‘Naomi’ Creative Team Talks Small Town Urban Legends and a New Journey in DC Universe

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The term murderer’s row was used to describe just how skilled the 1927’s Yankee batting line up was. In 1992 the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team is referred to as the dream team. That being said, when the new comic Naomi announced and I found out the writers would be David Walker and Brian Michael Bendis, with Jamal Campbell on art? Already knew this is a creative team that’s going to leave a memorable impact. Luckily enough we got to speak to this team about their latest collaboration in order to find out more about the main character of this new series who also happens to be a girl named Naomi.

Black Nerd Problems: David and Brian you guys are comic veterans (like Leon from The Professional) when it comes to comics. What’s it like working together to create storylines and dialogue for this series?

David F. Walker: In a lot of ways it was like, its about time. Now it seems there was an inevitability to it, that we were going to collaborate in this capacity. I think we’re getting more and more comfortable in not worry about stepping on each other’s toes or anything like that.

Brian Michael Bendis: We teach together and as a veteran, you look across the classroom to your fellow teacher like we should be doing this together, right now.

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Black Nerd Problems: Jamal, your grind has been immaculate from doing your own web series Nadia Greene then breaking into comics and having your art have such a specific look and style. What’s it like for you to now be working on a character from the ground up and putting what Brian and David described into existence?

Jamal Campbell: It’s wild! Nadia Greene started as a way for me to practice doing interiors cause I’ve never done it before. And then from there to like three years later I’m now helping to create a new character and a new world. It’s sorta like doing the same thing I was doing then but on a much larger scale. I’m sorta guessing as I go, hoping I hit everything on the head but it’s super exciting never the less.

Brian Michael Bendis: I just wanna say he had a few opportunities. Some very big names and opportunities as well, and I was so thankful he chose to build this with us. Very (very, very) happy to be part of that as well.

David F. Walker: Jamal is bringing so much to this project. He’s not just the artist, he’s not just a co-creator, it’s very clear that the storytelling that’s going on in these pages is far more collaborative than anything else I’ve experienced.

Black Nerd Problems: Two cosigns at the same time. Damn, Jamal. Alright, we can get right into the series. The comic and the main character is named Naomi. Usually, names have a deeper meaning for characters. Like a nerd, I googled. Naomi’s name and it means pleasantness. Is there a deeper dive on her name or why that’s her name?

Brian Michael Bendis: That’s going to be revealed in story and some of it will be a little emotional for our readers. Sooooooo, we’re going keep that in story.

BNP: I knew it. Here come the roadblocks! Nice. Let’s go for question #2: Naomi is a young Black girl with braids in a northwestern town. It’s safe to say the girl stands out and has a distinct look. So how did her design come about from the first iteration to now?

Jamal Campbell: The braids came as the second design iteration I tried and struck gold and kind of hit it. So the funny thing is, when I was doing designs, I did all these sketches I sort of cut it in thinking “okay well go back and forth. Find out what they like what they don’t like” and they pretty much just liked it right off the back and so I got to do pretty much what I wanted to do in terms of her look.

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David F. Walker: From the beginning, we were like “let’s see what Jamal brings” in terms of character designs and all that stuff. That first wave of designs that we saw, brought so much more than I think either of us were expecting. Sort like, it’s what not what we were hoping for but not what we were expecting. You always hope for more but don’t always get as much as you hope for.

Brian Michael Bendis: It’s kinda like the way directors cast actors. It’s the philosophy that if you cast well, the notes become less. He bonded all of our ideas and the first iteration was so beautiful and soulful. She was alive already in her eyes. We were good to go. It was like “here’s our thoughts” and you’re going to get something back so much better than what you thought.

BNP: The town changes when Superman comes through throwing hands with Mongul. The town’s name is Port Oswego. It’s a town where nothing happens kinda away from everything. Then with Superman crashing through what is the rough geography of its location? Because Metropolis is mentioned, so what is the town’s proximity to Metropolis and will that proximity play a part on the town or will the town be world-built on its own.

David F. Walker: So the character build will be on its own. It’s far away from metropolis it’s one of the points of the series, to show what the universe looks like outside of these six or seven major cities. What goes on in these other cities. The idea of Superman just bouncing into a town like that. If Superman flew by? That would be your whole day. You’d talk about nothing else. You wouldn’t be able to go back to work. Everything gets affected.

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BNP: At first appearance, Naomi feels very much like the everywoman/everyman character. Then when she realizes that this isn’t the first time heroes have been in the town, we see her get her investigator hat on. The series feels so far like a Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew small-town mystery throwback. Will the setting stay streets and suburban or can we expect to see things get more… I guess… cosmic(?) in a sense? Hopefully, my scaling is right…

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, it builds. Usually a detective series, this would set the pace and that would be it. It kinda sets her up, She thinks she going to be like a Nancy Drew and figure it all out but what she finds is such a potent secret an there’s so many secrets attached to it, that it easily becomes a big family drama that impacts the weight and scale of each issue so that by the time it gets to issue four, and Jamal starts sweating everytime I say this, it becomes an almost completely different genre and introduces something into the DC Universe that wasn’t there before. That’s really the point of the series, that Naomi’s secret is so enormous that it actually opens the doors to things.

BNP: In keeping with Superman coming through town being the first major thing that happened for the residents. There’s nothing really on the news about that, and the kids even say, “these things kinda happen every day. How many other cities had this happen and it doesn’t even get reported.” Will we see more of that happening throughout the series? Maybe other heroes, fights, or events happening in other smaller cities we don’t know about like Port Oswego. Will that be a running theme?

Brian Michael Bendis: Not in this series. But yes in the general sense of DC Universe.

David F. Walker: Part of what we were touching upon, is if you grow up in a smaller town or smaller communities that it seems like nothing is going on but maybe there are these urban legends. And even in this day and age, it can still be sometimes hard to figure out some of this stuff. That’s what we wanted to lean into in terms of just this one particular story. Sometimes these really big things happen in our lives, communities or towns but to the rest of the world, it’s nothing.

If you live in a town where they came and filmed a movie, you take your friends on a tour and you’re like “see this grocery store? This is the scene where Kevin Costner stopped the robbers.” but if you’re in Los Angeles, it’d be no big deal cause every corner something big happens in Los Angeles. It seems like everywhere in New York there’s a big story. In these small towns, it’s not as prevalent. That’s what we wanted to touch upon. It can seem like there’s nothing big going on but really there is. In this one particular town, we’re scratching the surface.

BNP: It was told to us in the description of the book that Naomi was adopted we later we find out she stans hard for Superman. What does it mean for her that Superman, the blueprint for superheroes, was an adopted kid as well, just like her?

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Brian Michael Bendis: It’s a big part of what inspired this. I’ma hand it off to David in a second because really, Naomi is a huge reflection of David growing up in Portland. Two of my children are adopted, one internationally, one domestic. We wanted to show that everyone has a different story Naomi’s story is in no way shape or form a reflection of what’s going on in my house but a reflection of other families. My youngest actually said, “Well why is she adopted?” and I said “Well, you know, people still don’t always understand what an adopted means, what an adopted family is, and how much love there is in the house. We just wanted to do a story that reflected that.” and my daughter said, “Yeah, I don’t like how adoption is always a joke. It’s always a punchline”. Ten years old and she said that. So we’re just going to add more to the pile, so it’s not just that joke anymore all the time and it will be some positive representation.

David F. Walker: To build off of what Brian was saying, I moved to Portland when I was in junior high I moved to a really white city and I came from a really white town in Connecticut. There were so few Black families there that we all knew each other. You couldn’t get into trouble cause your neighbors would call your parents or your grandparents. It was this really weird dynamic where there was so few of us that there was this sort of outsider mentality. A sense of alienation. Brian was talking a lot about being a parent of adopted kids, I was talking about growing up being the outsider, and those sort of conversations really led the creation of the character. It felt like, “Oh, we can sorta combine these two elements in a very seamless way and make for a really compelling character.

And I tell this all the time, back when I was a kid in Connecticut in elementary school, there were 2,000 kids in the school but there was only one Black girl. There was maybe six Black boys at the most but there was only one Black girl. And (at the time) I always felt like, “Man, that must really be difficult for her”… and then as I grow older I realized what an impact that can have, both positive and negative, that it can have on you. I thought it’d be really interesting to explore that in a character.

Bendis: And I heard that and said, “Let’s make a book!”.

BNP: Damn… that was all bars.

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Trust, once you see this book, you’ll be glad they made it too. now, If you haven’t seen the preview pages of Naomi yet. It’s very hard to argue that this isn’t one of the most gorgeous looking books over at DC Comics right now. Just looking at the pages of the series is enough to throw away any hesitation you may have of jumping into a new series from the ground up.

The story is sure to keep you invested in Naomi’s journey from jump street. There’s a lot question around Naomi and the secret she’s tied to within DC universe. How will she discover it? Who else is involved? The mystery unraveling starts this week, January 23rd with the release of Naomi #1.

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  • Omar Holmon is a content editor that is here to make .gifs, obscure references, and find the correlation between everything Black and Nerdy.

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