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The CW's Naomi tries to rewrite the DC Comics universe for a world without Superman and, so far, the Arrowverse

  • "The CW’s Arrowverse has been on the wane over the past few years, with Arrow, Black Lightning, Constantine, and Supergirl wrapping, and viewership for the remaining shows mostly trending downward," says Tasha Robinson. "At the same time, superhero shows and franchises in general seem to be increasingly aimed at generational themes and passing-the-torch stories, with younger, hipper, more diverse heroes like Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Kate Bishop on Hawkeye, and Kamala Khan in the upcoming Ms. Marvel seizing the spotlight from legacy heroes. Those two trends together may explain the new CW show Naomi, about a high-school girl obsessed with Superman, and how she discovers her own superpowers and super-legacy. The show is another DC Comics adaptation, but it’s also a continuation of a thread running through superhero media in general, as showrunners and filmmakers experiment with reenvisioning older characters and archetypes in ways that make them relevant to younger audiences. It’s also a careful step away from the Arrowverse — a series that’s leaving its tie-in options open, but not yet committing to being part of a bigger continuity outside its own superhero story." Naomi, from Ava DuVernay and showrunner Jill Blankenship, has a pilot that is "a little rocky," says Robinson. "It’s refreshing to see a high-schooler who’s a smart, driven academic success and is also universally liked, and who’s popular but not a queen bee or mean-girl type. Naomi is mighty wholesome, with its pansexual flirtations and warmly supportive, non-competitive central female friendship. But that also makes Naomi feel a bit too perfect to be real. She has a great relationship with her parents, with her ex (who would like more of her attention, but isn’t pushy or entitled about it), even seemingly with the fandom tuning into her fan site. She has time to be an ace student, learn several languages, run a hugely successful website by herself, and also take the lead role on the school debate team. If a job interviewer asked her for her biggest flaws, she’s the kind of person who’d have to answer, 'Oh, some people think I’m just just too driven and dedicated!' In spite of Naomi’s big questions about the Superman phenomenon and some eventual drama with the two oddballs in town, Naomi’s pilot is light on any kind of character friction or internal conflict, the kind of hooks that let people identify with a protagonist."

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    • Naomi has a superhero origin story stands apart from others: "For one, she follows in the footsteps of Javicia Leslie as The CW’s second Black woman to lead a DC superhero show, albeit one as different from Batwoman in tone and storyline as can be," says Caroline Framke. "From executive producers Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship — and with canny, fluid pilot direction by Amanda Marsalis — the CW series feels something like if Superman blended up weekly comics with the sensibilities of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Secret Files of Alex Mack. For another, Walfall’s Naomi isn’t some moody outcast waiting in the wings for something amazing to happen to her, as is the case for so many other potential heroes. In fact, as the first episode conveys in an efficient and skillfully executed establishing scene, Naomi’s the cheerful life of the party who everyone’s glad to see the second she steps into a room. She’s warm, fun, and openly passionate about her 'nerdier' interests — namely, and not coincidentally, comic book heroes like Superman, a fellow adoptee whose story she’s treasured as long as she can remember."
    • Naomi takes its time telling its origin story: "The CW has been promoting Naomi with clips from very late in the pilot (written by DuVernay and Jill Blankenship and directed by Amanda Marsalis) and subsequent episodes, pointing to how little urgency the series has when it comes to establishing the main character’s superhero identity," says Daniel Fienberg. "This pacing matches the early installment of the comic and points to what I said about the title. Naomi wants you to get to know Naomi, her obsessive insecurities, her idyllically warm parents and her circle of friends, before it wants you to be invested in what heightened abilities she has."
    • Ava DuVernay wants Naomi to live in her own "Naomi-verse": “I want this to be an autonomous story about Naomi,” she says. “One of the things I really wanted was for her to live in her own universe. We call it the ‘Naomi-verse.’ And she’s not tethered to and she does not have to speak to the other stories that are going on now. It would just be too complicated, taking on too much legacy of the other shows, and doesn’t give the character the freedom to live her own life.”
    • Kaci Walfall says landing the Naomi lead role is a dream come true after Supergirl was her favorite show in middle school: “I loved seeing a woman in power,” says the 17-year-old Walfall. “To be a teenager and a girl, people are going to underestimate you,” she adds. “But what I love about Naomi is she doesn’t let that hold her back, and I think that is reflective of me. She’s just determined. She’s still going to push because she knows that’s what she needs to do.” As for Black girls searching for a character who looks like them, Walfall says: “We’re very special, and we have power within us. I hope that Black girls will see that in themselves and know that we are so much bigger than we sometimes think we are.”
    • Walfall's Naomi hair is very Black and very braided: “We did a hair trial when we first started,” she says. “My mom may have some of the pictures. There were faux locs and different kinds of braids. Ms. Ava settled on box braids for the pilot, and I loved that style so much. The parts are really cool. There’s so much you can do with your hair in braids, and I really love the styles we do on the show.”

    TOPICS: Naomi, The CW, Ava DuVernay, Jill Blankenship, Kaci Walfall




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