspicions about the secret are correct, but Bendis and Walker have promised Newsarama that the secret Naomi now discovers is “legitimately gigantic and an additive to the whole of the DC Universe.”
Newsarama talked to the two writers to find out more about this gigantic secret, how other writers have been offered the chance to play with the toys Bendis and Walker are creating, and how Campbell has become a co-creator of the new world.
Newsarama: Brian and David, you guys have been friends for a long time, but this is the first time you co-wrote a comic book. When you finally came together and started walking down the path of creating a comic book, why Naomi? Why this character in particular?
Brian Michael Bendis: I came in it with, I want to do a small town in the DC Universe. In my big, giant re-read of all the DC things as I was coming to DC, you notice that all the big stories took place at the biggest cities. I wanted to see what was going on at other cities during all this. That was the first thing I said to David.
And then David was talking about growing up in Portland and what it felt like, and it felt like a truth that needed to be expressed in comics.
So we started putting those two things together.
David Walker: And as much as I love my heroes of pop culture, I find myself getting a little weary of the same-old same-old, in terms of the heroes that I see. It feels like the same soup re-heated.
Not only did I want to see something different, I wanted to create and work on something a little bit different than the norm.
At the same time, most of my friends have daughters, ranging in age from like, five, up to in their 20’s. And I know from talking to them and seeing how they’ve reacted to everything from the Wonder Woman movie to Supergirl and Black Widow and all these different characters in film and television. And part of me was like, you know? I’d like to take a shot at writing a character like this, in part because it felt a little intimidating to me, but also because that intimidation I knew would push me harder to create something that I was looking for.
And what I was looking for, it turns out, was a character like Naomi.
Nrama: Tell me about Naomi. We met her in the first issue and she’s an adopted kid, in high school, and she sees a therapist. She has friends and even plans an overnight in the first issue. Yet she also seems to be searching for something more. Her search has led her to Superman, as he came to her small town in this issue. Can you describe how you came up with this character and why your search for “something different” led you to her?
Bendis: Well, you just said a lot of things that are unique about her. But the story surrounds this searching she’s doing. Something is pulling her. There’s something about Superman, not just because he’s a superhero and icon, but there’s something that’s digging underneath her.
We talk a little bit about it in the first issue. Her therapist gets her to talk a little bit about why she feels this way about Superman.
Nrama: That it’s connected to the fact that he’s adopted, and so is she.
Bendis: Yeah, and part of what the therapist said is true, and a lot of people can relate to it — that’s part of what David and I loved about the reaction to this issue was that people really took to that scene. And from there, you’re kind of rooting for her to figure out what it is.
The good news is, she’s not wrong.
Nrama: Yeah, the ending kind of revealed that. There’s something more to the story of her birth and this mysterious superhero-related event that happened at the time, right?
Bendis: Yeah, this feeling she has that there’s something different about her is correct. And she’s going to start investigating around the town, and she’s going to find other people’s secrets and how they connect back to her. And she’ll find out the big secret of the town from 17 years ago.
Nrama: So she really is “special,” to use the word that we saw in issue #1?
Walker: Yeah, that really hits the nail right on the head. For every single one of us, there are questions about who we are and where we came from. Some of us never ask them. Some of us never think to ask them. But the moment it’s presented in front of us, you can’t help but begin to wonder, oh, hey, where’s this coming from?
It’s interesting that when you go to the doctor and they’ll ask you if you have a history of this or that in your family, most people can’t answer that beyond maybe their parents or their grandparents. And yet, we are more than just our parents and our grandparents. You can go back generations. There’s so much about who we are that most of us don’t know. And the exploration of that, I find endlessly fascinating. I’m constantly looking to learn new things about myself and my family.
I think bringing that to Naomi, on multiple levels, because she’s trying to figure out this feeling inside of her that there’s maybe some sort of greatness right around the corner, and not only is she going to find out all kinds of crazy things about people in the town, but is she going to find out anything interesting about her adopted parents? Is she going to find out the truth about her biological parents?
That’s the exciting journey that Brian and I have in store for her.
Nrama: We got the sense in the first issue that there’s some big secret that will be revealed soon.
Bendis: Yeah, but I can tell you that what the first issue feels like is not what the fourth issue feels like.
Walker: Oh, not at all.
Bendis: It all builds and builds. I’m exciting to rev things up for people. The fact that people really bought into it with issue #1 is an enormous relief, because we were nervous about it, but we have such a gigantic thing coming that I can’t wait for people to read it.
Her secret is legitimately gigantic and an additive to the whole of the DC Universe.
So people who bought into the first issue to hop on board, we’re really excited for them to see what comes next.
Nrama: DC just sent over some character sketches for us to share with this interview, drawn by Jamal Campbell. I assume you guys worked pretty closely with him on what she’d look like and how this world would feel?
Bendis: Yeah, it’s not just the art. Jamal’s an equal co-creator of this character and this world. What he’s achieving is enormous, and what he’s designing, even as we speak, is enormous.
It is a beautiful thing to be part of another character’s moment, and as much as David and I can be proud of ourselves for being part of this, really what props us up is the fact that we’re standing in the middle of Jamal’s beautiful moment as an artist. And all we do is stay out of his way and try to inspire him to go forward as much as he can. It’s unbelievable.
Walker: Those character designs — Jamal was sending us those and some of the location designs, and Brian and I just sort of looked at each other and said, OK, I think we’ve got something real special going here.
Then the first pages started coming in and we realized that we need to make sure that we don’t get in the way of what Jamal is doing. We need to let him shine and let him do what needs to be done. We’ve figured out that if there’s a level of emotion that we want to convey, we know Jamal can bring it.
So we lean into his talents, because he’s more than capable of bringing not just his A-game as an artist, but also his A-game as a true member of this creative team.
And he really is a part of the team. Like, today, Jamal sent an email to us with a whole bunch of really thoughtful questions. He was really digging deep. And it’s been that way every step of this journey.
Nrama: Does this cross into other Wonder Comics? Or are you sticking to the task of building this one character’s world?
Bendis: We’re building her world, but it dives right into Young Justice down the line.
And then from there, all the writers at DC are aware that a big additive piece is coming.
Once it’s established, it’s for everyone.
So that was part of it, to bring something that everyone could play with. That was part of the allure.
Not enough people do that nowadays. It’s been awhile. And also, not to compare myself to him or anything, but just the situation is very similar where Jack Kirby came to DC and they literally cleared a lane and said, here, go nuts. And he created the Fourth World. And again, David and I are not comparing Naomi to that, but we are very aware we’re in the same position and are at least attempting to go as crazy with our inspiration as he did with his.
So we’re using that inspiration to just go nuts and hopefully we’ll get at least in the ballpark of what he achieved, or at least some will say, nice try.