The following is an interview with Jeremy Whitley regarding the return of the Marvel Comics ongoing series, The Unstoppable Wasp. In this interview, Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon chats with Whitley about the character of Nadia van Dyne, what new readers need to know to jump on, and more!
Bryant Dillon, Fanbase Press President: October will see a relaunch of The Unstoppable Wasp. What should previous readers know about the new ongoing series, and is this a good place for new readers to jump in?
Jeremy Whitley: Well, let me answer the second question first. I think it’s a great place to jump in. You don’t have to know much about Nadia or the world of Unstoppable Wasp in general to dive in headfirst. We want to be a good place for people to jump into the Marvel Universe, whether Unstoppable Wasp is their first comic or their 10,000th.
All previous readers need to know is that we’re jumping forward in time a bit from where the last one ended. Since the last series, Nadia has had quite a few adventures with both the Avengers and more recently with The Champions. She’s a more experienced hero than she was in the first volume, and she has more responsibility to go with it.
BD: For those who might be unaware, do you mind explaining who Nadia van Dyne is and why you find her a fun and interesting character to write?
JW: Sure! In the most basic terms, she’s the daughter of the original Ant-Man (Hank Pym) and his first wife Maria who was kidnapped and tragically disappeared, leading him to become Ant-Man in the first place.
Nadia was born and raised in The Red Room, an extra-legal organization in Russia dedicated to raising young women to become assassins. When her genius-level intelligence became apparent, Nadia was moved to a specialized program within The Red Room called “The Science Class.” Their goal was the next step in assassination. Instead of killing one person at a time, they would develop advanced science to facilitate the process. Nadia escaped The Red Room by duplicating her father’s experiments with Pym Particles and shrinking herself down.
What I love about writing Nadia is that she refuses to be defined by her tragic past. In Nadia’s eyes, she lost the first decade and a half of her life and rather than seeking vengeance, she is determined to get the most out of the life she has now. She loves life. She goes into everything full speed. She sees the best potential in everybody, be they people she meets on the street or Doctor Doom.
BD: What have your experiences been like collaborating with artist Gurihiru? How do your talents benefit one another and the book in your opinion?
JW: It’s been really fantastic. Having Elsa Charettier on this book the first time around was a huge boon, but being as she is off writing and illustrating all sorts of comics, we needed to find a new artist this time around and I could not be happier to be working with Gurihiru. It’s one of the great pleasures of working for Marvel that sometimes I get to work with artists of whom I am already a huge fan. In the case of Gurihiru, they drew the first Marvel comic I ever wrote (a short story in Secret Wars: Secret Love). That was an amazing experience, and when Alanna (my editor) asked whom I would want to draw the book since Elsa wasn’t available, Gurihiru were my choice. Luckily, they were just coming off their spectacular run on Gwenpool and had the opportunity to jump on board.
I think we make a great combination because, as much as I love good action scenes, I think the real strength of my writing is emotional. Gurihiru are really good at capturing facial expressions and subtle emotions, and I think it makes the whole comic sing.
Also, they’re really good at those action scenes, too!
BD: What should new readers now about the Agents of G.I.R.L., and what should all readers know about how they’ll feature in the upcoming issues?
JW: The Agents of GIRL are a group of girl genius super scientists that Nadia recruited to make up her lab. They’re all from New York, but come from very different backgrounds and have specific skills within their own STEM fields. The first volume spent a significant amount of time introducing them, but this go around they get to be part of the team and have some of their own stories. I’m really looking forward to seeing this diverse group of girls grow.
BD: Are there any specific challenges to writing science-focused superhero adventures?
JW: YES! I don’t know how many people know this, but science has like…actual rules and stuff. When you make stuff up, people know! The difficulty is finding a balance between the real science that we want to represent and promote and the super science that worlds like ours are built on. We try to use as much of the real science and extrapolate on it to make the super science, but that requires understanding how the real science works. That’s meant consulting with more people than I’m used to, but I think it’s made me a stronger writer, as well.
BD: You’ve referred to Nadia and Agents of G.I.R.L. being on a mission to “to change the world through science.” How important do you think this mission is in the real world, and what part does pop culture and storytelling have in inspiring that change?
JW: I think it’s very important. I think it’s become pretty clear over time that the world needs to be saved from a variety of problems and that science is the best answer we have to most of those. If nothing else, science has massively changed our day-to-day lives in ways that make the idea of living even thirty years ago seems so difficult. I mean, imagine having to carry around a checkbook or having to go to a store to rent a movie.
I think pop culture plays a huge part in this movement forward. Think about how much a cell phone looks like a Star Trek “communicator.” Smart phones took a lot of those ideas we had about how things could work and made them the way things did work. I guess it’s the ultimate in crowdsourcing, right?
BD: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that this current story arc will deal with Nadia’s struggle to manage the many new commitments in her life. Why is this an important focus for the story you’ll be telling?
JW: Well, for a lot of us, that’s a real struggle in everyday life. For Nadia, it’s new. She’s been raised in an environment where she only had one function. When she escaped The Red Room, it’s a natural part of her character that she would want to be involved in as much and as many things as possible. Eventually, that’s bound to catch up with her. And when a superhero slips up…when a scientist dealing with dangerous materials misses something, there will be consequences and there will be fallout. And for Nadia, that fallout is not going to be what she…or what our readers expects.
BD: Nadia’s stepmother and the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, will be joining Nadia in this adventure. What dynamic will this be bringing to the story, and will it be accessible for those who only know the character from the Marvel Studios’ film, Ant-Man and The Wasp?
JW: Well, interestingly, much like the film characters of Janet and Hope, Janet and Nadia have a mother/daughter dynamic – even though they’re not technically related. Janet has decided to take Nadia under her wings, along with the rest of GIRL. Along with the help of their new lab advisor Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird), Janet will be looking out for this group of GIRLs and specifically Nadia. Our version of Janet isn’t a scientist, but she is a fashion designer and a savvy business woman. Having Janet in their corner means that the Agents of GIRL are going to have opportunities available to them which were never there for other science heroes who tended to stick to their own labs.
BD: Recently on Twitter, you posted a thread regarding how Nadia has trouble sleeping in normal beds because of her time in The Red Room. How much does her time in The Red Room influence her overall behavior, and how much do you consider its impact when writing the character?
JW: It constantly does, just not always the way that people expect. It’s because of her time in The Red Room that Nadia takes the optimistic tone she does. It’s because of her captivity that she tends to sleep in small spaces. It’s because she grew up underground that she has trouble knowing when she should stop working and go to bed. She’s learned to just keep working. Like anyone, the way you grew up and the things you experienced in your formative years shape how you behave on a day to day basis. Spider-Man hears his Uncle Ben telling him about his great responsibility, Nadia awakes in a cold sweat remembering the haunting voice of the cyborg that raised her to be a mad scientist. Same thing, really.
BD: We’ve heard that you’ll be dealing with some of Nadia’s history in The Red Room in the upcoming issue. Are you able to tell us anything more regarding that?
JW: Well, it’s something we want to touch on, but most of what we’d like to build out is still in the works. I can’t say too much now.
BD: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you think our readers should know about the upcoming release of The Unstoppable Wasp?
JW: The first issue drops on October 17th and is available for pre-order right now!
Oh and very important note, we’re continuing our back matter from the last volume where we include interviews with actual women in STEM. It’s one of my favorite parts of doing the book, and I’m thrilled to bring it back.
BD: Is there anything else you’re working on that you want to let our readers know about and where can they find you on social media?
October will also feature the return of my creator-owned series, Princeless, as well as the debut of the new Rainbow Brite series that I’m working on with Brittney Williams. Beyond that even, I have a Halloween Comics Fest book coming out featuring my other creator-owned series, Raven: The Pirate Princess. October is going to be a big month, and it’s just the beginning.