The Secret Origin of JEREMY WHITLEY (And His Love of All-Ages Stories)

Jeremy Whitley & daughter
Jeremy Whitley & daughter
Credit: The Charlotte Geeks
Jeremy Whitley
Jeremy Whitley
Credit: Jamie Noguchi

Jeremy Whitley is a rising star at Marvel Comics with his fan favorite run on The Unstoppable Wasp, that found a second life with the first volume’s high trade sales. Whitley will be concluding his run this July with issue 10 of Wasp’s second volume. In August, Whitley will be leaving the micro-verse to explore the cosmic side of Marvel Comics by launching his run on The Future Foundation with Power Pack members Alex and Julie Power at the helm.

Newsarama had a chance to talk to Whitley about his career in comic books. Including, how Jeremy broke into Marvel Comics, his love for creator owned work and second tier mainstream characters, an update on Sony Pictures’ Princeless movie adaptation, and the importance of all-ages comic books.

Newsarama: Jeremy, when did you fall in love with the comic book medium, and when did you decide you wanted to write comic books?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Jeremy Whitley: I've been in love with comics since probably kindergarten or first grade. My dad, my brother, and I used to walk a few blocks across town to the local comic book shop. I think it started with my brother and I passionately collecting the Marvel trading cards and my dad reading comics to us, then eventually my brother and I were picking out our own comics.

When we moved to Western North Carolina, comics and I took kind of a long break, as there was no local shop near us, but we were reunited in college and our bond has never been closer.

Credit: Jason Strutz (Action Lab Entertainment)

Nrama: What was the process of getting your first comic book off the ground?

Whitley: It was a lot of false starts. I met a lot of artists who swore up and down that they wanted to get into comics, but I think the reality of what that workload is like ends up scaring a lot of people off.  Eventually I started working with my friend Jason Strutz on our first comic (which we self-published) called The Order of Dagonet. I still think it's one of the best pure premises I've ever come up with and it's a ton of fun, but we never quite found room for it in the comic market.

Credit: David Nakayama (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: After the success of Princeless you had a chance to work for Marvel. How did Marvel approach you? What was that first pitch meeting like?

Whitley: Well, for a while it was more about me approaching Marvel. I would email editors to mixed success letting them know what I had been doing and what I wanted to work on. Sometimes they would get back to me, sometimes they wouldn't.

Eventually, Tom Brevoort asked for samples of my work that he could keep on hand for assistant editors in his office to look through when they were looking for writers for upcoming books. From there, I got asked to do a couple of short stories in event anthology books. They were little eight-page stories and usually I would have a theme of a concept of what I needed to be writing going in and the editor and I would sit down and hack something out. I was pleasantly surprised by how few "no"s I got on those stories, but it might be because I love a lot of characters who are considered second tier and therefore easier to get access to.

Credit: Ted Brandt/Rosy Higgins (Action Lab Entertainment)

Nrama: What’s it been like seeing your work for Princeless adapted into a movie? Have you been heavily involved in the project?

Whitley: It's been incredible. We're still pretty early in the process, but getting to read the script and see what other people took from my story and what they thought it was about was really fascinating. I'm excited to see where we go from here.

Nrama: Would you like to see any of your other works adapted into other media?

Whitley: Absolutely. I'm not the sort of person who is particularly precious about the format of my stories. A lot of the stories I tell, I tell because I think we need stories like them out there. As long as my themes and representation stay intact, I don't see a downside to reaching a larger audience.

Credit: Jamal Campbell (Marvel Comics)

Nrama: Are there any characters you haven’t worked on that you would love to write?

Whitley: Absolutely. At Marvel I'd love to do more stuff with the Young Avengers and X-Men characters, as well as the Runaways. Those are all characters who have meant a great deal to me at different times in my life. I've gotten to write a few of them in supporting roles, but I'd love to be able to get some of them the spotlight I think they deserve.

On the DC end, I'd also love to write Vixen, Orphan, Black Canary, and Wonder Woman. They're such great characters and especially in the case of everybody but Wonder Woman in that list, don't get the love they deserve.

Nrama: What advice do you have for creators wanting to break into the industry?

Credit: Gurihiru (Marvel Comics)

Whitley: It's a strange industry in that there is no one formal way in. The best you can do is to start making the kind of art you love to make. If you start doing it well, you might get the opportunity to do it on a bigger stage, but the most important thing is that you do what you love.  If you never get another job out of it, you'll still have a book that you love. If you do get a job out of it, then you're more likely to get a job that's like the stuff you actually enjoy writing.

Nrama: What do you enjoy about writing indie books and work-for_hire titles? Would you like to continue doing both?

Whitley: Yeah, doing both is the ideal. I love working within these established universes and telling stories with characters that I've been reading for years, but I also love creating my own worlds.  To the same point, there's something nice about not having to create everything from the ground up.

Credit: M Goowin (Action Lab Entertainment)

Nrama: Your work primarily focuses on all-ages/coming of age stories. What do you like about this form of storytelling?

Whitley: I feel like this is the home of what's made comics great. All-ages comics are the foundation of modern comics. Telling stories that offer hope to kids and adults alike is important. There's a place for dark and scary stories, and I have a few of those pitches too, but comics are about hope, love, and justice for me. And while I'm unlikely to say that the world needs another gritty deconstruction of the superhero mythos, we do need hope. We always need hope.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: The Unstoppable Wasp had one of the rare occurrences of a second life. What was it like jumping back into that title and what can you tell us about the final chapters of the series?

Whitley: It felt great. As much as I love writing ongoing books, having an entire year spent thinking about what you would have done with a book and then getting a chance to do it is a rare occurrence. It was also remarkably easy to get back into Nadia and Janet's respective voices when it came time. They're both wonderful characters and I loved having the chance to get to hang out with them again.

Credit: Wil Robson (Marvel Comics)

The final three issues of this volume revolve around an event we've been setting up since the first issue of this series - the GIRL Expo.  Nadia's lab mates and a number of other girl geniuses will be taking the opportunity to show the amazing projects they've been working on since back in volume 1. But of course these things never go as planned in the Marvel Universe and A.I.M. will be making a play to neutralize Nadia and Janet and steal these geniuses and their work. It's going to be down to Nadia and her friends to save the day and it's going to be a wild one!

Nrama: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

Whitley: Well, Marvel just announced that starting in August, the first issue of my new series The Future Foundation is coming out.  I'm writing it and Will Robson is drawing it and we're doing big epic Marvel Cosmic stuff with the young members of Mister Fantastic's think tank. They're being led by both long time FF member Alex Power along with his sister Julie, who is a newcomer to the FF but a long time superhero in her own right.  The first story is going to be about an epic prison break!

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