As the Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia Pym lacks the physical power of the Incredible Hulk, but when it comes to emotional fortitude, the teenage genius is one of the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Nadia’s childhood was stolen from her by the vicious assassin training program known as the Red Room, which nurtured her intellect and tried to turn her into a designer of weapons. Despite the Room’s best efforts, Nadia refused to become a killer, though. Inspired by the heroic legacies of her father Hank Pym and stepmother Janet van Dyne, she built a battle suit of her own and unlocked the size changing power of the Pym Particles to become the new Wasp. That choice to be a hero and maintain her optimism in the aftermath of tragedy impressed the Avengers, who invited her to join their ranks.
When she’s not serving alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Nadia can be found pursuing her other passions: science and adventure. In the opening arc of Unstoppable Wasp, by writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier, she took the first steps to do that by recruiting several adolescent genius from the New York area to work in her new venture, Genius in Action Research Labs. Their first challenge was to liberate Nadia’s childhood friend, Ying, from the clutches of the Red Room. It looked like they had succeeded too, but on the final page of “Unstoppable Wasp” #6 Ying was struck down by a seemingly fatal injury.
So where does Nadia go from here? How will she handle the loss of her childhood friend, and what role will her stepmother and the scientists of G.I.R.L. play in upcoming issues of The Unstoppable Wasp? For the answer to those questions and more, CBR spoke with Whitley about his plans for the series.
CBR: One of the great things about Nadia is her sort of indomitable spirit and how she didn’t let her childhood trauma of being raised by the Red Room dictate who she is and who she could be. The end of Unstoppable Wasp #6 though set her up though to deal with an especially crushing type of trauma; the possible loss of a friend. Has Nadia ever had to deal directly with something like that?
Jeremy Whitley: Honestly, no. Nadia was not really allowed to have friends in the Red Room. That’s part of why her and Ying are so tied to each other, because they became friends despite all the efforts of the Red Room. Nadia’s spirit is part of what makes her so fun to write, but she’s also a person who’s used to taking everything on her own shoulders and pushing down the stuff that does bother her. At the end of issue 6 and in issue 7, Nadia’s world is crashing down around her and that’s something she’s not used to. She’s a champ at getting out from under, but holding onto what she’s built is a skill she’s never needed before.
Fortunately, Nadia won’t have to deal with what happened to Ying alone. She has several friends and comrades now including some her own age in the form of the agents of G.I.R.L: Priya Aggarwal, Shay Smith, and Taina Miranda. Priya, Shay, and Taina are new characters you co-created. What inspired their creation? What can you tell us about the roles they’ll they play in the series moving forward?
I love these characters. My goal when we set out to create new characters for G.I.R.L. was to make them girls who accurately reflected the New York City that all of them are from. I wanted everybody to be well rounded and come from different backgrounds. The thing about both science and superheroing is that your team benefits from having a variety of strengths and backgrounds. No two members of G.I.R.L. are alike and sometimes it’s coming from different angles that makes things work.
Priya, Shay and Taina each represent the diversity we see both in New York and in teenage girls. Priya is the hesitant daughter of immigrants who longs to be “normal” and “popular.” Shay is a latchkey kid who is fiercely original and, being in high school, has paid the price for it. I think of her as a kid that will be super cool at 26, but at 16 is struggling to find a place where she belongs. Then in Taina you have someone who knows who she is, is filled to the brim with self confidence, and is itching to be the next great Marvel super scientist. It doesn’t matter if she needs crutches, a wheelchair, or her homemade elevator to get there – she’s going to get there.
Moving forward, I’d like them not only to be Nadia’s supporting cast, but to drive the story just as much as Nadia does. I have some stories in mind that I’d love to tell for each of them.
In Unstoppable Wasp #7 The original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, will also be on hand to help Nadia deal with the trauma of possibly losing Ying. What’s it like bringing Janet back into the book and bouncing her off Nadia in her current state?
I love Janet Van Dyne. I needed her to take a backseat in the first arc because I think she shines pretty brightly and we needed a chance to establish Nadia and her crew. But with issue 7, not only is Janet back, but Janet is taking over narrative responsibilities. She’ll be coming into this situation from the outside, but she’s ready to save the day in ways only she really can. I think Janet fans are going to love these next few issues.
Janet, Former Avengers Butler Jarvis, and the scientists of G.I.R.L. are part of a support network of Nadia’s family and friends, and given what we saw of her in this first arc it feels like that network could grow quickly because she seems capable of making friends even with some super villains like Poundcakes. Why do you think that is? Is it her genuine sense of enthusiasm and kindness? Or something else entirely?
I think part of what makes Nadia special is that she’s coming to the world of heroes and villains with not only optimism, but no preconceptions about who’s good and who’s bad. I think we saw this recently in Avengers #7 as well. Nadia knows Victor Von Doom as a scientist, not as a villain. Who while Cap and Thor are ready to fight him, Nadia is willing to talk. I think having a character that is willing to extend that hand and try and find the good in people can make a big difference. Things like enthusiasm and kindness are often traits that get lost in the muck of giant universe spanning conflicts and, beyond that, values like kindness and understanding are often associated with women. When women are portrayed as heroes, sometimes those feminine elements are played down. I don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that Nadia is a girl who is proud to be a girl.
What can you tell us about the adventures Nadia will be getting up to in the summer months and early fall? Can you hint or tease some of the antagonists that she’ll run afoul of?
Well, Nadia and Janet are about to run afoul of a few of Janet’s own classic villains. In particular, one cyclonic ex-stalker of Janet’s whom she’ll be happy to dish out some butt whooping to.
Issue #7 marks the beginning of artist Ro Stein’s run on Unstoppable Wasp correct? You and she collaborated recently on the Champions #1.MU special. What’s it like working with Ro here? From what I’ve seen of her work it feels like she has the knack for the heart, humor, and action that were a huge part of the series first six issues.
Quick note here: Issue 7 is actually drawn by the exceptional Veronica Fish, who was kind enough to sub in for us when we weren’t sure if Elsa [Charretier] was going to be able to come back after 7. Alas, Elsa is blowing up the rest of the comics industry. Veronica is really amazing though.
Ro Stein (and inker Ted Brandt) are amazing talents. They have such a gift for the acting part of comics. You really get a feel for how every character looks and feels. You don’t just read the words the characters are saying, you can really hear them saying it. I actually started working with Ro and Ted back on my Action Lab creator owned series Raven: The Pirate Princess and they elevated my work in ways that I can barely explain, I can only just be grateful for. They’re young and amazing talents who are going to have a long career of great comics work in the industry. Editors need to jump on them while they can still get on their schedule.
I’ve already seen most of their finished pages for issue #8 and I am in love with the way they draw all of the Agents of G.I.R.L. I can’t wait for you all to see it.
Finally, in the current Secret Empire event Nadia is part of a young group of heroes recruited by the Black Widow. Can you talk yet at all about how that story line might effect Unstoppable Wasp? Will we see some of the impact of the choices Nadia made and relationships she forged there further down the line?
Well, I can tell you that at least through issue #8 we’ll be finishing up the current storyline we have going which is all pre-Secret Empire. I’m honestly not sure myself how everything will shake out at the end of Secret Empire, so we’ll all have to stay tuned together!
The first trade collection which collects issues 1-4 of Unstoppable Wasp and the issue of Avengers that I cowrote with Mark Waid (which focuses on Nadia and Janet) is available for preorder right now. I’m also really proud to say that Marvel is including all of our back matter in the trade, so you’ll be able to read all of our interviews with awesome scientists. The trade will be out in the fall, so I hope everyone will let you libraries, comic shops, and science clubs know to look out for it.