When writer Brian Michael Bendis made his much-vaunted leap last year to DC Comics, after 17 years at Marvel Comics, he decided to do something for an upcoming cohort of readers.
“It’s very clear what [young] people aren’t seeing in the real world,” Bendis said. “The bad guys aren’t being defeated. There’s a real sense for young people, they want hope. They want that sense of the good guys will win. So leaning into that in our books lately has not been difficult. Because I want it too.”
Bendis had spent decades steering Marvel stalwarts like Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil to new heights, and making household names out of new characters like Jessica Jones and Miles Morales, both of whom would go on to become fan favorites in Marvel’s onscreen pantheon.
Bendis brought to DC his own formidable portfolio of creator-owned titles, like Powers, with Michael Avon Oeming and other crime comics that put Bendis on the map.
But when DC co-publisher Dan Didio asked Bendis what else he might like to do with the company (you know, in addition to writing “Superman”), they started talking about a pop-up imprint, a title or series of titles that can work together.
“I started thinking about flavors that are missing from my life now that I’ve left Marvel… leaving the Ultimate Universe and Miles Morales and Riri Williams (Ironheart) behind.”
Arguably, one of Bendis’ biggest contributions at Marvel was his work with younger characters and more diverse characters. And so Wonder Comics started to take shape.
The first title for Wonder was a reboot of Young Justice, featuring Superbly, Robin, Impulse, Teen Lantern, and other DC JV squad favorites. Bendis sold DC on a new Wonder Twins series written by another ace Portland stylist, Mark Russell (whose “Flintstones” series was one of the jaw-droppers of 2017).
But the two of them have spent a lot of time in the classroom together, teaching a Portland State University Class on writing comics, which paved the way for their writing process.
“I think every person deserves to see themselves in a heroic role and have stories they can relate to,” Walker says. “Part of my goal as a writer at this point is looking at younger people and asking, what can I create that inspires them?”
Naomi’s story — set in a fictional Port Oswego — draws on deeply personal themes for both writers. Walker, who is black, spent his teenage years in mostly-white Oregon communities. Bendis’ family includes two daughters, one adopted from within the U.S. and one from Africa.
Walker and Bendis, who worked with Jamal Campbell (a Canadian artist nominated for Comics Alliance Best New Webcomics of 2015) who’s been on a tear the past few years to develop “Naomi,” says the storyline will open up new doors for the DC Universe.
“Naomi is opening a door for herself,” Bendis says. But when she does, it opens an enormous door for the DC Universe which will include piles of new characters and threats… and give Naomi a very specific goal in her life and what she’s supposed to do — and how she’s supposed to do it, and who’s going to train her.”
But the heart, they say, is a normalized story of a girl with a happy life, who loves and is loved by her family, but who also needs to get to the bottom of her own identity.
“Superman is the most famous adopted person,” Bendis notes, and for Naomi, “With that comes a lot of stuff she admires and a lot of stuff that frustrates her, [but] it lets her start diving into her own story. Adoption sometimes comes with some tropes — tropes that annoy my adopted kids, particularly! We’re going to push against that grain.”