The Unstoppable Optimism of the Unstoppable Wasp
Jeremy Whitley discusses the influences and impact of Nadia Van Dyne!
Nadia Van Dyne is called the Unstoppable Wasp for a reason.
The super scientist's original series, which debuted early last year, saw its run end after just eight issues. But those eight issues packed a punch; Nadia, the Agents of G.I.R.L., and the delightfully original voice of writer Jeremy Whitley inspired a fan base so passionate that now, the series is back by popular demand. And on October 17, the inevitable return of THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP gives new meaning to the title of the book.
So, what is it about this character that fans connect with on such a deep level? What is it that truly makes her unstoppable? Jeremy has his theories. "The really neat thing to me about Nadia coming to the book, originally, was that she is in some ways sort of a throwback character to the origins of the Marvel Universe. So much of the Marvel Universe is founded on this sort of super science idea—on the back of the Fantastic Four, right? On characters like Hank Pym and Bruce Banner, who are scientists first and foremost, and then become Super Heroes out of that.
"Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of female super scientists in those older books. So to have this chance to have a character in Nadia who is, in some ways, like a Golden Age super scientist—who is excited about science and saving the world through science—is this really cool opportunity to have that sort of character for a new audience." And while the book is named after Nadia, she's not alone in leading this charge. "With her and this new generation of Moon Girl and the Agents of G.I.R.L., you have these super genius girls who are changing not just the Marvel Universe, but hopefully our universe."
And the character does it by leading by example. Maybe that's why Nadia Van Dyne connects with so many readers; she does good and is great, but she's also real. "I feel like she shares a background, in a lot of ways, with Black Widow," says the writer, "But she represents a very different point of view. In both their cases, they had big chunks of their lives taken away. In Nadia’s case, it was the first 16 or so years of her life when she was locked up in this lab and didn't have a chance to see the world. Black Widow had a similar experience and essentially decided to use these skills to bring the bad people down. But Nadia has made this very conscious decision to not be that person; she hates fighting, she doesn’t like hurting people, she wants to make the world better.
"She wants to get out there and live and do all these things that she didn’t have the chance to do," he explains. "I had her say at one point that she lost the first 16 years of her life and that she wants to make up for that time not just by being in the lab and creating things, but by being out in the world and seeing and doing everything that there is to do."
As a Super Hero, the Wasp may be defined by her super powers. But for Whitley, that isn't what matters most. "I got this from Gail Simone at a convention panel that we were on together—that when you talk about strong female characters, the word 'strong' in that phrase should be amplifying the character; the character should be 'strong,' as in well-crafted and complicated." And though Nadia has her roots in Golden Age heroism, she's a thoroughly modern character with flaws and troubles. "This is why I think people react so strongly to characters like Jessica Jones," he says, "because she is a real screw-up in a lot of ways. She’s not simply the best possible person, which is important to me.
"I think that’s also why people react so strongly to Kamala Khan; she has a life outside of being a Super Hero, and that’s important. Those first couple of issues of MS. MARVEL are doing the same work that the first couple of issues of Spider-Man were doing decades ago," Whitley notes. "Really establishing a character in the world and with a full life. So even if you aren’t a Muslim teenage girl living in Jersey City, New Jersey, there are still so many things that you can relate to.
"I think a lot of times, people think that for a character to be strong, they have to be physically strong, and they don’t necessarily pay attention to values that might be strong—things like kindness, empathy, care. You can save a person from the Abomination by being physically strong, but you can’t necessarily help that person if what’s going on in their life is not just that a giant monster is trying to attack them." Nadia Van Dyne is a Super Hero because she doesn't have to save the entire world in order to help save someone's world.
"Everybody, unless they’re very lucky, has had something bad happen to them in their life," he says, "and the idea of taking inspiration from that and moving forward, rather than letting it burden you or define you, is big for me, and it’s big for Nadia." And that's why she can't be stopped.
Order your copy of THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1, by Jeremy Whitley and artist Gurihiru, at your local comic shop now! Then read the issue on October 17!
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