UNSTOPPABLE WASP Artist Buzzes About Possibilities For 'Optimistic, But Not Idealistic' Character

Marvel Comics January 2017 cover
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Debuting less than seven months ago in the Free Comic Book Day 2016: Avengers one-shot, Nadia Pym is engaging the world at-large - and sometimes by being small - with a new ongoing series titled The Unstoppable Wasp #1.

Princeless writer Jeremy Whitley has been paired with up-and-coming cartoonist Elsa Charretier for this new series, and as the artist tells Newsarama is a thoroughly-optomistic science superhero story without being idealistic.

Charretier, who makes her Marvel debut with Unstoppable Wasp #1 on January 4, spoke to Newsarama about this new hero that she and Whitley are developing, how she approaches the big (and small) environments a series about a size-changing superhero would demand, and how she's secretly one of the fastest artists on the scene - without sacrificing her style.

Credit: Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)

Newsarama: Elsa, my first question's an easy one - what are you working on today? What is literally on your drawing board?

Elsa Charretier: Today is a bit special. Pierrick Colinet and I (we created The Infinite Loop together and work in the same studio) are in a creative retreat this weekend. We've started co-writing creator-owned books together, and instead of working from the studio, we thought it'd be nice to get some fresh air and boost the inspiration. So we've locked ourselves up in a sweet hotel, and we've been writing for three days.

Since this morning, I've also started working on layouts for The Unstoppable Wasp #2. I'm lucky enough to have a lot of work, so I have to stick to a very strict schedule: two days to layout a whole issue, and then off to pencils for about seven or eight days, and then inks for five days. It's intense, but I find it very inspiring and it forces me to go to the essential, and get rid of everything that's not needed in the pages.

Contrary to what my style might reflect, I love drawing details in background, and tech stuff. I guess I've been really scared of drawing characters for a long time, and backgrounds felt easier and relaxing to me. And clustering the page with details is sometimes counterproductive, so having to work fast kind of forces me to move on to the next panel and keep it simple. 

Credit: Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: So what’s your process for layouts to be able to build off them so quickly into pencils and inks?

Charretier: My layouts process is pretty simple. I usually draw them on the Cintiq, but I'm doing it on the iPad Pro this weekend. I read the whole issue once, not really thinking of panel breakdown, just trying to get the feeling of the story, what are the high points of the issue. Then I go over each page once, and do real quick and rough layouts. I do the whole issue that way, then go back to the beginning, and most of time, I redo the whole thing. I re-read each panel, close my eyes, and let my brain tell me the story, as if I was watching a movie.

It's not really cerebral, the panels just unfold. I write it down, and then make sure the eyes are guided in the right direction, add some depth in the panel, and then off to the next page. If don't feel the urge of drawing just by looking at the layout when I start penciling, I'll re-work it until it works.  For me, it's a pretty good indication of whether the page is boring or interesting. 

Credit: Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: So you come from doing The Infinite Loop and some work over at DC. What made you want to come to Marvel and do The Unstoppable Wasp?

Charretier: Lots if things actually. When Marvel came to me with it, I hadn't read a script, but they pitched it like a female-driven series (which was really appealing to me), centered on action and science. Real science, engineering, chemistry, physics. Just with these two things, I was sold.

I love drawing action. In terms of layouts, I usually find it way easier than talking scenes (in which I actually always try to add some action, to a lesser degree, just to keep the characters' body moving and interacting with stuff). And like I mentioned earlier, I love drawing tech. In the first issue on its own, I've had to design a giant robot, the control room, the interior of the robot, and I'm looking forward to all the science things I have to design in the next issues. It makes my work really exciting. 

After the original pitch from Marvel, I got to read Jeremy's script, and discovered the fantastic little lady that is Nadia. I love what he's created with her. She is optimistic, and will "contaminate" everyone with her love of life and overall happiness.

Nadia had one horrible childhood. But at some point, she decided she could be happy, she could put her brain to good use, and decided to change the world. And I'm not saying "changing the world" in a corny way. She is optimistic, but not idealistic. She has a goal and a very specific plan to reach it, and I find that incredibly appealing about her. I think it's definitely an interesting take on the superhero genre.

Credit: Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: From the solicits we've gleaned that Nadia will be joined by Jarvis, Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird, and Moon Girl. Who else can readers look forward to seeing in the series?

Charretier: Lots of other characters will be featured in the story; whether they will be helping Nadia, fighting her, or both. I, for one, was extremely excited to be drawing iconic Marvel characters, and having them interacting with the new girl in town.

In the first issue, seeing Mockingbird being confronted to this new generation of heroes is hilarious, I love how Jeremy toyed with these two worlds colliding. Although we're introducing new and younger characters, we're not forgetting what and who made Marvel what it is today. Jeremy has a deep love and understanding of this universe, and it clearly shows in The Unstoppable Wasp.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: The first piece of art readers saw from this series is your cover to #1. How many computers did you take a part to get an accurate look inside for how to draw it?

Charretier:  Actually, I took a peek inside the gamer computer I put together years ago and that I now use for work. And I took it from there; although I must admit I took lots of liberties! The idea was to make it look nice and fun rather than 100% accurate.

Nrama: Given Wasp's size-changing powers, have you begun looking at other everyday items such as that to think about drawing them at vastly different scales?

Charretier: I've started looking them in relations to their environment mostly, how everything works in relationship to the surroundings. Also, the potential to draw full scale textures that you can barely see at a regular size is going to be lots of fun.

Nrama: Last question then… are there any particular environments you'd like to see Nadia shrink down and dig into?

Charretier: Growing up in the 1990s, of course I watched Honey, I Shrunk The Kids probably a million times. It was fantastic to see what the designing team did for the scenes where they're all shrunk down. The garden, the ants, the dog, the wooden floors, and even the broom were so clever. Anything like that would be so much fun to draw.

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