The latest Marvel Comics hero to adopt the identity of the Wasp, teenager Nadia Pym, has already exhibited a number of super heroic traits. There’s the massive intellect she received from her dad, Hank Pym; his size changing Pym Particle formula; and a high tech suit. But the most extraordinary quality exhibited by the daughter of the founding Avengers has got to be her optimism.
Though Nadia was raised in the Red Room, the former Soviet Union’s brutal academy for super spies and assassins, none of her instructors were able to crush her dream of one day becoming a heroic science adventurer like her legendary father.
Nadia recently broke free from her captors and decided to make her dream a reality, first using her deceased father’s laboratory to build a new Wasp suit, and then introducing herself to Hank’s former teammates in the Avengers, including her step mother Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp. Now, with their blessing, Nadia is ready to start living her dream life, and this January she’ll do just that when the new “Unstoppable Wasp” series by writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier begins.
CBR: Perhaps one of the most interesting traits Nadia has is her optimism. Despite having her childhood stolen from her by the Red Room, she remains a positive and upbeat character. What’s it like writing a character with that outlook?
Jeremy Whitley: That was one of the most appealing things to me about Nadia when this project started. In “All-New, All Different Avengers,” Mark Waid established that she had this level optimism that I think Mark sees in Hank Pym, but I feel is often missing from a lot of the super science and superhero stories in general these days. There’s a lot more of the dark and gritty and a lot less of fun and fantastic side of the superheroics, and I like that she’s somebody who still sees the world in kind of that fun and optimistic way even though she’s in this potentially dark part of this universe.
She’s sort of bouncy and excitable. She doesn’t think this is weird, although anyone else looking at her past would agree that by all rights this is a girl who should be scarred and have issues. A name that kept coming up when I talked to Tom Brevoort about it was Kimmy Schmidt [the title character from the Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”]; the sort of character who has every reason to be dark, sad and upset, but she doesn’t see it. She sees these reasons to be dark, sad and upset as reasons to be happy.
Nadia’s Red Room training means she’s at home both in the field battling super criminals and in the lab solving complex science problems. So will “Unstoppable Wasp” be a superhero book, a science fiction book, or a blend of both?
For me, the spy and Red Room side of things is something that occasionally pops up and is maybe more of a surprise to people about Nadia. I think what we’re going for is much more of a superhero, or even a science adventure book. I want something that feels like the old school science adventure heroes like the Fantastic Four, or Doc Savage.
Even as much as we’ve diversified the types of characters that are out there over the years, I think that’s something where you still don’t see a lot of women represented in general, and young girls especially. The idea of her being a teenage girl who is a super science hero was very appealing to me. That was the angle I brought to it, and they’ve been good enough to let me run with that. I think the book is going to be a lot of fun.
What can you tell us about Nadia’s status quo when “Unstoppable Wasp” starts? Is she going to be a full-time superhero/scientist? Are you interested in exploring some other aspects of her life?
I definitely want to explore some other aspects of her life to some extent, because she hasn’t really had a life up to this point. She’s been in a bunker and has had very limited human contact. While she was there, she was trained first as an assassin, and then as a super scientist. She doesn’t really have friends, even though she is incredibly friendly. She doesn’t really have hobbies either, even though she’s enthusiastic about everything.
This is sort of her first time out in the world, and we get to see a lot of her exploring and being excited about that stuff mixed with the superhero and especially the super science stuff. Because a lot of what we’re going to see is her putting together her own idea of what type of hero she should be and assembling a team around her as well.
How will Nadia fund her adventures? Will she have a job?
She’s currently living in Hank’s house and using his lab facilities, so she doesn’t have to earn money to do the science side of things like most people would. She’s fairly well supported in that respect. Most of what we’re going to see her doing is the superhero side of things while trying to figure out the basic parts of having a life of her own.
So far, Nadia’s step mom, the original Wasp, and the Avengers’ former butler Jarvis, have been important figures in her life. Will they have roles to play in “Unstoppable Wasp?”
Yeah, they definitely do. Jarvis is going to be a major part of this first arc because he’s sort of Nadia’s tether to both the superhero part of the Marvel Universe and the real world part. As anxious and ambitious as she is to be part of the world she doesn’t understand a lot of it. Jarvis takes on the role of helping her out. He’s helping her figure out the things that don’t really come natural to her.
Janet is a little less of a primary character than Jarvis is, especially in this first story. I want to give Nadia the chance to sort of spread her own wings, [Laughs] as obnoxiously on point as that is, and have a chance to define who she is as the Wasp. Janet will definitely be a supporting character though. She’ll be popping up in this first story and she’s definitely going to be somebody that Nadia looks to as a role model.
What can you tell us about the other supporting characters of “Unstoppable Wasp?”
In this first arc, we’re putting together a team. For the most part, they’ll all be pretty much new characters that Nadia is recruiting around her.
So we’re putting together a group of girl super geniuses, and one of the main parts of the first issue is a question comes up about this list of smartest people in the Marvel Universe. I think “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” are dealing with this to some extent as well.
The list has traditionally been heavily male. Moon Girl is at the top of the current list, but there are about 25 other entries before you get to another woman on that list. We wanted to play with that idea. So Nadia hears about this list through another hero who will be guest starring in our first issue, Mockingbird, who is a character that was introduced as sort of a super scientist and adventurer herself. They talked a little bit about that in her current series, but over the past 20 years it’s been, “She’s the one who used to be Hawkeye’s wife and hits things with sticks.”
That’s what people think of when they think of Mockingbird, not the fact that she worked with the Man-Thing and was a big time science hero back in the day. So Mockingbird brings up having seen this list and how it has sort of the inherent bias of the people who make it. The people who are making this list in some cases are either the people who are on this list, or the people who have worked with the people who are on this list. They’re not looking for new people to really fill out the list of smartest people in the world.
So we’re going to introduce some new characters that are going to be unique to Nadia’s team, which I’m really excited about. We’re still working on designing them right now, but I’ve got the team put together in the scripts and I’m really excited about what we’re getting to do with them because I feel like I’ve really been allowed to run with the ball as far as figuring out what I wanted this team to look like. So we’re going to see some perspectives on science in the Marvel Universe that I don’t think get touched on very often.
Will Nadia’s team accompany her on superhero missions in the field?
At the start none of the team will be super powered characters. We’ll get to see what they can do with their brains. So we’ll occasionally see them in the field and occasionally as a support team when Nadia goes out and does superhero stuff.
So I think given the time and the chance, if people respond to the characters, I’d love to see them going out into the field and flexing their muscles as well.
Who are some of the antagonists Nadia will cross paths with in “Unstoppable Wasp?” Will we see both new foes and familiar faces, like some of her father’s old enemies?
I’m really interested in seeing a little bit of both. She has the Red Room connection that’s only touched on briefly in Avengers and I want to introduce some of her own rogues through that and give her a chance to have her own thing. I also think the idea of having her face off against some of Hank’s old villains and some old Avengers’ villains and seeing how she handles that differently than somebody like Hank is an incredibly interesting place to go as well.
“Unstoppable Wasp” is artist Elsa Charretier’s first Marvel work, but she has drawn a few DC titles featuring some of their more upbeat characters like Harley Quinn and Starfire. So it seems like she’d be a pretty great fit for this book.
I guess they had me in mind to write it and her in mind to draw it. Before I had any idea this was happening though I was reading Elsa’s “Starfire” run. It really struck me as having this kind of Darwyn Cooke quality to it. I really like her character design, and the style of art she has reminds me so much of his work. I’ve always been attracted to his work too. So picking up that book and seeing a character like Starfire drawn that way really appealed to me. Then when they told me Elsa would be drawing “Unstoppable Wasp” I was like, “Yes! That’s a great idea! Let’s do that.”
You mentioned Mockingbird will make an appearance in your initial issues, but what kind of presence will the larger Marvel Universe have in “Unstoppable Wasp?” Who are some of the established Marvel characters that you’d like to bounce Nadia off of?
In addition to Mockingbird, there will be a couple of other guest star appearances in our first couple of issues that I’m really excited about. I anticipate Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur will pop up, and I’d love to get some of the other recent additions to the Marvel Universe like Kamala Khan and her teammates on Mark Waid’s “Champions,” which is a group of young, smart heroes with their own unique agenda.
At some point, I’d like to see her intersect with Bucky and work out some of the demons there. In that case, you’re dealing with a pre- Captain America Winter Soldier. So she’s bound to not have good memories of him as a child.
Bucky was her trainer at the Red Room, and I imagine it might also be interesting to see what the Room’s most famous graduate, the Black Widow, thinks of Nadia.
That would be really interesting. I haven’t done anything directly with her and Black Widow yet because it’s almost a little too obvious. I want Nadia to have the chance to face some of her own demons before realizing that there’s someone who her path runs so parallel with to some extent, and at the same time is so different from her. Because you have a very different character and personality in somebody like Natasha who was part of the Red Room well into her adult life. [Laughs] So I don’t think you can get two characters with more different outlooks than Waid & Samnee’s “Black Widow” and what you’re going to see in “Unstoppable Wasp.”
I’ve really enjoyed some of the chances we got to take on this book because when they came to me with the idea for the book they asked, “What would you like to do with this character?” I had a lot of ideas. I liked that we had a hero who was sort of old school in her superhero philosophy. For her it’s all about adventure and science, and ultimately this is going to be a fun and optimistic book; one of those things people really remember liking when they were younger, but still has the fresh perspective of this character looking in on the Marvel Universe.
I got a great chance to break that in when I got to co-write the issue of “All-New, All-Different Avengers” with Mark during “Civil War II” and have a chance to see what Nadia’s perspective is on the event. To her this Civil War is incomprehensible. She has a much more traditional idea of what superheroes are like. To her they’re these larger than life people who save the day and the idea of a civil war between them is insane.
Then we got to see the little bit of the Hank in her in that she has this determination to fix things and make them right. In the issue that nearly kills her because she’s determined to solve problems that aren’t science related. They’re human problems and she has very little experience with human interaction. She does know science though, and that’s going to be her way of coming at things. She looks at things from the perspective of a scientist instead of a superhero. When she learns about the death of Bruce Banner she doesn’t care about the Hulk being gone. She’s much more distraught by the idea that this incredible intelligence has been lost.
That’s how we’re going to see her introduced to Mockingbird as well. She knows more about Barbara Morse the scientist than the superhero Mockingbird.
Finally, you’re still relatively new to Marvel. So “Unstoppable Wasp” might be some fans first exposure to your work. What books of yours would you recommend to readers curious about the other work you’ve done?
Most of my stuff before the last couple of years is all creator owned. “Princeless” is my baby. It’s all about a princess who is locked away in a tower by her evil parents to wait and be saved and decides to save herself instead of waiting around. So it follows the adventures of Adrienne, who is a princess that has saved herself and gone off to save her sisters.
“Princeless” is very much a fantasy book. It’s spinoff, “Raven: The Pirate Princess” is more a swashbuckling action-adventure story. I think you can get a pretty good idea from them as far as what I’m going for in adventure, optimism, and excitement. And beyond that just having cool, exciting, female heroes.
Both in the case of those books and “Unstoppable Wasp” I want to create something that people are going to be excited to read. Hopefully this will jump to the top of people’s piles. Because it’s going to be a fun, exciting, good time. There’s a place for serious comics and there’s even a place for grim comics, but what really appeals to me is having something that’s equal parts fun and adventure rather than serious and grim all the time. Then when you later get into the serious stuff it’s really effective because you’ve come to love and care for the characters.
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