Jeremy Whitley Stops to Talk to us about ‘The Unstoppable Wasp’

One of the surprise announcements coming out of the new Marvel Now initiative, was that the Wasp was going to be headlining her own book for the very first time. Even more surprising was that this Wasp was not founding Avenger Janet Van Dyne, but Nadia Pym, the daughter of the late Hank Pym, the original Ant Man.

The book is also Princeless writer Jeremy Whitley first ongoing title at Marvel, and we talked to him a little bit to see how he felt about joining Marvel, what it’s like to work with Elsa Charretier, and why its important to write comic books aimed at girls.

The Unstoppable Wasp #2
The Unstoppable Wasp #2

For people who haven’t been following the Avengers, can you tell us a bit about this new Wasp?

Absolutely. The New Wasp, who was introduced this year in All-New All-Different Avengers is the daughter of Hank Pym and his late first wife Maria. Her name is Nadia and she was born after her mother was captured by spies working for The Red Room. Her father had no idea she existed and she was raised in the Red Room to be an assassin. But when Nadia showed an aptitude for science, she was tasked with recreating her father’s research and creating Pym Particles for the Red Room. She succeeded, but instead of turning them over, she used them to shrink herself down and escape.

Since her escape, Nadia tried to find her father, only to discover that he had been killed fighting Ultron. So she decided to continue in her father’s footsteps and join the Avengers. She’s even teamed up with and enjoyed a little bit of a mentor relationship with the original Wasp (her step-mother) Janet Van Dyne.

Although she has made a few appearances, Nadia is a fairly blank slate. How much of her character is based on ideas Mark Waid was developing, and how much is based on new ideas that you bring to the table.

Well I had the benefit of being able to talk to Mark as I was working on the series and even getting to co-write a Nadia centered issue of Avengers with him. Not only has it been a great experience, it has helped me to discover who Nadia is to Mark and expand that on a grand scale. As you said, she makes a few appearances in Avengers, but I got the chance to really fill her out and make her her own person.

What I love about Nadia is her optimism. She has every reason to be angry and resentful about the life she’s had, but instead she chooses to be hopeful and optimistic about the life she can have now. Instead of mourning for her lost time, she is endeavoring to make up for it. She believes she can change the world and does not believe anybody can stop her.

The Unstoppable Wasp
The Unstoppable Wasp

Like her father, Nadia is a scientist. Will that aspect of her life be explored, or will the initial focus be on super-heroics?

I think for the purposes of our book they’re largely one in the same. Nadia is a super scientist. Her intelligence is her superpower. So while superheroics may often be the goal, science will almost always be the means we use to get there.

The heroes of the Marvel Universe are facing a schism, with younger heroes rejecting the cynicism of the established heroes. How does the Wasp fit into this conflict?

She fits squarely in the middle. Nadia is not just a legacy character in that she has a name previously held by another hero, but because her father was one of the older generation of heroes. Her tie to him won’t allow her to walk away from his world and his friends – there’s still a lot about him she wants to learn – but Nadia shares the optimism and excitement for super heroics that we see from the Champions and other characters like Riri Williams.

You are paired up with the phenomenal Elsa Charretier on this book. Tell us a little bit about what she brings to The Unstoppable Wasp.

Nadia Sketches - Elsa Charretier
Nadia Sketches – Elsa Charretier

She is amazing. Not only does she has a style that I think resembles the late great Darwyn Cooke, but she has so much skill and such a great sense for page composition. Both her covers and interiors are magic. When I started writing I had no idea who would be drawing the book, but now that I’ve had a chance to see what she’s doing, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing this book. She’s done great work in the past, but I think this book is going to blow people away.

You have a reputation of championing female heroes and female role models for girls. Can you talk a little about how Marvel is reaching out to women and girls? I think I read that they will have 33 titles led by female characters with the launch of the new Marvel Now.

Well, I don’t know exact numbers, but it is obviously something that is near and dear to my heart. I got my start writing my own female led action series in Princeless and so far every story I’ve written for Marvel has been fronted by female heroes as well. I feel very strongly about girls not just being able to see women as heroes, but being able to see themselves in the heroes that they love.

For a long time the idea of superhero comics as a “boys’ thing” has been a self fulfilling prophecy. When all of your characters look like one section of your audience and your female characters are drawn to appeal to men reading the book instead of the women who might read the book, you drive off a potentially huge audience. I think recent initiatives by both major publishers show that the desire for good representation in comics is there and if we can prove true to the task, that the audience is waiting.

I think Nadia, along with other great characters like Riri, Kamala, Gwen, Kate, and Cindy are all great examples of Marvel reaching out to the audience and being willing to experiment. I hope the five and ten year old girls dressing up as superheroes this year are on the other side of it showing us all how to do it in another ten or fifteen years.