Unless you know or have spoken with Nicole Maines, there’s something you may not be aware of: her energy is infectious. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the young actress and comic book writer twice, both times in the DC office. And both times, the interview got started late because Maines wanted to gush over and take pictures with something in the office. (On the first visit, it was the Batman ’89 Batmobile. This time, the object of attention was a statue of Clark Kent.) On both occasions, she also managed to get me and a number of my DC coworkers to take some pictures with the object as well…despite all of us having the chance to do so nearly every day.  

In other words, Maines is one of those creative professionals who helps you remember why you’re such a DC fan, and she does this just by being herself. Her love for DC was apparent the first moment she appeared on screen as Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on The CW’s Supergirl. It became doubly so when she became the first Arrowverse actor to wholeheartedly embrace comic book writing, bringing her character of Dreamer to the page, first with short stories in anthologies like DC Pride, then with co-writing guest stints on titles like Superman: Son of Kal-El. In the process, a strange thing happened—this small screen supporting character managed to become one of the most pivotal superheroes in the DC Universe.

After impactful appearances in both Lazarus Planet and Beast World, Dreamer now finds herself on the Suicide Squad and at the center of a new Maines-written miniseries, Suicide Squad: Dream Team. Drawn by Eddy Barrow and Eber Ferreira, Dream Team finds Nia learning some often painful lessons about the extent of her powers as she attempts to work alongside one of the most eclectic Suicide Squads in quite some time. It also leads directly into this summer’s big DC event, Absolute Power. And remarkably, it’s only the first of two major comic projects featuring both Maines and Dreamer this spring. April 2nd sees the release of Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story, a YA graphic novel written by Maines and drawn by Rye Hickman that will reveal Dreamer’s origin for the first time.

With pics—along with a few videos for the DC social media accounts—successfully captured, Maines soon sat down with me for a free ranging chat on all things Dreamer. Before we wrapped up, we managed to touch on everything from what it felt like bringing this new character to the page, to the challenges of balancing acting with comic writing, to what the single most rewarding aspect of her whole experience with Dreamer has been.

The last time I spoke with you, season four of Supergirl was about to debut and the character of Dreamer was only starting to take shape. Do you remember what you felt like then?

It all felt, and it still does feel, unreal. As we're talking, I'm looking at this action figure wall behind you, and this is the stuff that I grew up loving. This is what I still love. This is what my home looks like. It's just toys and statues. So, getting to first be in that realm, sitting down, talking to you across from the Batmobile, behind me is Margot Robbie's first Harley Quinn costume. It felt like, how did I get here? How am I doing this? This is all so overwhelming. And to find that I'm still here, still doing it now as a creator is really psychedelic.

When did it first start becoming clear to you that Dreamer might have some real life outside of the show?

Honestly, I don't think it really clicked for me until I had my first meeting with DC in early 2020, and that was a meeting I wanted to have because I was afraid that she wasn't really going to have this life outside of the show. She was an original creation for the CW Supergirl series and people loved her—she was really cool and had this awesome new power set. And I was worried about when this show ends, what's going to happen to this character? She's so groundbreaking.

So, it wasn't really until after I had my first meeting with DC, and DC was like, "Yeah, we have this Young Adult line. Why don't you write an origin story for her?" And I was like, "Oh, okay, sure" And then, "Oh, hey, we're doing this thing called DC Pride, do you want to write a Dreamer story for that?" And I was like, "Oh, I’m honored that she's included in this lineup to begin with."

Then when she debuted in Son of Kal-El, that was crazy. That was her first time really in comic book continuity. That was when I was like, "I think she's a character who will probably stick around."

Nia Nal is an important character, and it’s clear that you have a real attachment to her.

Some would say unhealthy. I would probably agree.

Ha! I don’t know about that, but I’m curious, when did wanting to embody her on the screen start shifting to wanting to shape her life outside of it? I’ve never seen a DC actor shift so thoroughly into writing comics before.

Honestly, I wasn't going into that first meeting with the intention of me writing it. It was more I was like, "Hey, I have this idea. I think someone should do this." I didn't write comic books. I didn't know what the ins and out of that looked like. I'm an actor.

But I just love this character so much. I think she is so important. And it came at a point in my life where I was going through a lot of big changes and I was really becoming who I am. And as I'm finding my way and settling into my new adult life, this character has sort been there alongside me the whole time. There was so much I wanted to do with her that when our showrunners called me and let me know that we weren't going on to season seven, the first thing I said after I hung up was, "I'm not done. There's more I want to do with this character. There's more that I wanted. She's so powerful. We didn't even get to scratch the surface."

This is the thing, and I think it kind of became a joke on our show. We were always like, "Oh, let's give Dreamer a new power because dreams can be whatever." And I think we unwittingly created one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe. It's not every day that we get a character from TV moving into comics, and it's not every day that character is also a serious power player.

You seem to have fully embraced it. You’ve written a number of short stories and have co-written single issues with Tom Taylor, but Suicide Squad: Dream Team and Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story are your two biggest comic book projects by far. Has it been difficult to balance writing them with your acting work?

It's hard. It’s been really hard to juggle, and I'm not an especially disciplined person. I'm not great at making schedules and sticking to them, as I think a lot of creative people would resonate with. I'm kind of just all over the place, and that makes it hard to get things done on time or just balance things the way they need to be. So, it's a learning process for sure.

In Suicide Squad: Dream Team, you’re writing a full team of characters outside of Dreamer. Was it fun getting into the heads of some other DC characters? You’ve chosen some pretty eclectic and fun people to be on your squad.

I really, really hope I do them all justice. They're all really cool characters, and the scariest thing is every character is somebody's favorite character. I didn't want a Black Alice fan, especially after this long hiatus—we had a little bit of her in Lazarus Planet, but before that, it was the Secret Six. I don't want anyone to come to Dream Team, read it and be like, "I'm so excited, we're getting more Black Alice," and then say, "She really did nothing with her."

It's hard because it is four issues, twenty pages, and it's mostly about Dreamer and Amanda Waller. I didn't want it to be a situation where it felt like the rest of the squad becomes supporting characters. I wanted to give everybody something to do.

Everybody wants something. Deadeye, just by being a blood relative to Amanda Waller, creates this really interesting dynamic with him being on her Suicide Squad. Bizarro is really cool because, yes, he's on the Suicide Squad, but he's not really a villain, is he?

It's cool getting to see the way that these different characters push back against—or perhaps don't push back against—an oppressive institution such as Task Force X. How do you combat that while still being within the confines of it? That looks different for each character on the squad.

Bad Dream is part of our YA line, and it’s telling the story of Nia’s origin for the first time. What can we expect it to teach us about who she is?

I think it shows exactly the role that she was content to play in her own life. She was completely resigned to being a supporting character. Her sister was the main character. Her sister was the one who was going to get these powers. Her sister was the one that was going to be a superhero. All Nia was ever going to be, at best, was the guy in the chair. And then all of that gets turned upside down. Next thing she knows, she's thrust into this position that she did not ask for, she did not want, she did not expect, and no one expected her to do it.

So, especially with Suicide Squad: Dream Team coming out, I hope people learn why she does what she does. Why is she so hell-bent on trying to do the right thing, on trying to protect people, on trying to keep this alien colony from getting exposed? Why is she so rubbed the wrong way by Amanda? What is her relationship with her family like? How does that play into all of this?

I really hope that people pick up both Bad Dream and Suicide Squad because I think it gives a three-dimensional profile of who this character is and why she's the way she is…at least, if I've done my job right! It could be complete and total nonsense, but if that’s the case, at least it's pretty. (laughs) Rye Hickman did an amazing job on the art.

Maines took time to “interview” Clark Kent while at the office

You brought our first live action trans superhero to the screen. Now, through your efforts as a writer, Dreamer’s at the heart of some of the biggest events within DC’s comic book universe. There’s also the fact that trans comic writers are still a bit of a rarity. You’re breaking new ground in every way in the realm of comics and superheroes. What’s been the single most rewarding aspect of that for you?

I think it might be the crossover from the show into the comics. I didn't know if it was going to be doable. It wasn't something that I knew if people would be excited for. I didn't know if anyone would care. The fact that it has blossomed into what we're doing now is really, really rewarding and it's one of the things that I am the most proud of. Being able to see this character in so many different forms of media—she was a Fortnite skin! Oh my god, that was crazy.

Just being able to see her in all of these places. I knew it was possible, but I didn't think it was likely. To see the way that people have rallied behind her and fought for her and advocated for her—and for me, as well—I'm just very, very grateful.

Suicide Squad: Dream Team #1 by Nicole Maines, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Bad Dream: A Dreamer Story by Nicole Maines and Rye Hickman is available on April 2nd in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and digital retailers.