Comic creator David F. Walker was on the scene in his own spotlight panel at this year’s WonderCon moderated by seasoned entertainment executive Sean Owolo, who also just happens to also be Walker’s cousin.
As with many people in his generation, the classic Adam West Batman series and Spider-Man cartoon of the ’60s sparked Walker’s interest in superheroes. One of his favorite comics Hägar the Horrible gave him his first understanding of the comics creation process through reverse-engineering how the comics were made. Though Walker is primarily known as a writer today, it may surprise folks to learn that Walker actually intended to become a comic artist as well. In fact, he attended the famed Kubert School in New Jersey but quickly realized he didn’t have the patience. It also didn’t help that he was kicked out of the Kubert School. Walker remained coy on the specifics but it took him a long time to come to terms with and talk about the incident and realized he was completely at fault as a bully.
After moving back to Portland, Walker essentially stumbled into becoming a film critic in the ’90s with his self-published ‘zine, BadAzz MoFo that started as a side project. Through BadAzz MoFo, he attended comic cons and this allowed him to continue to be plugged into the comics world. It also led to a newspaper offering Walker a position as a film editor based on the strength of his writing. He was initially apprehensive since he had no real prior experience as an editor or journalist. For that reason, he worked with the mindset that everyday would be his last day.
Walker assumed this was going to be his permanent career until Craigslist delivered a blow to newspaper classified advertising, making him realize he needed to get out of journalism.
As luck would have it, an opportunity to interview the legendary comic creator Will Eisner in the early Aughts would set Walker up to return to the path of comics. Eisner quickly picked up on Walker’s knowledge and passion for comics and encouraged him to seriously consider pursuing it. Despite this encouragement, at the ripe age of 32, Walker thought he was “too old” to try his hand in comics.
Walker pointed to the following Toni Morrison quote that also inspired him to try his hand at comics again, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
During this time, Walker made short films featuring notable actors such as Ted Lange and Ken Foree, the latter of whom was a dream to work with for Walker as a major fan of George Romero and Dawn of the Dead. Sporting budgets between $4,000-7,000 Walker is the first to concede that these films aren’t necessarily masterpieces. Comparing himself to Ed Wood, he at least delivered on what he promised regardless of the quality of the product just like the infamous filmmaker of Plan 9 from Outer Space.
His first non-self published comics gig was writing the English language version of Santa Inoue’s Tokyo Tribes published by TOKYOPOP. The opportunity landed in his lap because they needed someone who was adept at profanity and Walker fit the bill. His work paid off because it received an Eisner Award nomination for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material in 2005. Of course, the nomination excluded Walker’s name but he didn’t care.
In 2007, Walker became a freelancefor MSN. Perhaps the work from MSN, epitomized by listicles, wasn’t the most in-depth but at least it paid the bills. Unfortunately MSN laid off all their entertainment freelancers in 2013 and Walker lost his meal ticket. At the the age of 42, this layoff lit a fire under his ass to form a 5 year plan. After more than a decade however, Walker says he’s only hit year 3 of his original plan.
Looking for an established property that spoke to him, Walker discovered the publishing rights for the Shaft franchise and managed to broker a deal with Dynamite to publish a comic series. At the same time, Walker was writing other projects that nobody was seeing but they paid the aforementioned bills.
Shortly afterward, both DC Comics and Marvel reached out to him. First for DC, he wrote the Cyborg ongoing series and then for Marvel he wrote Nighthawk and Power Man and Iron Fist, the latter of which was a childhood dream come true. Regardless, he he knew writing for both DC and Marvel wasn’t going to last forever and so wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Viewing working for “The Big Two” as a “meat grinder” experience, the goal for him was always to work on creator-owned projects but didn’t expect it so soon.
When Image Comics approached veteran comic-book artist Sanford Greene for a new series, Greene along with his friend and fellow Columbia, S.C., resident, Chuck Brown, came up with Bitter Root, a comic about a Black family that hunted monsters in Harlem. Greene suggested they bring in Walker to help polish and refine the writing. Once Walker got a taste of working on a creator owned book, it was hard to go back to the alternative. As it happened, work at both Marvel and DC dried up so it was an easy decision to commit to making his own books.
Some may wonder then as to why he returned to DC for the smash-hit Naomi book. Fans will likely remember that after nearly two decades with Marvel comic creator Brian Michael Bendis, the co-creator of Naomi and Walker’s friend, signed an exclusive deal with the Distinguished Competition. In between finishing his work at Marvel and starting for DC, Bendis suffered from an MRSA and although he made a full recovery there remained a time when it looked like he may not have made it through it. It was during this time when Walker was visiting Bendis on what appeared to be on his deathbed that he promised to collaborate with him on a comic. Once DC Comics approved, David F. Walker and Bendis sat down and discussed what they weren’t seeing in comics and thus Naomi was born. Luckily for Walker, working on Naomi was a far cry from his prior experience of being part of the corporate machine
Towards the end of the David F. Walker spotlight panel, the creator discussed future projects most notably a crowdfunding project on the Zoop platform for Imposter Syndrome, a collection of a 100-page collection of six short comics and one prose short story shorts he wrote during the pandemic as he was dealing with depression and anxiety. He is also turning that aforementioned experience at the Kubert School into a graphic novel called Bully, the first chapter of which will be included in Imposter Syndrome.
In recent years, Walker has been tackling non-fiction projects such as The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History about the story of Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther party. He hopes to continue to branch into more non-fiction work including an epic graphic memoir made up of short stories.
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