Hank Pym has created more of a legacy than just rebellious robots and his codename 'Ant-Man' - specifically, a daughter he never knew about. And she’s about to make her own impression on the Marvel Universe in a big way.
This week's Unstoppable Wasp #1 by writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier focuses on Nadia Pym - the previously-unknown daughter of Pym's from his first marriage, continuing in her adventures under the codename of his second wife.
Newsarama talked to Whitley to get the scoop on this upcoming book – and how this Wasp is going to focus on heroics in more than just fighting the bad guys.
Newsarama: Jeremy, tell us about the new Wasp and the set-up for this series.
Jeremy Whitley: The new Wasp's name is Nadia. She is the daughter of Hank Pym and his first wife, Maria Travoya. During Hank's early years in science he worked with a Hungarian scientist and fell in love with his daughter, Maria. During their honeymoon, Maria was kidnapped and never seen again, later revealed to have died while captured.
What no one knew until recently is that when she was kidnapped, Maria was pregnant. Nadia was born in a facility and recruited into the Red Room program, where she was trained to be an assassin.
However, after a few years they saw that Nadia shared Hank's gift for science and made her part of a new initiative to create their own super scientists, with the aim of upping their ability from killing single targets to being able to fulfill contracts on groups of people, companies, even nation states.
Nadia was one of their stars. They tasked her with reproducing her own father's work into Pym Particles. Nadia was able to replicate the process, but used it to escape the Red Room and head to America, where she is following in her late father's footsteps as a super hero and super scientist.
Nrama: How did you come to be involved with the series, and what is most appealing to you about the character of Nadia?
Whitley: I had worked with Tom Brevoort's office on a few occasions for both my Kate Bishop A Year of Marvels comic and my Misty Knight and Iron Fist Secret Wars: Secret Love story, and I had been keeping after Tom about letting me know if there were any new books I could pitch to work on.
When Unstoppable Wasp came up, Tom, who knew all about my creator-owned series Princeless, suggested I might be a good fit for a fun new book with a teenage girl as the heroine. He mentioned it to me, and I was sold on writing for Nadia right away.
I had read her introduction in the Free Comic Book Day book and the All-New All-Different Avengers series and I loved that she had this indomitable spirit. She was raised without a family in this assassin school, but the first chance she had, she broke away to go find her father. When she arrived and found out her father was dead, she allows herself one quick cry, and then immediately sets off to follow in his legacy.
It's impossible to discourage her. Even after everything that happens, her first reaction is to be optimistic.
Nrama: What kinds of friends and foes will Nadia be encountering, and what makes how she responds to situations distinct from her dad, Janet, or other Marvel Universe heroes?
Whitley: Nadia will be putting together her own lab full of girl geniuses like herself. She is setting out to make as big an impact as possible, and she can't do everything she wants to do alone. Readers will be introduced to a few brand new geniuses that Elsa and I have worked together to create - and I think they're going to fall in love with them fast.
Beyond that, we'll also be bringing in some of the best and brightest from the Marvel Universe. Just in the first couple of issues we have guest appearances by Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird, and Moon Girl.
As far as villains, Nadia will have a healthy combination of new and classic bad guys. We'll see some classic Ant-Man villains, but also some new ones who are unique to Nadia and her crew. In our preview for the first issue, we've already shown off her conflict with the amazing Monica Rappaccini, a female genius who is the opposite number to Nadia in a lot of ways.
Nrama: Tell us about working with Elsa. What does she bring to the book, and what is your collaborative process like?
Whitley: Elsa is amazing to work with. I could not be more excited about collaborating with an artist. She brings so much to the table.
To start with, her style is beautiful and reminds me a lot of the late great Darwyn Cooke, whose pages I used to just stop and stare at when I read a comic he worked on. If that weren't intimidating enough, she's full of great ideas. She's always bringing me ideas about page format, character design, and even reworkings of some of the scenes to make the book better.
I couldn't be happier with what she brings to the book, and I know it's going to wow our readers!
Nrama: And you will be looking at famous female scientists in the letters page. Tell us about what you'll be doing, and why this is important to you?
Whitley: So I had always wanted to have a letters page in this book, because I love the Marvel tradition of letters pages. But I wanted to do something special with it, and I wasn't sure what.
Elsa came up with the idea of profiling female scientists for Twitter or Tumblr to promote the book, so I suggested we integrate the two ideas. Rather than profiling people from the past though, I wanted to talk to women who were working in science and changing the world right now.
The letters column is hosted by Nadia, with the concept of using it to recruit new lady scientists to her lab. Her lab is named G.I.R.L. (Genius In action Research Labs), so the letters page is “Agents of G.I.R.L.”. We're also using the hashtage #AgentsOfGIRL on twitter for suggestion on who to profile in future issues.
It's important to us because the question of recruiting more women in to STEM fields is not unique to comics. A number of girls who are full of potential are either actively or passively discouraged from continuing their science studies.
I'm a big fan of the idea that when girls can see other girls and women are doing the things they dream of doing, it can give them the encouragement they need to become the amazing scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who shape our future.
Nrama: What is Nadia's relationship like with Janet, the memory of her dad, or the whole increasingly complicated Pym/Ultron/other family?
Whitley: Well, the only members of her family she's really met at this point are Janet and Vision. Vision has been a bit preoccupied since her arrival, but Janet has really... ahem... taken her under her wing.
I think the dynamic between Nadia and Janet is infinitely interesting. There's nothing Janet can teach her about science. Nadia already knows more about that than Janet is ever likely to. However, Janet is just the sort of mentor Nadia needs. What Nadia really lacks are social skills and the common knowledge that comes from having friends and being part of the world. Having been locked away for her whole life has robbed Nadia of that.
The other closest thing Nadia has to family right now is Jarvis, who has taken it upon himself to watch out for her. Jarvis has no idea what he's gotten himself into.
Nrama: Hey, the original Wasp changed costumes a lot...a lot. Will Nadia follow in those footsteps or will she aim for more consistent couture?
Whitley: Oh, Nadia has her own sense of style altogether and we'll certainly see some change ups in her look as we go. Elsa is an amazing designer of characters and clothing, so I'd have to be a fool to leave Nadia in one costume all the time.
Nrama: Hey, the original Wasp sometimes told sci-if stories to orphans and vets for...some reason. Will Nadia relate her own equivalents of “Beware the Bog Beast” or “Somewhere Waits a Wobbow?”
Whitley: Who knows? Maybe one of these days. Nadia is an orphan herself, after all.
Nrama: Why does the Marvel Universe need this Wasp, and what do you hope to accomplish with this book?
Whitley: I want Nadia to bring a new perspective to the Marvel Universe. She brings a level of intelligence and optimism that I think we rarely see in modern superheroes. In a lot of ways she's thoroughly modern, being a young female scientist - but I think she also hearkens back to the rich tradition of books like Fantastic Four or Doc Savage, where science, heroism, and optimism went hand in hand.
I think we're far too accustomed to seeing science linked with pessimism and certainty of doom these days. My hope is that Nadia will bring the same sense of excitement and wonder that books like Fantastic Four used to bring to readers.
Nrama: Give us the big picture of this book, Jeremy.
Whitley: Unstoppable Wasp is not the book that will change the Marvel Universe forever. There's not going to be a major death in issue one. You'll probably still be able to understand what's going on in the other monthly Marvel books if you don't read it.
Unstoppable Wasp is the book you'll want to be reading, though. It's the book that you'll pick up when you want to have fun. It's going to be the book you want to share with family and friends. If you think comics are too dark, too gritty, or not enough fun – Unstoppable Wasp is the remedy to that.
Nrama: What is next for you?
Whitley: Well, Unstoppable Wasp isn't going anywhere any time soon. The first arc will be a ton of fun and you won't want to miss a single issue. In February I have two tie-ins for Monsters Unleashed - both Champions #1.MU with Ro Stein and Ted Brandt and All-New X-Men #1.MU with Carlo Barberi.
If you like fun comics about teen heroes fighting giant ancient evils, these are the books for you.
As far as creator-owned books, new volumes of both of Princeless and Raven: The Pirate Princess will be coming out from Action Lab in the new year. I also have several new creator-owned titles that are looking for a home, so hopefully you'll be seeing some of those in 2017.