Inside the Past, Present & Future of DC's Newest Hero NAOMI with BENDIS, WALKER & CAMPBELL

Credit: DC
Credit: DC

Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, and Jamal Campbell’s new breakout series, Naomi, wrapped its first story arc in July with the “Season One” hardcover collection hitting stores on October 29th.

Naomi is a normal girl, who comes from a town where nothing exciting happens, but that all changes when Superman crash lands in this small Northwestern community as he fights Mongul. It’s the talk of the town, even though it only lasts a few minutes, but Naomi learns that her home is not as boring as she once thought it was - and all its mysteries are connected to her past.

During the series’ hiatus Naomi has been exploring other sides of the DC Universe with appearances in Bendis’ Action Comics and joining the Young Justice team. As fans wait for the next volume of Naomi, Newsarama had the chance to talk to the creative team about their favorite moments from season one, the future of the Wonder Comics imprint, and teases what’s to come in the next volume of Naomi and her future DC Comics appearances in other titles. 

Brian Michael Bendis
Brian Michael Bendis
Credit: DC Comics

Newsarama: Apologies for jumping ahead, but what can we expect from the second season of Naomi?

Brian Michael Bendis: The good news is that for people who have read the hardcover, the story of that night of Naomi's flight continues. We get to see where she goes at the end of the graphic novel and she goes right to Action Comics #1015 where we have a couple of issues of what I would consider to be a traditional "DC Comics Presents" legitimate team efforts between generations. Naomi runs to the Hall of Justice for help and then ends up in the hands of the Young Justice. So, she's going to be entering the DC universe. She’s learning a lot about herself and meeting a lot of new people before we even get to Naomi 2.

David F. Walker
David F. Walker
Credit: Image Comics

David Walker: He said it all.

There’s so much going on, when Brian told me that Naomi was going to make an appearance in Action Comics - he sent me the scripts. He basically said "Is there anything that I’m doing that I’m going to spoil where we're going?"  and "What do you think?"

And I was just excited to read it because I love reading Brian’s scripts in part, because his spelling is so bad. It’s like a game of what did he really mean.

But also just because it was so much fun reading this character that I helped create, but seeing this new stuff that she's doing. I've now read, I think probably three or four scripts, some of them have had turned into comics and come out. Some haven't yet, but it's been so exciting. Then I stop and go, "Oh, wait a sec." What this character is going through in this particular title is going to inform where she's at six months from now or however long it is before Naomi 2 drops.

Credit: DC

Nrama: Speaking of Action Comics, Naomi has appeared there and in Young Justice. Are there other titles we can expect her in?

Bendis: Yes, there are more, we can't say right now. But I actually got a pretty awesome request from editorial concerning her recently.

So, look for more Naomi coming, and the audience is to blame for this. When we had Naomi come guest star in Action Comics, which was literally just fun for us to tell the story we wanted to tell. Naomi's appearance ballooned the numbers on Action Comics. So, that did not go unnoticed by editorial. You want more Naomi, you're getting more.

Nrama: She’s also making appearances in Young Justice. What can we expect from the dynamic with the team? Who will she hate? Who will she like?

Bendis: I'm so excited for this. Her first appearance is in Young Justice #10. So, people want to know this, but we are still going to be in the same night Naomi got her powers. She is going to meet Young Justice. It's the same day. All of this is happening on the same day, so she's going to meet them, and what happens from the minute she meets them is the most, you've never seen it before, interacted between young heroes ever. They may all end up sleeping at her house. Conner may be sleeping on the couch as we speak.

Credit: DC

Nrama: Jamal, you are currently working on DC’s Far Sector. What do you think an interaction between your version of Green Lantern and Naomi would be like? Would you want to see a crossover?

Jamal Campbell: Yes, 100%. I don’t know. They're both very honest with themselves and they're both very curious, very inquisitive and want to get the bottom of things. Having two characters that I helped create team up together would be a dream beyond all dreams. And having those two characters I think would fit very well together. But yeah, this is just a pipe dream at this point. But I'm just lighting up at even the possibility.

Nrama: I love the overall world you’ve already built. What can we expect from Naomi’s supporting characters - her parents, her classmates?

Bendis: Everything that's happened will change every relationship in her life. Anyone who's been through any kind of life changing experience knows that it's the next day that the cool stuff starts to happen. Okay. Everyone's like, "Wow, something happened. But now the next day we have to deal with it. Now we have to make the rules and how we're going to live with this."

What I'm most excited about exploring, beyond her meeting all of DC was seeing that her relationship with her parents is going to change. Her father came from military - the relationship will not be altered as he has to train her and damn well knows how dangerous her life just became, and her life was not dangerous and that was completely dangerous.

As a parent, I can't even imagine - like if all of a sudden my 16-year-old came up to me and said, “I'm going to be a firefighter today.” It’s a noble and awesome idea, but terrible.

Credit: DC

Nrama: How about her classmates as well? Can we expect maybe some super powers from them or is it just Naomi with the powers?

Walker: No, but you are going to see more reaction to it. I'm excited about this because it seems that it was the number one thing people liked about the series the most – that it was a fresh perspective on the DC universe. You could walk in with your eyes open and know where you are. The perspective of her classmates on all of this will be I think delightful and illuminating to what the DC universe is really like beyond the Hall of Justice and The Daily Planet.

Nrama: So let's go back to to square one, guys - what sparked the idea behind Naomi?

Walker: That was a combination of things. It really started - there's a movie with Jason Statham called The Transporter and Brian and I went to see that movie together. We didn't know each other that well. We’d known each other for probably a couple of years at that point, but we were sitting there watching the movie The Transporter. We both sort of looked over at each other at one point with this look in our eyes, and we both were like this is the most ridiculous thing we've ever seen. And it was like this love connection. And we knew then that we were going to have to collaborate.

It really comes from years of us just being friends and hanging out and talking. And then about what, four or five years ago, we started teaching together. Brian hoodwinked me into teaching at Portland State University. And we really started getting into, during the lectures with the students, talking about story development, theme, character, and all these things. In a way that we'd never done before. It's one thing to sit around and talk about the movie The Transporter and what we loved about it and what was so great.

Credit: DC

There was a couple of times where Brian said we should collaborate on something and I was like, "Yeah, yeah, okay, sure. Yeah, that you really want that." It was in a lot of ways, more than anything, sort of an extension of this friendship, this relationship that's lasted for coming on nearly 20 years. Then at some point, Brian said "Okay, now's the time to do this." And I was like, "Okay, sure, let's do it."

Bendis: There was one moment that we were literally standing across from each other in class talking about the Hero's Journey. And I was like that’s enough talk.

And the other part was David and being Uncle David to my kids. He was such a deep part of the truth of what made Miles Morales real to people. And I was always expressing that to people everywhere I went. I needed it the next time that it would be a collaboration. Not just me showing him stuff and going like going, “does this suck?”. It would be a real collaboration of a mixture of our energy and our truths.

So much of our truths are revolved around family and the adoption in my family. Growing up in Portland is very unique for David and is very unique for everyone who lives here. We wanted to explore all of that in one place and that’s where it came from.

Nrama: What’s your dynamic like when writing together?

Bendis: You ever have an anxiety attack? I don't know if you've ever had an anxiety attack , but imagine hugging someone who is also having an anxiety attack. And you know it's going to be okay because this person loves you - but "AH! What are we doing?" That's what it’s like.

Credit: DC

Walker: Brian really hit the nail on the head. It was never worse for me than the Tuesday before every single issue came up. Each issue came out and they were all received really well. But then I kept saying, “They loved #3 but they're going to hate #4.” "This is when they’re going turn on us." And I was sitting there with bated breath.

It was sort of hilarious because that’s what the writing process was like also. "I think this is cool." "Brian, do you think this is cool?" "Oh my God Jamal's turning in the art." "I think this art is some of the most beautiful art I've seen in my life." "Am I just crazy? Am I imagining this?"

I'm super neurotic and in a lot of ways this brought out the extreme of my neuroses, but then the sense of relief that came with each issue. The creative process was always like okay, it's going to be all right. By the time it did get to #4 or #5, I was like okay we got it. I wasn't that bad. I was still bad, but I wasn't that bad.

Bendis: And the other added thing, I hate to bring it up, a lot of people know this, I had a near death experience just before we started this. It looked like it wasn't going to go well and then all of a sudden it went well. So, there was a lot of extra energy around the book of Naomi. A lot of extra nervous energy and excited to be alive energy.

Walker: Which you kept apologizing for by the way.

Bendis: Not that we are calmer now, now that we're like settled a little. Later, I do go – "Okay that was a lot." Thank you everybody. It’s in there. It’s on the pages. You can feel it.

Walker: As intense as it was, there were always these moments where like Brian would call me and go, “I think I might've put a little bit too much into this issue,” and I would look at it and I was always like "No, I don't think so."

The big thing was as we got further in and we were pushing Jamal harder and harder it was like let's make sure we don't scare this poor guy away. It was like on the first date and you ask somebody to marry you on the first date. That is what it was starting to feel like - the intensity, but overall it was great.

Credit: DC

Nrama: Jamal, how did you come up with Naomi’s character design?

Campbell: Her look in general was just based on people I knew. Like people in the real world. Black women that I grew up with or I was friends with - how they presented themselves, how they styled their hair, their clothing, and just how they lived. I just wanted to represent that accurately on the page.

And then her actual superhero look was just based on just design details I liked in other superhero looks. Like something that's super sleek, something simple. But I still wanted it to be unique to her. I didn't want it to be derivative of, oh, it looks like Wonder Woman, but Wonder Woman awkward. I wanted to make sure that she looked like she was her own entity, looked like she came from her own history and she has something new to bring to the DC Universe at large.

Nrama: Brian, are there any other DC characters you want to bring to the Wonder Comics group? Maybe some Young Justice characters with their own solo series? 

Bendis: Yes, yes. Amethyst is going to be coming up next by Amy Reeder. She’s been working on it all year. It’s gorgeous.

Credit: DC

I get a bit hyper about this, I love this imprint. After that we’ll be doing a Jinny Hex one-shot, and then we have a couple more coming – one of which is a Young Justice character and another writer literally this week just hit me with the best pitch ever. That was not on our radar, but I think it's going to go because it's such a good idea.

Nrama: I’m just hoping for more Stephanie Brown. That’s who I would like to see.

Bendis: Oh, thank you. Yeah, no, people really responded well to Tim and Stephanie. There's Bat office plans with that stuff, I do know. So that’s being taken care of. But if it wasn't, I would've definitely grabbed both of them for something because, obviously, I'm enjoying writing them a great deal.

But yes - look for more Wonder Comics over the year. We're not going to have like four come out at once, like when we launched, but when they're ready, they're going to come out.

Nrama: Similar to an Image Comics format, will you continue releasing Naomi on a “season” by “season” basis?

Walker: That was the original idea. But we'll see when we get there what we feel like.

Bendis: I'm going to let the story dictate. Right, David?

Walker: I mean, yeah. I'm easy like Sunday morning. I'm easy.

Bendis: Right now that's the plan, but I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, but I'm there as well. I let the story dictate the shape and size, so don't shove.

Nrama: With the trade coming out, do you have a favorite scene from the first volume?

Bendis: Oh, I have many. All of my favorite reflecting Jamal handing us something back far better than what we wrote. It’s literally the reason why I write comics.

I'm wholeheartedly addicted to that feeling, whatever that little trigger is, when art comes in my whole body reacts to it. There’s quite a few times you'll turn the page and you'll see something that either exclusively gorgeous from Jamal or even better, something that's a quiet moment, like the family sitting around the table. He did that perfectly. I absolutely adore it. It's so nuanced and as other people have said, the dialogue is mostly unnecessary. And that is just everything you want.

Walker: For me it was that the page where for the first time you see Naomi's birth parents holding her - there was something about that, something about them, and something about the way people responded to it that was just like, "This is why we're doing it."

It's been such a great process. That's the thing about working with Jamal as a co-creator and a collaborator, you don't know what he's going to give you, but you know it’s going to be better than what you saw in your mind's eye. And that's been it. And you’re like, Oh, this is it. It's sometimes just the way a character's hands are or the expression on their face. It's their body language. There's so many different things, but it's always a true treat.

Campbell: It’s a little bit hard to choose for me. For me it would be Naomi #5, seeing the relay of her past from her birth mother. And it’s at the end of it where she sort of just sitting there with an image of her birth mother behind her, briefing her and she’s just crying and then the next panel is her with her adoptive parents that they’re worried and consoling her. They’re not okay, but they're trying to make her feel okay and all the emotions just welling up. And I just love drawing those two panels next to each other.

Bendis: Yeah, I thought you'd like it because It was in a cave and it was dark.

Walker: Yeah, I got to go back. I got to change. My favorite is what Jamal just said. I’m going to steal his.

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