One of the most daunting things a creator working in mainstream comics is bringing something new to the big superhero universes that sticks. Co-producer of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Brian Michael Bendis, has experience in this department, having co-created Jessica Jones and Miles Morales, and Riri Williams. So when the potential to add something to the DC Universe in his Wonder Comics imprint, he couldn't help but try again. This time he's joining forces with his fellow adjunct professor at Portland State University and veteran comics scribe, David Walker (Co-creator of Bitter Root) and rising star artist Jamal Campbell to create Naomi, which debuts this Wednesday. SYFY WIRE has the exclusive preview of the finished, first seven pages of issue #1 and spoke exclusively to the entire creative team.
As seen in this preview, during the course of battle, Superman and Mongol crash into a small town in the Pacific Northwest. The sleepy town and its citizens are forever changed.
"The idea of what would happen to any small town that Superman bounced in and out of it in the middle of the fight would be the biggest thing in the world," Bendis told SYFY WIRE. "It would disrupt an entire community. In our case, this young woman Naomi starts us a quest that leads us down a path that gets us something brand new in the DCU.
What lured both Bendis and Walker to the project though was being able to add to the DCU, a corner that had never been seen before. "The key thing was the additive part," Walker shared. "Brian kept pushing us to bring new stuff to the DC Universe, and let’s also play around with what exists."
One of the most striking things readers will notice about Naomi is Campbell's art. It's dynamic, thrilling and unlike anything that's been seen in the DCU. "Because we’re creating something new, there’s nothing that I’m beholden to, it’s all whatever I want to do. I was hesitant doing those character designs, expecting that they’d come back with changes, but the only answer I got was, 'It’s great.' I get to do what I want to do from my imagination, whatever I put out there, that’s what it’s going to be, which is extremely scary but also liberating."
Campbell went on to share that he based the look of the town on Portland and some of its neighboring small towns. One look at Campbell's early location designs and Walker found a place that might not look special to someone who lived in it but to an outsider, wonder what's the story of this place?
"Every town, even if it seems sleepy, and nothing happens, something does happen every day," said Walker. "There’s stories, there’s secrets, and mysteries and that’s what’s really interesting and what we kept pushing. Whether it’s a big city or a small town where your setting is, that world is part of the character. It is a character in and of itself. We need to be cognizant of that and will be seeing more of that as the story progresses."
Beyond the set dressing what made this book unique to others he's worked on was the approach to the characters. From the start of the first issue, the sense of community and connection to her classmates is positive, warm and inviting. "I wanted to make sure each character looked like they could be the protagonist of their own slice-of-life comic," Campbell shared. "I wanted them to feel like they all had lives outside of what you’re seeing on the page. By doing that I think you bring some sort of tangibility to the entire comic."
Bendis compared their creative synergy to an unlikely fan-favorite television series. "I think we accidentally created DC’s version of Stars Hollow (from the town from Gilmore Girls) and I’m very excited for that (Bendis is a huge Gilmore Girls fan)! We’re well into the series at our end and we’re deep into the town and it's as if Stars Hollow was way more dangerous–(creatively) it’s a very good place to be."
"Everyone has a story to tell, and for Naomi, looking for her story, she finds other people’s stories," Bendis explained. "Some of them will be connected to hers, some of them won’t but they will tell an elaborate story of the DC Universe that only this town could tell from this perspective. That got so exciting for us! With that, we have all the toys in the DC Universe to play with on top of the new toy box that we’re bringing. That’s one of he big reasons we did the book. You’re going to discover as issues go on the purpose of the book."
As for the cryptic title of the book, there's no mistake, it's just called Naomi adding to the mystery as far as secret identies, or lack there of, and if there is a "super" element at all. "It does look unusual, to not have the word 'man' 'woman' or league attached." Bendis agreed. "But the book is about identity, her looking for her identity. The word 'Naomi' is an identity that she has to figure out if it is her or was given to her, it’s literally the question she’s asking. The logo should bear a question mark in it, because this is what she’s in search for. To call it anything else, would be–well, it’s not about anything else, it’s about Naomi."
"We are all exceptional people and the name, in and of itself, is enough to make you a hero," added Walker. "You don’t have to have 'bat', 'super' or 'wonder' attached to it, to make you an important and special person. It’s very underlying in the story we’re trying to tell, but it’s also very important."
Check out our preview of Naomi #1 below and let us know your thoughts. Then get the entire first issue at your local comic shop or digital retailer Wednesday, January 23.