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DF Interview: A legacy takes wing in Jeremy Whitley’s new Unstoppable Wasp
By Byron Brewer
Girl. Genius. Hero. Unstoppable.
Nadia spent the entire first half of her life a captive of the Red Room, but now this teenage super-scientist is on her own for the first time, and she's ready to spread her wings! Hank Pym's daughter has a lot of time to make up for and she's determined to change the world. You know, if she can get her U.S. citizenship first.
DF delves into this new series by writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier and its reflection on one of Marvel Comics’ first female superheroes. To divide this dichotomy, we spoke with the scribe, Jeremy Whitley.
Dynamic Forces: Jeremy, although some today do not realize it, in the long canon that is the Marvel U. the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) is an awfully important character. She was but one of a handful of female crimefighters when the Universe began, was a founding member in arguably the most important fighting team (she even gave the Avengers their name), and was the subject of perhaps the first abuse story in comics. Going forward, how do you create a new character in the form of Nadia Pym and yet pay homage to the legacy of Janet (who is, I believe, still active)?
Jeremy Whitley: Janet is indeed still active. In fact, I had the great honor of working with Mark Waid on issue #14 of All-New All-Different Avengers where I got to write for Janet. Janet is an extremely important character in the Marvel mythos and I’ve been excited to see her back not only in these books, but in Uncanny Avengers where she’s had a recurring role.
This is a question I’ve thought about quite a bit and I think the answer is legacy. Due to the nature of comics, characters die all the time. Some of them come back, some of them don’t. The bigger question to me is who they inspire. Has Janet had such an effect on the world of Marvel that she inspires someone else to model themselves after her. That’s what we’re seeing in Nadia.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Nadia is that she is, in some ways, a fusion of Janet and Hank. She has Hank’s genius but combined with Janet’s caring and optimism. I think in some ways, she’s the answer to the question of what Hank could accomplish if he were as caring of a person as he is a scientist.
DF: Following up on that question, will Janet be a part of Nadia’s book, and will Nadia be exploring any of the mysteries (scientific and otherwise) of her father?
Jeremy Whitley: Absolutely, on both counts. In the early issues, we’re not going to see as much Janet as it’s very much about Nadia blazing her own path. But Janet is invested in Nadia and while she can’t teach her anything she doesn’t know about science, she’s understands people and the world outside of her bunker much better than Nadia does. So, yes, definitely count on seeing Janet pop up.
As for Hank’s mysteries, Nadia already knows a lot of Hank’s science (she replicated his Pym Particle research on her own) it’s Hank the person that’s the mystery to her. She has a rosy picture of who her father was and at some point Nadia is going to have to come to terms with the complexities of Hank Pym as a person.
DF: Nadia spent the first half of her life in the Red Room. Will you be exploring any of those threads, and will perhaps Natasha or Bucky be involved therein?
Jeremy Whitley: I will absolutely be looking more into Nadia’s history in the Red Room. In fact, we’ll find out a bit more about that in the first arc. Honestly, it’s most of her life at this point. Until the last few months, she hasn’t had any experiences that don’t involve the Red Room. We’ll find out some more specifics about Nadia’s program and how it differed from what we’ve seen of the Red Room in other stories.
As for Natasha and Bucky, they’re both pretty busy themselves at the moment, but while Nadia and Natasha were never in the Red Room at the same time, she does have some past with The Winter Soldier. That’s definitely a story we want to tell and I look forward to getting the chance for Nadia to see a familiar face – as she doesn’t have many of those.
DF: What can you tell us about the types of stories we will see in Wasp? Any new villains coming you can discuss, or perhaps Dad or Step-Mom’s old foes rekindled?
Jeremy Whitley: I want to tell stories in the tradition Hank comes from: science adventures. I hope to do some stories that harken back to comics like Tales to Astonish, the original Fantastic Four, or even a character like Doc Samson. Nadia’s primary means of solving problems is her brains, but if it comes down to it, she was trained to be an assassin. She can mix it up.
There will be a little of both. Just in the first arc we’re going to see a couple of classic Avengers villains as well as a new enemy or two. There’s a big world of trouble for Nadia and her team to get into…and then hopefully out of!
DF: In the last few years, we have had an influx of both female and young heroes into the Marvel U. As writer, who is Nadia to you and what makes her stand apart from these other female/young heroes?
Jeremy Whitley: Everybody, even teenagers, have their share of trauma. The thing that makes Nadia unique is that she’s already overcome the worst thing that is likely to happen to her. She was stolen from her mother. Her mother died and her father was a world away. She was trained to be an assassin and a mad scientist. She was never allowed to make friends and she had her entire childhood taken from her. And yet…
Nadia is a ray of sunshine. She’s optimistic. She’s brilliant. She is determined to make a difference. She knows she’s brilliant, she knows what she’s capable of, and now she actually has the ability to do good with it and she’s excited and optimistic. What makes Nadia unique from all of the other young characters in the Marvel Universe is that she’s doing it backwards. She’s already an accomplished scientist, now she just needs to learn how to be a teenager.
DF: This may have already been established, but Janet always lost her wings when she grew to normal stature but I notice Nadia sometimes does, sometimes doesn’t. Did the brainy lass make changes to the formula?
Jeremy Whitley: Nadia built her own wings from scratch as part of her Wasp costume. They actually work at normal or small size. Beyond that, she’s altered them so they can attach to normal clothing as well
DF: I have been very impressed with Nadia’s personality in Avengers – very intelligent, very mature. Will you continue to focus on the genius aspects of her personality in this new book? (And, as an aside, what can you tell us about a special feature in Unstoppable Wasp that will promote real world female scientists and their works?)
Jeremy Whitley: We will absolutely be continuing to focus on Nadia’s science in her story. In fact, as we’ll see in the first story, Nadia is on a mission to put together a lab of other young female scientists to do great things. We’re going to put some big tasks in front of them and maybe some even bigger bad guys. They’ll have to work pretty hard to science their way out of things.
With science being such a focus in the book, one of the big things we wanted to do was tell the stories of some of the real female scientists who are shaping our future in real life. So, we put together a pretty special project for our letters page, that being our “Agents of GIRL” feature. Each month when readers finish the book, they’ll find profiles of real female scientists. It’ll tell our readers what these amazing women are working on, why they love science, and even how they can contact them if they’re interested in doing what they do.
DF: In the vein of Ye Olde “Who’s Stronger?” letters page discussions, can you place Nadia’s current level of genius? Is she smarter than teammate Peter Parker? Valeria Richards? Amadeus Cho?
Jeremy Whitley: Ooooh! That’s a tough one. I think Nadia would tell you that ratings of genius are pretty meaningless. It’s about creativity. Any of those people can solve a difficult equation, but who can come up with the idea that will save the universe when it really counts? Any test that gives you a score has to be written by someone who already knows all of the answers. It’s what you do when no one knows the answers – or even knows to ask the question – that’s really important.
DF: Jeremy, do you have any projects current or in the near-future you’d like to tell us about?
Jeremy Whitley: Well, both of my creator owned series, Princeless and Raven the Pirate Princess are ongoing at Action Lab, so everyone should look for new issues of both those books in the new year. In addition to those, I am writing the Monsters Unleashed tie-ins for both Champions and All-New X-Men, which are a ton of fun and people should pre-order for their February release!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Jeremy Whitley for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Unstoppable Wasp #1 from Marvel Comics hits stores Jan. 4th!
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