Podcasts
Published November 17, 2023

Read Wasp's Full 'Women of Marvel' Podcast Episode

Celebrate Janet Van Dyne's 60th anniversary with this special ‘Women of Marvel’ episode!

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

[BEEPING]

MAYA AOKI TUTTLE [ON PHONE]: Hi, I'm Maya Aoki Tuttle and I voice Wasp on Spidey and His Amazing Friends. Janet, happy birthday, you're looking good at 60.

[LAUGHTER]

[BEEPING]

ELLIE PYLE: Welcome to Women of Marvel, I'm Ellie Pyle. And if you squint at the math a little bit, I'm getting pretty close to celebrating my ninth Marvel-versary.

PREETI CHHIBBER: And I am Preeti Chhibber. And I believe that I am five Marvel years old this year.

ELLIE PYLE: But we're not really here to talk about our Marvel anniversaries.

[PARTY HORN BLOWING]

We are celebrating a big birthday today!

PREETI CHHIBBER: We are, it is Janet Van Dyne's 60th. By which I mean it's the 60th anniversary of the Wasp's first appearance in the comics.

ELLIE PYLE: But before we get too far into that, we need to talk about why we love Janet so much. And to do that we have editor extraordinaire and friend of the podcast Alanna Smith here to help us out. Alanna please introduce yourself to our listeners.

ALANNA SMITH: Hello, I'm Alanna Smith. I'm an editor in the Avengers/Marvel Heroes office at Marvel. Working mostly on Captain America and related titles but also some other stuff around the Avengers world like Scarlet Witch and recently The Wasp Anniversary Series that we released starting in January I think.

And prior to that, I worked on the two Unstoppable Wasp series starring Nadia Van Dyne rather than Janet Van Dyne.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So you're basically the perfect person to ask this question to. Which is, why do you love the Wasp and why should our listeners love the Wasp?

ALANNA SMITH: Janet is a character who has been around about as long as most other Marvel characters have been around. And I think part of the reason for that is she's extremely lovable. She's just very compassionate, very vivacious and witty and fun.

She always feels like, to me, the person who you'd super want to go shopping with but also who you could call at 3:00 AM and she would listen to you cry about something that she has no investment in. I feel like she is that person who will be ride or die for you, but in the most non-pressurey chill sort of way.

ELLIE PYLE: And don't we all need exactly that person.

ALANNA SMITH: Exactly, exactly.

ELLIE PYLE: And/or aspire to be exactly that person.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yes.

[CHUCKLING]

ALANNA SMITH: Exactly, exactly. But I mean aside from that, I think she's a character who also has kind of a mean streak to her for all that she's, like, one of the sweetest people in the Marvel U. You know, especially as she's been written in more modern comics.

Like, she will mess you up if you come at any of her people. And she will not have mercy about it. She will not be as generous and sagely as perhaps some of the other Avengers would be. When she needs to, she doesn't pull her punches.

So, in a lot of ways, she's got that kind of traditional femininity to her and all these aspects that we would associate with a character who was created, like, years and years and years ago.

But she also was able to keep up with the boys in a team that was only her as the woman in the group. And she's just a badass also. She hasn't had to give up any of the softer parts of herself to have that toughness and fieriness to her which I really like.

ELLIE PYLE: I love that so much. And not just keep up with the boys but also lead them.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah, like overtake the boys.

ELLIE PYLE: Keep those boys in line!

[LAUGHTER]

ALANNA SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. And I think in those early Avengers comics, she really is the glue holding the group together. It's a lot of strong personalities. And you kind of need that person who can convince everyone to get along and find the pieces of other people that the others will like and latch on to.

I think another really great thing about Janet is how versatile she's been able to be as a character. Like, she's a Super Hero and a fashion designer, which is a really fun combo. This isn't really like so much about her as it is about her depiction over the years.

I question some of her fashion decisions in the olden days. But I admire her boldness regardless. I think Tom told me once that there was a period of time where the bit they were trying to do with The Wasp was that, because she was a designer, she would have a different costume every time she showed up.

ELLIE PYLE: Love it. And that's Marvel Comics Executive Editor Tom Brevoort.

ALANNA SMITH: I don't think they stuck with it consistently. But that's part of why she has so, so many classic costumes. Like, we did a variant not too long ago that was all of her or as many as we could find of her various costumes over the years. And I can't follow her on all of those journeys, but I respect the audacity of them.

[LAUGHTER]

ELLIE PYLE: We will actually be talking about that cover a little bit more this episode and getting some critiques of the different looks. So stay tuned for more of that.

ALANNA SMITH: Decisions were made certainly.

[CHUCKLES]

PREETI CHHIBBER: That is a good way-- choices happened.

ELLIE PYLE: But you know, what is fashion if not choices happening?

ALANNA SMITH: Exactly, exactly.

[CHUCKLING]

ALANNA SMITH: But yeah. It does sometimes make it challenging when we're doing flashback series with her to figure out which of those costumes she was wearing. And a bunch of them were occasionally miscolored because that just tended to happen back when stuff was getting colored more traditionally.

And so I just think visually, she's also a very fun character. And I like every time we get to tweak her costume a little bit and do something fun and new with it.

I forget what comic it was, but I think there was at least one comic where it was a guy character, and his pants were riding low, and he had Van Dyne, like, branded boxers on. And I wish I could remember what it was, but I don't remember. And I think we've had Van Dyne athleisurewear before, too.

So it's also a fun in-universe brand to be like, “what's she got her fingers in this week? What's she up to? What's she designing?” It's a cool skill to have for a Super Hero.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. Costumes will always be in demand. And sign me up for the real-world Van Dyne collection. I'm in. Let's do it, let's do it.

ALANNA SMITH: Agreed, agreed.

ALANNA SMITH (ON PHONE): Janet. It's Alanna, your editor over at Marvel Comics. Just wanting to wish you a happy 60th birthday, 60 years young. And I hope your anniversary year is full of beautiful dresses and good friends and fun cocktail nights and lots of big fights that end in victory. So happy birthday, Janet.

[BEEPING]

ELLIE PYLE: Janet was a socialite and the daughter of a wealthy scientist when she showed up in Tales to Astonish #44 in 1963. Her dad Vernon was working on gamma rays and had hoped to partner with Hank Pym. But in this issue, Vernon was killed by an alien being, and Janet joins forces with Hank a.k.a. Ant-Man to avenge him.

PREETI CHHIBBER: That's a sentence that only makes sense in the Marvel Universe. But speaking of avenging, if you've ever heard of a certain little team called the Avengers, you have Janet to thank for that. She coined the team's name in the Avengers #1 after she and Hank fought Loki alongside Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk.

ELLIE PYLE: To commemorate this pivotal moment in Marvel history, we thought we'd bring you a historical reenactment.

PREETI CHHIBBER: As Ant-Man and the Wasp, respectively, here are our producers, Zachary and Isabel. They have assured us that this is going to be awesome.

[MIC TAPPING]

ZACHARY GOLDBERG: Oh, sorry, sorry. Are we rolling?

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Yeah.

ZACHARY GOLDBERG: OK, OK.

[HALTED, AWKWARD VOICE] That's right. We need a name.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: [AWKWARD, DECLARATIVE VOICE] It should be colorful and dramatic like the Avengers! Or?

ZACHARY GOLDBERG: Or nothing. [DRAMATIC VOICE] Or nothing. That's it. The Avengers!

[NORMAL VOICE] Now-- now I'm Iron Man? Uhm. [DECLARATIVE VOICE] We'll fight together or separately if need be.

[LASER GUN SHOOTING]

If need be!

ISABEL ROBERTSON: [NORMAL VOICE] Oh, is this me? I thought you were doing Hulk. No, that's you.

[DEEP VOICE] I pity the guy who tries to beat us.

ZACHARY GOLDBERG: [BAD NORWEGIAN ACCENT] We'll never be beaten. [NORMAL VOICE] Oh, sorry. I'm Thor now. [BAD NORWEGIAN ACCENT] We'll never be beaten for we are-- [NORMAL VOICE] you ready?

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Yeah.

ZACHARY GOLDBERG: Like we rehearsed. One, two, three.

ZACHARY GOLDBERG AND ISABEL ROBERTSON: The Avengers! [MICROPHONE FEEDBACK]

[THUNDER ROARS]

[ECHOING]

ZACHARY GOLDBERG: Are we done?

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Yes we can cut now.

ELLIE PYLE: Well . . . okay.

[GIGGLING]

Thanks, Zachary and Isabel!

PREETI CHHIBBER: Janet has long been known through her relationships to others. Vernon Van Dyne's daughter, Ant-Man's partner. Of course she's a strong, independent woman, but Janet does highly value her relationships.

ELLIE PYLE: These days, she's the mother figure to her stepdaughter Nadia, who has both taken Janet's last name and shares her Wasp moniker. She's a mentor to Spider-Gwen on Earth #65 and gave her her web shooters. And she is a generous and supportive friend to characters like She-Hulk. Here to talk more about that is She-Hulk writer, Rainbow Rowell.

RAINBOW ROWELL: When I was getting ready to write She-Hulk, I went back and read all of She-Hulk's appearances and got to know the Wasp through She-Hulk and through her friendship with She-Hulk. Janet is kind of a big sister to Jen.

I'm sure for-- in the Wasp's life, she doesn't feel like she has everything together. But usually when she shows up for She-Hulk, She-Hulk is at her wits' end. And the Wasp is coming in to help her. It will be like “let's go shopping for some clothes that fit you,” or “here's a place for you to stay.”

In the original Sensational She-Hulk, it's the Wasp who has this fabulous apartment, and she lets Jen stay. And then that fabulous apartment becomes like one of the characters in Sensational She-Hulk. When Jan shows up, she always shows up for Jen in a really tender, supportive way.

And the character of She-Hulk more often shows up for other people. So Jen is more likely to be the person who's helping out, who's getting called to help out. And Jan and Jen have kind of a unique relationship because Jan is someone who She-Hulk has asked for help. She's not just the helper, but she's getting some help, and she can lean on Jan.

I also found Jan to be really fun to write. She's a lot girlier than She-Hulk. She's always looking cute. She's designing her own clothes. She's got a great house, a great car. She can have this really lovely, confident, breezy way about her. So for me as a writer, she's just very fun to bring on the page as this real force. And she's small, but she brings so much confidence and swagger.

When I was working on Runaways, Kris Anka, the artist, really liked Jan as a character and was always sneaking in Van Dyne designs into the Runaways characters. So if you go back to the Runaways, you'll see Carolina especially is wearing Van Dyne a lot of the time.

RAINBOW ROWELL (ON PHONE): Happy birthday, Janet.

[BEEPING]

ELLIE PYLE: You can keep up with Rainbow's work by following her at @RainbowRowell on Instagram or by heading over to rainbowrowell.com. And don't forget to pick up Sensational She-Hulk this October.

PREETI CHHIBBER: As both Alanna and Rainbow have mentioned, one thing Janet does do for and by herself is run a business as a fashion designer. She designs clothes and Super Hero costumes, including her own.

ELLIE PYLE: We spoke to fashion lover and Marvel's Associate Manager of Talent Relations, Emily Newcomen, about how she incorporates her love of fashion into her work on variant covers and what she thinks of Wasp's many looks over the years, including that cover that we were discussing with Alanna earlier.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: The bulk of my days consists of variant covers, getting them cast, and getting them made from concept to completion, and sending them off on their merry way.

ELLIE PYLE: And in case we have listeners who don't know, what is a variant cover, and how does it differ from a regular cover?

EMILY NEWCOMEN: I didn't know either when I first started, so I'm happy to explain it! It's essentially a special edition cover. The art is different than the main cover, and it's a little more collectible.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I also heard that you are pretty into clothes and fashion. And I am so interested in hearing how you got interested in that and what you love so much about fashion.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: I am. I mean, it started from the very beginning. Both my grandmothers are pretty fabulous, so that laid the groundwork for that. I ended up going to the Fashion Institute of Technology for college, which is in Manhattan. I first started in illustration, and then I moved on to marketing.

But because it's FIT, everything that you do is based in the world of fashion. I like to make sure that our characters are looking their best when they're outside of their normal costumes. Like, a lot of, like, Mary Jane and Emma Frost, I'll always make sure that they're dressed to the nines if I can have a say.

ELLIE PYLE: And you started doing best-dressed lists on Twitter, right? Tell us a bit about that.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: I did. Basically it was something that I would do to bring a different sort of attention to the books that were on sale that day. I would do it every Wednesday -- New Comic Book Day.

So for a few weeks in advance, I'll go through PDFs with all of the books. I'll keep a few tabs open of the contenders, and then I'll whittle it down to three choices. And then I post it. And if you're interested in styling or fashion the way I am, it may draw you to pick up one of our comic books.

ELLIE PYLE: What kind of stuff do you look for?

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Well, for my best-dressed picks, I don't choose usual costumes. Like, I wouldn't choose Spider-Man in his normal iconic costume because he wears it all the time, and we see it all the time.

But if there's a new design that is featured or debuts in that issue that is chosen, that qualifies. Characters need to be named. It can't just be like a really good-looking, well-dressed pedestrian on a panel.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I'm not going to lie. I kind of want to see the best-dressed list of background pedestrians, though.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: I could start doing that.

[LAUGHTER]

ELLIE PYLE: That could be a good theme for, like, one week. Just do like-- or like one month. Who are our best dressed civilians?

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Right. “Who's this John Doe in the background? He looks great. Is that a three-piece suit?”

PREETI CHHIBBER: By the way, listeners at home, if you want to see Emily's best-dressed lists, you can follow her on Twitter @EmilyNewcomen.

I think someone else who has a great love and appreciation for fashion and someone we're here to celebrate today is the Wasp, of course. So how do you think that Janet's love and experience in fashion might come into play in her Super Hero life?

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Well, I know she has a multitude of different costumes that she rotates through. She's not like a one-and-done type, where we usually see, again, Spider-Man in the same costume in every issue.

PREETI CHHIBBER: My poor guy!

[LAUGHTER]

ELLIE PYLE: He changes it up occasionally.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Sometimes, sometimes! But I know that she has a few different options. And who wouldn't want options? You want to wear the same thing every day? Especially when you have some hard work to do? No! So that's something that I really like.

ELLIE PYLE: So we have a cover that we want to show you. And it's Russell Dauterman's variant cover for Wasp #1 that--

EMILY NEWCOMEN: I love this man.

ELLIE PYLE: We all do, we all do. And so you mentioned that Wasp has a bunch of different looks. And he used many of them, most of them - all of them? - on this cover.

So we'd love for you to take a look and call out some of the things that you notice about the outfits in this piece. Listeners, if you want to follow along visually, the cover is linked in our show notes.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Russell Dauterman did a beautiful job of encapsulating all of Janet's costumes onto one cover. So there are many, many Wasps on this cover. Her costumes throughout time are all here, they're all spread out, so you have a really good view of Janet's style throughout the course of time. They're all so different, and they're all so colorful.

PREETI CHHIBBER: They are all so bombastic. Like, all of them are so fun to look at.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: You could also tell how long she's been doing this just based on the styles he's included. This 60s go-go costume for Janet at the bottom, it has that classic 60s iconic miniskirt, a green with a halter neck, a blueish belt, and matching go-go boots, of course.

She reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore in that she's from that era, the 60s, has the haircut, and she just kind of gives me that air of a happy vibe, too. I love her, Mary Tyler Moore. She's an icon.

ELLIE PYLE: Do you have a favorite of these looks other than, you mentioned the 60s one, but any other favorites?

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Love the 60s go-go that's like a time that I'm drawn to. I also really dig the white with the blue detailing behind the pink-antenna-big-hair situation. That was fun and seems like it could fit in any decade.

ELLIE PYLE: Just for fun, I'll ask you one of the most contentious questions in comics, which is heels or no on Super Heroes?

PREETI CHHIBBER: Ooh.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: I am not a hater of the heels on Super Heroes because I feel like if you can navigate a wedding in them alone, you are a Super Hero in fact. I don't mind them. I like when they do that wedge, that sneaker wedge thing, too, though because there's some support to that.

ELLIE PYLE: My feelings' always been if I had Super Powers, I'd wear heels all the time.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Right. Like, you're not going to have the same leg pain the next day. If you're good, you might as well look great!

ELLIE PYLE: I would like that in my power set, being able to wear awesome shoes.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Yeah.

PREETI CHHIBBER: All the benefits, none of the issues.

ELLIE PYLE: Exactly, exactly. Thank you so much, Emily, for coming on Women of Marvel today. We'd love to have you come back anytime.

EMILY NEWCOMEN: Thank you for having me.

EMILY NEWCOMEN (ON PHONE): Happy birthday, Janet. Wear something cute. Go out to dinner. Go fly somewhere. [CHUCKLES]

[BEEPING]

[JAZZY THEME MUSIC]

PREETI CHHIBBER: [ALARM SOUND] We interrupt this program to bring you Brad.

[ECHOING]

BRAD BARTON: Hello!

PREETI CHHIBBER: Brad Barton is our Senior Development Manager. Now, Brad told us he really likes the show so far, and he wants to contribute. And we love Brad!

ELLIE PYLE: We sure do, but there's a lot going on this episode, so Brad, we can give you nine seconds. Go.

BRAD BARTON: Nine seconds. Hey Preeti, hey Ellie, big fan of the show. Long-time listener, first-time caller. Bees! Oh! They're crazy, right?

ELLIE PYLE: Yep, but we're talking about Wasp, not bees. Thanks, Brad.

BRAD BARTON: Sure thing. See yah! Thanks! Bye!

[JAZZY THEME MUSIC]

PREETI CHHIBBER: Love Brad. I guess he does bring up a good question, though. Are bees and wasps related? And why do people like bumblebees and hate wasps?

ELLIE PYLE: I bet our producer Isabel knows someone who can answer that.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: I do!

SEIRIAN SUMNER: My name is Seirian Sumner, and I am a professor of Behavioral Ecology at University College London. And I study mostly wasps, and I've just written a book and published a popular science book about wasps called Endless Forms: Why We Should Love Wasps.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Speaking of which, I was really interested in an article you published in 2018 called "Why We Love Bees and Hate Wasps." And your book is titled Why We Should Love Wasps. So what's that all about? What's the answer? Why do we love bees and hate wasps?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Well, that's a really good question. So we do know the answer, I think. But a bit of a backstory is that I've been studying wasps for over 25 years. And I was getting a little bit fed up with people asking me what I do for a living.

And I'd say, “oh I study wasps.” And they'd go, “ooh, but wasps are really evil! I hate them. Oh, they're always out to get you.”

ISABEL ROBERTSON: “They’re scary!”

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Yeah, exactly! And I'd say, “no, no, they're not, they're really cool. They're super interesting. You should love them! They're amazing.”

And people wouldn't be convinced, and they'd come away saying, “well, why don't you study bees instead? Bees are much more useful and cute and cuddly.”

So this paper that you mentioned, "Why We Love Bees and Hate Wasps" was basically a public survey trying to find out what the public really did think about wasps and bees and trying to get to the bottom of this question of why people appear to hate wasps and love bees.

The evidence that we collected proved the obvious, which is that people really do hate wasps and people really do love bees. But what was really interesting is that the reason why people don't like wasps is because they don't understand what they do in the environment.

People have a really good understanding of what bees do. You can stop a random person on the street and ask them, “hey, what do bees do?” And they'll go, “oh, they're really important for pollination, and we depend on them for our food and livelihood and health and wellness.”

Whereas if you ask somebody, “what do wasps do?” They'll go, “oh, they're just out to get me. They just annoy. They're there to annoy us. They're there to sting us. There's no point to wasps.”

So people don't understand that wasps are actually really important as nature's pest controllers, as pollinators, as decomposers. So they have real important roles that they play in the environment.

And I think that's why people don't like wasps because bees sting just as wasps sting, and yet people tolerate the fact that bees sting because people understand what they do. Wasps sting, and without any reason to sort of excuse them for their bad behavior occasionally, why would anyone like them? It's perfectly reasonable.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Sure. They don't make honey. We don't understand it.

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Well, actually, a few of them do make honey.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Oh, do they?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Yeah.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Wow!

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Yeah. They're something called the honey wasp that makes a little bit of honey. It's not really enough for us to harvest. And they're quite large colonies with many thousands of individuals. So it's quite difficult to keep them. But yeah, there are wasps that produce honey.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: So we wouldn't find them at the Farmers Market next weekend?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Um, no.

[LAUGHING]

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Well, that's so interesting, though. So they do make honey. What first got you interested in them? Why are you drawn to them?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Well, I wasn't at all drawn to them. I was that general public on the street who didn't like wasps, saw no point of them. But what really interested me about biology was animal behavior and trying to understand how and why animals behave in the way that they do.

And I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was offered this PhD place, which would be studying the evolution of group living, evolution of social behavior, which is super interesting and exciting.

And it just so happened that the study organism was wasps. So I was kind of fooled into studying wasps. The wasps that I worked on, they're these hover wasps from Southeast Asia. And they're very gentle, and they barely sting you. And they're lovely to work on.

And I think there was also a little bit for me in that-- the fact that other people didn't like wasps, and I'd seen how amazing they were, gave me a little bit of grit between my teeth that I'm going to try and make a difference for the wasps, you know. I really want people to see the magic that I've seen and I enjoy.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: So how do you, when you talk about studying wasps, like these hover wasps, how do you study them? Like, what does that look on a day-to-day basis?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: What we do is we actually paint them.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Oh, wow.

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Or we give them little number tags that we stick on their backs. And then we can watch the interactions between the different individuals. So every wasp on the nest that we study is an individual who is, in her own right, fighting for her own way to pass on her genes to the next generation.

In these really simple societies like these hover wasps in Malaysia, all the individuals on the nest are capable of being the queen. But there is only one queen at any one time. And so it's really interesting in addressing questions about why some wasps will stay at home and help raise the brood of the queen rather than go off and start their own colony.

So that's why they're really useful for addressing those questions about how group living organisms evolved in the first place.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: So we often hear the term "queen bee." We could just as easily say "queen wasp."

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Absolutely.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Are bees and wasps related? What's the distinction there?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Yeah, so bees are actually descended from wasps. They evolved from a wasp-like ancestor. And so bees are essentially wasps who have forgotten how to hunt. They're vegetarian wasps.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Interesting.

SEIRIAN SUMNER: And ants evolved from wasps as well. They are simply wasps that have forgotten how to fly, largely. It's only the sexuals that fly. So yeah. So bees are just a vegetarian wasp which has become specialized instead to collect pollen and specialized to rear their larvae on pollen rather than prey.

Because wasps hunt prey. They hunt a wide diversity of insects and arthropods to feed to the brood or to grow their brood on. And actually, that's one of the reasons why we should really learn to love wasps, is because in a world without wasps, we would have to use a lot more chemicals to kill the other insects.

So wasps are really important for regulating the populations of other insects like flies and caterpillars and crop pests and pests in our garden or spiders. The species of wasps that gives wasps a bad reputation are, of course, the yellowjacket wasps. The vespula.

And those wasps are just like honey bees in that they live in these huge, super organismal societies with a single queen and tens of thousands of workers just like a honeybee colony.

And the queen is laying all the eggs, and all the workers are her daughters, and they are helping raise the brood of the queen. So they're helping raise siblings. And that's how they pass on their genes.

So everything that is incredible about honey bees in terms of their social behavior, their altruism, their cooperation and conflict, and how they resolve that, and their organization and division of labor, all of that happens in wasps as well.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: I love the image of the raising of the next generation of female wasps. It also feels very similar to our character the Wasp, which is, of course, why we're here.

She is very much a mentor to her stepdaughter Nadia, also named the Wasp, and the relationship between the two of them is very much one of mentorship and sort of raising the next generation. So I love that there's that parallel also.

SEIRIAN SUMNER: That's fantastic. I absolutely love that. In my book, I talk a lot about how wasps are depicted in popular culture and how they've influenced films, for example, or literature.

And they're normally depicted as the gangster of the insect world. They'll be the aggressive, evil one. And yet you know your Marvel characters of the Wasp -- I think it's lovely. I think the storyline there is really, really positive messaging about wasps. So thank you. It's great.

[LAUGHS]

ISABEL ROBERTSON: In case anyone is still, at this point, a little suspicious of a wasp, in case you already haven't convinced them by this point, what would you say to someone who hates wasps? How would you go about convincing them to change their mind?

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Well, I think they should spend time watching wasps. And next time that wasp visits them at their picnic, don't flap around and shout because if you flap and shout, you're behaving like their predator, and no wonder they're going to sting you.

Sit and watch the wasp. See what she wants. And she'll probably want a little bit of your chicken or your barbecue sausage or maybe jam, if it's late in the season, or maybe your beer, if she's after some sugar.

Perhaps you'll see that she's not out to get you all the time. And also remember that the reason why she's come to your picnic, particularly if she's after meat at your picnic, is because she is nature's pest controller. She is looking for meat.

Sometimes that meat is alive, so it will be live insects like caterpillars that would otherwise be eating your cabbages and your lettuces or flies or aphids that plague your tomato plants.

The wasps are there in the ecosystem as a top predator, and they are keeping all of those other insect populations at bay. And they are truly fascinating, and they represent possibly the most species-rich group of insects.

There are over 100,000 species of wasps in the world described. There's probably five times that yet to be described. And at a time when insects are declining across the globe, we need to be caring for all insects, not just those that have the champions, the bees.

You can buy your bee merchandise, your bee mug, your “I love Bees” bag or t-shirt or whatever. We need to be loving all the insects, and that includes the wasps.

ISABEL ROBERTSON: Absolutely. Well, you have definitely convinced me. I am now a new wasp fan.

SEIRIAN SUMNER: Excellent.

[BEEPING]

SEIRIAN SUMNER (ON PHONE): And I'd like to wish a very happy birthday to Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp.

[BEEPING]

[THEME MUSIC]

PREETI CHHIBBER: Hey Brad, if you're listening, we ended up talking about bees. Thanks for the idea.

BRAD BARTON (ON PHONE): No problem!

ELLIE PYLE: If you want to learn more about wasps from Dr. Sumner, check out her book anywhere you buy books. It's called Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps. And if you want to learn more about our Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, good news. We have a Marvel Unlimited reading list for you. Robyn, take it away.

[HARP MUSIC PLAYING]

ROBYN BELT: We sure do. And I am so excited to talk about Miss Van Dyne. And listeners, we will be linking to the issues in this reading list in the show notes so you can follow along with our Wasp reading.

We're going to start things off with her very first appearance in Tales to Astonish issue #44. That's from the 1959 series. So you know it's a classic and a goodie. This is the very first appearance of the Wasp when she met Ant-Man.

And I thought-- we have to start at the beginning because this is a 60th anniversary celebration. I love Jan's first appearance. She's rocking this super fierce tailored skirt suit. And this is a beautiful depiction of her as socialite-to-Super Hero in the blink of an eye.

And she undergoes her transformation as the Wasp with an immense amount of courage following the death of her dad. So her Super Heroic origin is on the heels of her father's death, and she steps up to the plate to avenge him.

Our next issue is Avengers issue #167 from the Avengers first volume starting in 1963. This is Janet Van Dyne, the fashion designer. This is her first ever fashion show on Park Avenue. And unfortunately, it's crashed . . .by the Porcupine?

[GIGGLES]

PREETI CHHIBBER: I love the Porcupine.

ROBYN BELT: I did until he crashed Miss Van Dyne's fashion show.

PREETI CHHIBBER: They needed more needles.

ELLIE PYLE: Some things needed mending.

ROBYN BELT: It's actually beautifully thematic now that I think about it. But I also love that she just fights him in this really cool Grecian toga midi dress and heels. It's just very Janet.

Our next issue is Avengers #221 from the exact same run. So in issue #217, Janet is nominated as the Avengers Chairwoman, and she accepts. She rises to the responsibilities of leadership, and she is an emotionally intelligent leader.

She is compassionate, and she knows how to network. We find out that she has casual connections in the White House. So having this—

PREETI CHHIBBER: Sure.

ROBYN BELT: Yeah, I mean, naturally. She's this perfect social butterfly.

And we see how having a woman and a socialite at the helm of the Avengers is actually a very good thing both for public image and for the team at large. I chose this issue because she is Chairwoman Wasp, and her first mission is to recruit more women for Earth's mightiest heroes.

So we have a Super Powered superwoman brunch featuring Spider-Woman, Dazzler, Black Widow, the Invisible Woman, and She-Hulk are all contenders to be the very next Avenger.

PREETI CHHIBBER: The perfect meal.

ROBYN BELT: Absolutely. Our next issue is Avengers #224. I chose this issue because even though it is a delicate period in Jan's personal life, she has a little bit of fun . . . with Tony Stark. Yes.

I think it's a perfect match. They seem like very expensive people, and they have a really good time. And it's a very short-lived fling, but it actually picks up again much, much later in comic book history.

But yeah, this was the very first flirtation of Tony Stark and Janet. She actually didn't know that Tony Stark was Iron Man. So that kind of threw a wrench into the works. But this is Janet Van Dyne, media darling, tabloid socialite. You love it. It's great.

Our next issue is Secret Invasion issue #8. This is the concluding issue from the Secret Invasion event from 2008. So I love this issue because it really epitomizes heroic sacrifice. Janet dies, quote-unquote, in this issue. But even as she's going out, she's trying to save civilian life and take out as many of the infiltrating Skrulls as possible.

Thankfully, we find out in Avengers issue #32 from 2010, she wasn't dead! She just shrunk down, and she's been living in the microverse. So Janet has a long history in the microverse. And the Avengers pluck her out, they take her back into the fold, and it's like she never left.

And finally, our last issue, Wasp issue #1 from 2023. This is a new ongoing run and a great way to kick off Janet Van Dyne's sixth decade. Here's the run to start with, I think, if you're new to comics.

So it offers a recap about how Jan became the Wasp. And in the present, she's actually trying to open this exclusive Super Hero bar-slash-lounge. So it's a new business venture. She's opening an entrepreneurial chapter. She pays a visit to her stepdaughter Nadia.

So we get a little bit more backstory on Nadia Pym, who is also the Unstoppable Wasp. And unfortunately, they're both attacked by Whirlwind in this first issue, and that is a villain who has a long, long history with Janet. And none of it is very good. So start with this run, and just keep reading. That is unfolding now on Marvel Unlimited.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. I'm so excited about Nadia and her relationship with Janet. I think that's been a lot of fun to read.

ROBYN BELT: For sure, yeah. I mean, we see Jan the mentor, too.

ROBYN BELT (ON PHONE): Hi Janet, it is Robyn, the Manager of Editorial Content for Marvel Unlimited. And I just have to wish you a happy birthday. You are absolutely fabulous, Wasp. We love you!

[BEEPING]

ELLIE PYLE: All right, that's it for this week. Next week, on Women of Marvel, we are untangling the complex web of the multiverse with Spider-Gwen.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Until then. Women of Marvel is produced by Isabel Robertson, Zachary Goldberg, Ellie Pyle, and Preeti Chhibber.

ELLIE PYLE: Our Senior Manager of Audio Development is Brad Barton. Production Manager is Emily Godfrey, and our Executive Producer is Jill Du Boff.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Special thanks to our comics correspondent, Robyn Belt.

ELLIE PYLE: Listen weekly on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Ellie Pyle.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I'm Preeti Chhibber.

ELLIE PYLE: And this is Marvel.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Your universe.

[BEEPING]

ELLIE PYLE AND PREETI CHHIBBER (ON PHONE): Happy birthday, Janet.

[CHUCKLES]

Sorry. Try again.

OK. 1, 2. Happy birthday, Janet.

[BEEPS]

[THEME MUSIC]

Women of Marvel: Wasp
Women of Marvel: Wasp
Celebrating 60 years of Janet Van Dyne, AKA the founding Avenger Wasp! Learn how this stalwart member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has been a leader, a mentor, and a friend while cutting her own path as a fashion designer and super hero.
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