Find out how Jeremy Whitley and Tamara Robertson spent Free Comic Book Day!

Most comic book fans see Free Comic Book Day as a time to score some free loot, and also a great opportunity to jump into a series they may not have read previously. But Jeremy Whitley, writer of UNSTOPPABLE WASP, and chemical and bio-molecular engineer Tamara Robertson took it up a notch. At Jeremy’s signing at Ultimate Comics in Raleigh, North Carolina, Tamara presented science demonstrations that recreated the powers of various Marvel characters. You can read more about the event here.

We followed up with Jeremy and Tamara to hear a little about how the event played out—and let’s just say, we wish we could have gone!

Marvel.com: Can you tell us about the general reaction from the audience? Did they seem engaged?

Tamara Robertson: The audience was full of energy and very excited about [Free Comic Book Day]. The tent was literally buzzing all day.

As far as my “Marvel at Science” [Super Hero] Science display, I was at a great place so the science display was in direct eye line for the audience, which drew everyone in and towards the table. There wasn’t anyone that came to the event that didn’t stop by to check out the experiments; I even had our security staff stopping by during their breaks to determine what I was up to—a few jokingly asking if I was doing “Breaking Bad” science for the kids!

Jeremy Whitley: Absolutely! We had lots of people excited about UNSTOPPABLE WASP, but I think the real star of the Free Comic Book Day show was Tamara and her experiments based around heroes of the Marvel Universe. Kids loved getting to play with the experiments and getting a chance to learn some science while they were at it.

Marvel.com: The goal of the event was to engage families—tell us a little about interacting with the kids.

Tamara Robertson: There was a large number of children at the [store], which was one of the best parts! So many parents were getting the chance to introduce their children to their favorite comics and characters from when they were young, as well as discover new characters! The kids brought great energy and a few were even in awesome costumes! They were definitely having fun.

As far as my display—the time flew as I would go through all four displays with each child and they seemed to love all of them, lots of laughter and large smiles! My favorite part was that while I was able to draw them in with my Venom Magnetic Slime engulfing my rare Earth magnet, they were excited the whole time and always ended strong—literally—with my She-Hulk demonstration. Getting to see little girls and boys out Hulk their fathers and bigger friends utilizing science was not only exciting for me but was by far the biggest crowd pleaser of all! It also enabled me to end with the slogan “Science always wins.”

Jeremy Whitley: This is one respect where I consider myself really fortunate as a comic creator. Between my work with Marvel and my creator-owned work with my all-ages series Princeless, I get to interact with a lot of young readers. Kids are always the most excited about meeting the people who make the comics, and they always have the most interesting questions. I’ve had a couple of kids approach my table with notebooks and pens to ask important questions and take notes. They’re the sharpest fans we’ve got. They inspire me to get back to work making comics!

Marvel.com: What did you enjoy most about the event?

Tamara Robertson: My favorite part was that, when I would hear little girls asking where the girl comic books were, I was able to point them straight to Jeremy and all of his incredible comics. So many of the little girls would get excited when they would see all the different types of series he was offering and the older girls especially loved the UNSTOPPABLE WASP comics with not only strong girl leads but also all the great science! We had a bit of a boomerang system going on where I would send them to him for fun girl comics and he’d shoot them back for fun science.

My favorite part of my display was sharing with the kids that their favorite Marvel comic book heroes were scientists too! Most of them didn’t realize that they had STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] role models already in the form of their favorite comic book heroes. It was truly awesome to get to not only share a science homage to four awesome super heroes but to also elevate the role of STEM in their lives in a way that helped kids see that science is cool.

Jeremy Whitley: I loved getting to see young minds at work. We had boys and girls picking up books and reading them right there, but on top of that, they’re never happy to just sit back and have the science side of things explained to them. You can see them thinking about it, hypothesizing about how and why things work. Some of these kids could be Agents of G.I.R.L. any day!

Marvel.com: You mentioned previously that you think stories like UNSTOPPABLE WASP can help to get girls—and kids in general—interested in pursuing science. Did that seem true for the kids in attendance?

Tamara Robertson: Comics actually have always done a great job of utilizing STEM in their stories but the issue is that most of the time it’s not elevated to a point that children realize the connection. For instance, most super heroes start out as everyday scientists, technicians, engineers or mathematicians and then something alters them genetically and enhances their overall abilities. This statement in itself is riddled with science, which is why comics have always been so awesome and why most STEM professionals are also big comic fans. In the cases where normal men become super heroes, [like] Tony Stark, their gadgets are engineered to enable similar enhanced abilities. Often times the stories themselves don’t concentrate directly on this amazing tech or these genetically altering origin stories but they’re definitely there to talk about. That’s one of the incredible things about stories like UNSTOPPABLE WASP: the science is in the forefront of the story.

I think that it’s important for children—and even adults—to be aware of the awesome STEM connections to their favorite comic book heroes, which is what I hoped to accomplish with my Marvel at Science – Super Hero Science display and what Jeremy accomplishes through UNSTOPPABLE WASP each issue.  If we continue to help associate STEM with heroes and help people to see it as “cool,” we’re likely to inspire more children to pursue it and experiment with the world around them.

Jeremy Whitley: Absolutely! A lot of young WASP fans were excited to pick up the book, but just as much to dive into science. For every question about writing, girls had five times as many for Tamara about what she does and about the experiments she brought with her.

Marvel.com: Would you like to do similar events again in the future?

Tamara Robertson: This was my first opportunity to do STEM outreach at a comic book show and my first debut of Super Hero Science and I loved it!  The crowd was so excited and engaged that the day flew by, and when I reflect back on the day through photos and stories, I get to relive the excitement as the children started connecting super hero powers with real life science! I think that this type of connection will help overcome the historical stereotype of scientists and inspire more children to STEM-related fields.

Jeremy Whitley: I would love to! I never get tired of getting to interact with comics’ youngest fans. If we had Free Comic Book Day several times a year, I’d be at every one.

Marvel.com: Did you pick up any free comics yourself? If so, which ones?

Tamara Robertson: The comic book store was awesome and had a set for me to take home, which I was excited to share with the kids in my family. Sadly I wasn’t able to get to share them with them myself but I know their parents are excited to do so and I can’t wait to hear which characters they liked the most. I stayed impartial since it will be their first exposure to comics.

Jeremy Whitley: Well, I picked up the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, of course. My daughter snagged every comic she could find with a girl on the cover, as well as using her own money to buy a few books from fellow guest and comics writer extraordinaire Tini Howard.

Marvel.com: Which super powers did you find the most fun, interesting, or challenging to recreate? Which ones seemed to get the most involvement from the audience?

Tamara Robertson: When I created the Marvel at Science Super Hero Science display, I wanted to make an homage to some of my favorite super heroes. While I knew I couldn’t replicate directly their superpowers I wanted to showcase a scientific theory that would have a similar imagery so that kids would be able to connect the idea behind the science with a super power they knew.

For instance, Venom is obviously not a magnetic being—he’s an alien symbiotic creature—but watching an Iron Oxide embedded slime overtake a rare Earth magnet—albeit slowly—brings to mind Venom taking over Spider-Man. Kids quickly associated the takeover with Venom and were quite excited to learn more about how the slime was able to do what it did. So while the power itself wasn’t directly the same, it opened the door to talking to the audience about cohesion, adhesion, polymer development, and magnets overall. They especially loved the slime components.

I actually found myself explaining to every set of parents the ease of making the slime because most of them were trying to sneak off with it! Going into the day, I wasn’t sure if the kids would be interested in waiting as the slime overtook the magnet, but all of them were excited to watch and were amazed! I even had a set of boys that had theories on ways to make it move faster, and so during a slow moment we started testing out their hypotheses, which was super cool! They even utilized my “polymer chain” of paperclips to start testing the magnets power. Overall, they had a lot of fun learning!

From there I got to talk to them about Spider-Man and his awesome web.  The way this came about was that prior to the show I visited Kyle Hill at Nerdist—he was our fearless leader on “MythBusters the Search”—and I told him about my Venom slime idea, to which he conjectured perhaps a slime embedded with Kevlar would be more Spidey web-like. This got my cogs going, and since I had the raw materials available, I figured I would try to see what would happen. At a first pass, it made the slime stronger but was limited by the shear tearing that occurs with the slime where the fibers weren’t prevalent. While at first I thought to hold off showing this idea, I realized that science is all about trying and sometimes not quite getting it right. The coolest part about this was, by sharing this story of ideation and development and inability for full practical application, I got to start this brainstorming session with children. They were all so excited about this idea of the same material the guards were wearing in their vests being in this slime and it maybe becoming strong enough to hold Spider-Man that they wanted to see this idea succeed. They offered up tons of alternatives and additions and were all engaged in what will hopefully become a second revision of the Spidey slime that I’m sure Kyle will be able to explain beautifully on “Because Science.” Overall, this was my favorite display because it enabled me to really drive home that there’s no failing in science but instead sometimes a bit more discovery than originally planned.

My sublimation demonstration was one that brought in a lot of viewers and left a lot of grown-ups giggling in nostalgia as they revisited their youthful days playing with dry ice and water bottles. While my demonstration wasn’t explosive, it was one which let the fog banks roll and even enabled the kids to take part in creation of clouds! The initial idea was to make full form dry ice bubbles, but due to the wind on the day of the exhibit, the surface tension on the bubbles resulted in immediate popping of the large ones. But the kids didn’t seem to mind as they enjoyed the smaller bubbles and the rolling clouds.

Perhaps the most surprising to me was that the most simplistic and honestly cheapest—at a whopping $0 in equipment gear—science demonstration was the one the kids loved the most! I knew that they would be excited to get to overpower their parents by utilizing horizontal force over vertical force, but it was the amazement in their parents’ eyes that really drove the “cool” factor up for the kids. Each group would get excited about the idea of who was the strongest and testing it and then would be in awe as they were suddenly outdone by the science of She-Hulk power. Even the parents and kids that were only sort of listening would start paying attention at this point which to me was quite fun.

Marvel.com: How did you decide what powers to try and recreate? How did you come up with the demos?

Tamara Robertson: Honestly, the demos were from fun science GIFs I had seen online over the last couple years that had made me think, “Hmm that reminds me of—insert super hero.” I’ve actually compiled a folder of them over the years, so when I got invited to do a STEM demo I thought, “this is perfect,” and I went through to find ones that I could do in a tent setting. Obviously, all the flame and explosion ideas were out, but there were still some pretty cool ones that would lend themselves to shock and awe. Since I enjoy working with kids in my outreach, I thought these homages would be good demos to connect their favorite super heroes with STEM while being simple enough that they could do them at home if they wanted. In fact, I had a large number of teachers come up to my displays to talk to me about how they work with the slimes in their class but would love to bring in some of the other displays and hadn’t thought to connect it with super heroes. To me, that was really cool; not just inspiring kids but helping those that work with them every day to get ideas for inspiration as well.

Marvel.com: Would you like to mention anything else?

Tamara Robertson: STEM inspiration is everywhere; it may not be in the forefront of every part of life but if you take the time to explore the world around you, it’s definitely there. Helping kids to make those connections is one of the easiest ways to start inspiring them to STEM; it doesn’t take a camp or an expensive toy—in fact sometimes it just takes going into your own backyard. Explore with your kids; learning doesn’t end with the school year and it doesn’t start with the bell. Every day is a chance to inspire them. Learning is living and the world is getting smaller and smaller—why not go discover it!

Jeremy Whitley: If anybody is interested in learning more about Tamara and what she does, we interviewed her in UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5, which came out the first week in May. And for people that got caught up on UNSTOPPABLE WASP at Free Comic Book Day and want more Nadia right now, I co-wrote issue #7 of AVENGERS with Mark Waid, which prominently features Nadia and Victor Von Doom and is available right now!

Pick up the next new installment of UNSTOPPABLE WASP with issue #6 coming June 7 from Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier!

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Meet writer Jeremy Whitley and scientist Tamara Robertson!

As you’re probably well aware, Free Comic Book Day happens this Saturday! And our talented creators never fail to join in the festivities. Jeremy Whitley, writer of UNSTOPPABLE WASP will appear at Ultimate Comics in Raleigh, North Carolina—and scientist-in-real-life Tamara Robertson, a chemical and bio-molecular engineer, will join him to present some exciting science demonstrations.

We caught up with both and chatted about the role that comics like WASP play in promoting the importance of S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering Math).

Marvel.com: Jeremy, what do you see as the significance of working on a story that promotes both women and girls in S.T.E.M., and the empowerment of young women generally?

Jeremy Whitley: It’s incredibly important to me. Part of why I started writing my creator-owned series Princeless was because I wanted to share my love of comics with my daughter. As she has gotten a little older—she’s five now—she has developed some interests of her own. One of those is science. It’s important to me, despite what she may be told by some of the boys in school, that she knows she can be a scientist. Thanks to UNSTOPPABLE WASP, that’s a message I get to share not just with my own daughter, but with a lot of other daughters out there. I know that is certainly a goal that Tamara and I share.

Marvel.com: What impact do you think having real-world scientists like Tamara involved in the comics world has?

Jeremy Whitley: I think it bridges a gap between telling girls what they can do and showing them what they’re capable of. Tamara is a really amazing scientist—and person for that matter—and being able to share her story helps us show that female scientists and geniuses are not just the things of fiction. Maybe UNSTOPPABLE WASP will help the next girl who will follow in Tamara’s footsteps to find her way.

Marvel.com: How did you and Tamara connect, and how did this event come together?

Jeremy Whitley: Our “Agents of G.I.R.L.” column in the back of UNSTOPPABLE WASP was shared with Tamara by mutual friends online. I saw that she was excited about it and asked if she would like to be profiled for the column. She was super excited, so we went for it. As it turns out, Tamara went to college just down the street from the Ultimate Comics in Raleigh we’ll be appearing at. It just so happened that the stars aligned and Tamara was going to be in town for a talk at the school just before Free Comic Book Day. And seeing as her interview was going to be in the issue of UNSTOPPABLE WASP coming out that week, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Both she and the folks at Ultimate Comics were super psyched about accompanying our Free Comic Book Day festivities with a some awesome science demonstrations from Tamara.  It all came together perfectly.

Marvel.com: What do you hope attendees get out of the event?

Jeremy Whitley: I hope first and foremost they have fun and get a chance to check out what comics have to offer. But beyond that I hope it gives everybody a chance to learn a little something about science. Obviously, having Tamara means that any girls who come out and are interested in science will get to meet a pretty amazing and inspirational woman in S.T.E.M. and that’s super important. Hopefully everyone leaves with something to read and something to think about.

Tamara Robertson by Elsa Charretier

Marvel.com: Tamara, what do you feel is the role of comics like UNSTOPPABLE WASP in encouraging young women to pursue careers in S.T.E.M.? You also competed on “Mythbusters: The Search,” which probably also had a similar role in impacting young people.

Tamara Robertson: I think that the presence of women who are in S.T.E.M. as well as the portrayal of Women in S.T.E.M. in mainstream media, such as comics like UNSTOPPABLE WASP, shows like “Mythbusters: The Search,” and movies like “Hidden Figures” is vital because it gives young girls role models while also showcasing to young boys that it’s normal to see different genders and races in these roles. For so long scientists have always been old white men and while it was never the intention of these portrayals, for young people, this creates an unconscious bias and perception that those roles aren’t for them. I grew up with these media portrayals and never thought I as a woman could be an engineer; my only role model in this role was Scotty from “Star Trek,” so when my college professor approached me about it I literally remember saying, “I don’t think girls do those jobs.” We have to recognize that media shapes young people’s perceptions of the world, themselves, and who they could one day be, and be better at including all genders and races so that everyone feels they can be in S.T.E.M.

Marvel.com: What sparked your interest about the event on Saturday? Why did you want to get involved?

Tamara Robertson: Jeremy’s creation of the Agents of G.I.R.L. is brilliant because it combines the world of super heroes with scientists so clearly! In most comics, the super heroes are in S.T.E.M. or have someone in the field creating their tech but people often just concentrate on their super powers. Everyone loves the Hulk’s strength but often the fact Bruce Banner is a scientist isn’t seen. In UNSTOPPABLE WASP, Nadia is a scientist and she’s a super hero and both are represented in the comics, and then to take it a step further, real scientists are included in each comic that debuts! So kids get to celebrate a comic-based scientist super hero and an everyday scientist super hero all in one. Additionally, I recently read Jeremy’s article on the guiding principles of G.I.R.L. and these are principles that all people can benefit greatly from learning and embodying in life!

As for Free Comic Book Day, when Jeremy asked me if I’d be interested, I jumped at the chance! I love comics and I love science outreach so the combination of the two was right up my alley, and I truly enjoyed trying to make a science exhibit around Marvel! I am really excited to present my “Marvel at Science” show at Free Comic Book Day because I’m going to be doing an homage to some diverse and incredible Marvel comic book characters that I’m hoping fans will enjoy!

Marvel.com: You’ve also worked as an actress and costume designer. How have those different interests impacted your career path? As a designer, I’d imagine you’d enjoy super hero costumes!

 

Tamara Robertson: Super hero costumes would be awesome! Currently I’m dabbling in these firsthand for the first time as I dive into cosplay, but I’ve always been obsessed with the costumes and tech that science fiction brings to shows and movies!

As an engineer, design in all aspects is part of daily life; examining others’ designs, re-engineering existing designs and making your own designs. As a North Carolina State engineer, I went to school with some incredible textile engineers but my focus was always on the process side for plants and product design. It wasn’t until I came to L.A. that I was blessed to find and work under an incredible wardrobe designer, Catherine Baumgardner. She opened my engineering mind to the textile design side of the world.

As for the acting, I think ultimately I needed an outlet that I could be creative and emotional in because as an engineer you don’t often get to do this. The human emotional range is so beautiful when harnessed creatively, and just like any other machine, the body can do amazing things when fine-tuned and allowed to operate. So getting to push those limits within myself has been a fun adventure.

Marvel.com: What message do you hope people take away from the event on Saturday?

Tamara Robertson: I hope attendees leave the event wondering how they could be like the science fiction characters in their favorite comics through applying S.T.E.M. principles, and that they go home and start asking questions about the incredible worlds they read about in comics. While they may be science fiction today, the things we read about in comics and see in science fiction shows and movies are what inspires S.T.E.M. operatives to start innovating and creating new things.

Read the latest issue of UNSTOPPABLE WASP and celebrate Free Comic Book Day this Saturday!

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Writer Jeremy Whitley helps Nadia Pym kick off her new organization!

Nadia Pym saw some dark times in the Red Room. But she hasn’t let that make her cynical. She still believes the best about people. And that optimism has led her to form Genius In Action Research Labs (G.I.R.L.), a budding organization dedicated to fostering the scientific talent of girls and young women.

But what about this group will make it a success? We chatted with UNSTOPPABLE WASP writer Jeremy Whitley about the main goals and tenets of G.I.R.L., as Nadia brings her friends and colleagues to the forefront with June 7’s issue #6!

Demonstrating that girls and young women deserve to be counted among Earth’s smartest people

This is the original organizing principal of G.I.R.L. In Marvel lore, the question of the smartest people in the world has always been [one] that pops up and that people try to put some numbers on. With the recent induction of Lunella Lafayette as the official top of that list, it brought into stark contrast how much of the rest of that list, especially the top, is male.

It’s been shown in studies that when taking blind applications to advanced science and engineering programs, that men and women tend to fare more or less the same. However, when the applications have a name and a face attached to them, men tend to do much better. After a lot of research and discussion, the reason for this seemed to be that professors or scientists looking to fill these programs were looking for people that they saw themselves in. They tended to favor people in which they could recognize the same things that they thought made themselves good scientists. So, without realizing it, they favored male candidates. It’s what’s called an inherent bias.

The purpose of G.I.R.L. is to even out the playing field by finding those overlooked girls that don’t get seen by the S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists making up this list. People who think differently, look different, or express their ideas differently are often left behind when you’re calculating something like who is the smartest. Nadia wants to pick those girls up and show what they’re capable of.

Bringing together the brightest minds with the goal of scientific innovation

Innovation is a huge thing for Nadia in the same way it was for [her father] Hank [Pym]. You can literally know everything in the world and not have any original ideas. If the world is going to change and get better, then we need not just brains, but innovation. Hank was the sort of scientist who created square bubbles. He didn’t do it because the world needed square bubbles to survive, but because it was a puzzle he wanted to solve. Nadia shares that scientific curiosity.

The girls of G.I.R.L. are not just big brains, but girls with original ideas who have been working on things they are passionate about in their own time. They’re not really looking to win awards, they’re looking to create. G.I.R.L. really sets its sights on exploring the art of science.

Creating a space for young women to support one another

It’s important to create spaces in which girls [can] support one another and don’t need to feel like they need affirmation from either boys or adults. The G.I.R.L. lab is a space where no matter how crazy your idea is, there’s not shame in bringing it in. That’s how really important breakthroughs get made, by trying things that nobody has thought of yet. And when we create a space where girls can be that resource for other girls, that’s where real “girl power” comes from, right? When girls are able to bring ideas to the table without doubting themselves or worrying about looking stupid, then we’ll be able to focus on the important things.

Unstoppable Wasp #6 cover by Elsa Charretier

Diversity of experience creates diversity of ideas

Often when people talk about “diversity” they use it as a buzz word, like it’s a pointless practice of checking off boxes. The reality in any creative setting is that by diversifying your team, you bring in different perspectives. When you have different perspectives you get different ideas. This is important both for the backgrounds of the characters that make G.I.R.L. up and also from variety of scientific fields the girls come from. When you tackle a big problem, an engineer is going to come at it differently than a chemist and a chemist will come at it differently than a physicist. The same is true when you’re comparing someone who has been scraping by in life and somebody who has had all of the resources they needed. It’s also true of somebody who grew up with protective immigrant parents from another country and somebody who grew up with a disability that pushed them to find new ways to take care of things themselves.

Using science for the greater good

It’s not just about saving the world when it needs to fight off an alien invasion. It’s not about personal gain. It’s about making life better. In the same way the Champions are helping with issues that don’t register for the Avengers, G.I.R.L. is there for science issues that don’t register to Iron Man or Hank McCoy.

For Nadia personally, we see an element of wanting to carry on Hank’s legacy

Nadia was made into what she is by the Red Room in an effort to corrupt Hank’s legacy. They wanted to make Nadia destroy in the same way Hank had innovated and built. G.I.R.L. is important because it’s Nadia taking that legacy back and embracing it. Her father isn’t around right now, but if he were, she would want him to be proud. She wants to make Janet and Mockingbird proud as well. The Pyms have a mixed legacy, but it’s one worth fighting for.

Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier help G.I.R.L. grow in UNSTOPPABLE WASP #6 on June 7!

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Jeremy Whitley digs into the perilous past of Nadia Pym!

Anyone following the adventures of the new Wasp knows that Nadia Pym doesn’t exactly represent the typical Red Room veteran. She has a cheerful approach to life that we don’t see with many of the RR’s alumni. But as we’ll see in the upcoming UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5 on May 3, her former captors want her back, and they’ll come with full force to try and get their girl.

We caught up with writer Jeremy Whitley about how Nadia’s time in the Red Room impacted her, and what that will mean for her story moving forward.

Marvel.com: Nadia has retained her optimism, despite everything that happened in the Red Room; this is so different from Black Widow, for example. What has allowed her to avoid becoming jaded?

Jeremy Whitley: Well, I think part of it has to do with the fact that Nadia never actually functioned as an assassin. While she went through training, they pulled her to join the Science Class before she actually had to kill anyone. Beyond that, I think some of it is just a natural optimism. Nadia sees things differently. It’s part of what makes her innovative in science. Rather than seeing the time that she has lost and feeling angry about it, Nadia sees the potential to do big things now.

Marvel.com: Nadia had at least one person—Ying—whom she got close to in the Red Room. How did this affect her experience?

Jeremy Whitley: They got to work together to design the tech we see in issues #2 and #3, since it required a chemist along with Nadia’s knowledge of Pym Particles. It gave them a chance to work together and they became friends immediately. Unfortunately for them, as soon as the Red Room figured out that they had started developing a friendship, they had them separated. I think during her time in the Red Room, it gave Nadia hope to know she had a friend there. On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the first few issues, the Red Room is not above using that connection to get Nadia back. Having personal connections may become Nadia’s undoing—a problem Black Widow didn’t have to worry about.

Marvel.com: Of course the Red Room was terrible, but it also fostered Nadia’s scientific genius in some ways. How did this impact her?

Jeremy Whitley: We talk a bit in the book about the lack of women in many STEM fields in the real world. Studies have shown that a lot of that has to do with the way we discourage girls from pursuing these field either actively or passively. On the other hand, people have told—even forced—Nadia to pursue these fields. She knows she can do amazing things. She has had to do it to survive. As a result, Nadia has a superb sense of confidence and self-esteem. She knows her value and intelligence. The means were pretty awful, but at this point she doesn’t need anyone to validate her.

Marvel.com: What aspects of her time in the Red Room do you think still stay with her?

Jeremy Whitley: I think her knowledge of her worth is certainly one thing. I think her desire to meet and connect with people the way she does has a lot to do with not having had the opportunity to forge those relationships in the Red Room. And, as readers will find out in issue #4 this week, some aspects of her assassination training are harder to kick than others, especially when she gets pushed too far.

Marvel.com: Did her time in the Red Room have anything to do with her decision to be a super hero, or to start G.I.R.L.?

Jeremy Whitley: To some extent. She obviously wants to make the most of her time now that she finds herself free in the world, and she considers acting as a super hero part of her answer to that. The fact that all the people she looks up to are super heroes—her father [Hank Pym], Janet [Van Dyne, the original Wasp], Bobbi Morse) has a lot to do with that decision as well.

As for G.I.R.L., I think her time in the Red Room showed her what’s possible and that there are tons of super-intelligent girls out there. Her push to do it comes from both her need for human connection and her need to make up for the time she has lost thanks to the Red Room. She knows that by doing this, she can make an impact both on the world and on the lives of the other girls in G.I.R.L.

Marvel.com: Would you like to mention anything else?

Jeremy Whitley: Well, the first trade collection, available for pre-order now, will contain our awesome interviews with real women in STEM. So if you didn’t have the chance to keep up with the single issues or you’d like to order the book for your classroom or library, now is the time to order.

Learn more about Nadia’s time in the Red Room from Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charpentier in UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5 on May 3!

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Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier recruit real world scientists to back up their new hero!

Each month in the letters page of UNSTOPPABLE WASP, space will be devoted to spotlighting real world female scientists and their work.

“I have to credit our amazing artist Elsa with the original idea,” says Whitley of the profiles. “I had been kicking around that I wanted to do some outreach to STEM and women in science and she came up with an idea. She would draw headshots and we’d do a little profile on female scientists. Her original plan was to post these on Twitter or Tumblr, but ever since I started working on UNSTOPPABLE WASP I’d wanted to do a letters page. I love letters pages and as engaging as Nadia is as a character, I thought it would be perfect.  Elsa’s idea of profiling female scientists from our audience was exactly what I was looking for.”

Celebrating science and the innovative minds working towards advancement in various fields fits perfectly with Nadia Pym’s character and the overall feel of UNSTOPPABLE WASP.

“UNSTOPPABLE WASP is all about young female super scientists setting out to change the world,” notes Whitley. “It made perfect sense to us to highlight female scientists who really are shaping our future. We already knew several women who fit this description and were comics readers, so the idea of sharing their awesome work with the rest of our audience seemed like something that had to happen. We look forward to learning about more amazing comics loving lady scientists as we open up to submissions and hopefully a few of [our] younger readers may even find something that interests them as well as the expert that they can ask about it.”

Marvel.com proudly presents the latest pair of scientific spotlights; for more, check out every installment of UNSTOPPABLE WASP, with issue #4 coming April 5 and issue #3 available now!

Hi again, Nadia here! Can you believe we’ve already been together for three months? You wouldn’t believe the recommendations we’ve gotten for Agents of G.I.R.L.! Today’s agents are pretty special though. Not only are they an optical engineer and an aerospace engineer, but they’re also COSPLAYERS! Check out Sadie Geerligs (@sadiebydesign) and Nia Jetter (@thinqueaboutit)!

Nia Jetter and Sadie Geerligs by Elsa Charpentier

WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU DO?

Sadie: I am an applications engineer in connectivity for a fiber-optic company, AFL. In my current role I focus on developing products for card edge connectivity and embedded optics. I was lucky to find AFL after earning my bachelor’s degree in Optical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2012.

Nia: I am an aerospace engineer specializing in spacecraft autonomy, I have been working in my field for just over 16 years. There’s a delay in communication between the Earth and space vehicles, so it is important that the vehicle be able to perform many functions autonomously, including controlling different subsystems and being able to fix or save itself if something is going wrong. I perform analyses and write algorithms that allow the space vehicle to operate without human intervention.

WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT YOUR WORK?

Sadie: I love that my job presents different challenges for me each day. My current position requires in-depth customer interaction to help develop products for their unique applications. When I was going through school, I was extremely nervous that a job in engineering would require me to sit at a desk all day and be super antisocial. It is extremely exciting to be able to see a product through the development stages to commercialization.

Nia: I love what I do! I feel like it is what I was made to do! I love math and I love solving problems. I love coming up with a vision of what technology we are going to need in the future and then determining a roadmap that we need to follow to get there. One of the greatest things about my job is that after we build the satellite or space-based vehicle, we are responsible for working the early portion of the mission before we hand the satellite over to the customer. I’ve had the opportunity to work thirteen missions in our mission control center. You get to see something that you worked so hard on actually performing its function up in space. It can be an incredible problem-solving experience!

WHY ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUNG WOMEN GETTING INTO ENGINEERING?

Sadie: At graduation, we all donned pins in memory of the former president of Rose-Hulman, Matt Branam, with his quote “Make it happen. Make it fun.” He taught the students of Rose that you should make your dreams become reality, and have fun while you do it. It is really important to me to see women in fields that make them happy. I encourage anyone who has a passion for engineering, science or really anything to exploit that passion because it will lead you to greater things. Engineering has not only been a career that sustains my life, but a path to finding who I was meant to be. I wish nothing more than for other women to find the path that leads them to that same sort of belonging and happiness.

Nia: The greatest advancement is made when it is based in a foundation of diversity of thought. If a group of people with a similar backgrounds and trains of thought get together to solve a problem, they may miss an even better solution that would have been introduced by someone with a different background. Having a large portion of our society underrepresented in science and technology fields inhibits our society as a whole. It is important that, from a very young age, we make sure that no one is made to feel like science or math is too hard, or a “boy” thing. Having seen consistent resistance wear people down and make them choose to apply their brilliance to another, non-technical field, I try to be the opposite of that. I love mentoring and volunteering in schools, doing activities and explaining things simply to make sure that kids know that anyone can do anything that they put their mind to. It’s important for boys to know

–and see–that girls can do anything too, so that they have no reason to expect anything less than that from women in the future.

WHICH FEMALE ENGINEERS (REAL OR FICTIONAL) HAVE INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR WORK?

Sadie: My inspiration comes all of from the fantastic ladies that have surrounded me since I started down the path of my engineering career. The thing I find the most inspiring about all of these amazing women is that, like me, they all have passions outside of their careers that they are equally talented at. My friend Katherine runs a successful blog, Engineering in Style, that showcases that women in engineering can also be super stylish. And I remember enjoying Sailor Moon because all of her friends have different talents. As a super awkward bookworm through my younger years, I always had a great appreciation for Mercury because she was a nerd and a badass! Some other really cool fictional ladies that have surfaced as women in science fields become more and more common–like Asami Sato, Winry Rockbell and Honey Lemon.

Nia: I had a female math teacher in the sixth grade who was very encouraging and really helped me realize that I was strong in math. The fact that she pulled me aside and encouraged me really made a difference. Uhura was also a great inspiration. My mother is a huge Star Trek fan, particularly of Nichelle Nichols. I was fortunate enough to meet Nichelle Nichols while I was cosplaying as Uhura!

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE EXAMPLE OF CLEVER/UNUSUAL/NONSENSICAL USE OF SCIENCE IN COMICS?

Sadie: Since science fiction has often been a precursor to scientific discovery, there aren’t a lot of things that I find too out there. In fact, I find that most of the things in comics make people dream big enough to achieve goals that people would scoff at. If I had to pick a commonly used concept that irks me, though, it would probably be time travel. It’s a very large concept to wrap a brain around, and I just don’t really think it’s been thought through properly yet. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy Back to the Future and The Flash, but I just feel like aliens are more within our grasp than time travel. To the person that proves me wrong, I can’t wait for you to tell all of the skeptics, “I told you so!”

Nia: So…you’re telling me that there is one gene called the “X-gene” that, if activated, can result in the introduction of any kind of mutation–mental, physical or other…so I’ve got this bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you! I’m not a biologist, although I do like to write genetic algorithms, but the concept of the X-gene doesn’t sit quite right with me if I think about it too much. However, I know that incredible things can happen when it comes to science, and I am happy to suspend my disbelief because the concept of the X-gene enables some of my favorite stories–including those with my favorite comic character, Storm!

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN READING COMICS AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST COMIC BOOK?

Sadie: Truthfully, I didn’t grow up reading comics, but I watched a whole lot of Batman and Superman: The Animated Series. About two years ago, I decided I was going to get into comics for the sake of my cosplay and bought several comics to kickstart my love. My main objective was to obtain a Supergirl comic, but I left with multiple copies of the PRINCESS LEIA comic as well, which remains one of my favorite storylines. I have also fallen in love with SPIDER-GWEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL and GWENPOOL. It will be really exciting to add UNSTOPPABLE WASP to my lineup of super-awesome ladies in my comic collection, and maybe someday in cosplay. After all, how could I not when her character is basically my tagline brought to life? Engineer by day, super hero by night.

Nia: My first comic book was a John Stewart Green Lantern book. I don’t remember how old I was. I remember there being so many comics around me that I felt like I was surrounded–my dad was going through his old comics. I remember my dad explaining the Green Lantern to me and how John Stewart was his favorite. I remember being fascinated for the first time by how the pictures were just as important as the words in telling the stories. And cosplaying gives me the opportunity to represent and pay homage to some of my favorite characters. 🙂

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Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier recruit real world scientists to back up their new hero!

Each month in the letters page of UNSTOPPABLE WASP, space will be devoted to spotlighting real world female scientists and their work.

“I have to credit our amazing artist Elsa with the original idea,” says Whitley of the profiles. “I had been kicking around that I wanted to do some outreach to STEM and women in science and she came up with an idea. She would draw headshots and we’d do a little profile on female scientists. Her original plan was to post these on Twitter or Tumblr, but ever since I started working on UNSTOPPABLE WASP I’d wanted to do a letters page. I love letters pages and as engaging as Nadia is as a character, I thought it would be perfect.  Elsa’s idea of profiling female scientists from our audience was exactly what I was looking for.”

Celebrating science and the innovative minds working towards advancement in various fields fits perfectly with Nadia Pym’s character and the overall feel of UNSTOPPABLE WASP.

“UNSTOPPABLE WASP is all about young female super scientists setting out to change the world,” notes Whitley. “It made perfect sense to us to highlight female scientists who really are shaping our future. We already knew several women who fit this description and were comics readers, so the idea of sharing their awesome work with the rest of our audience seemed like something that had to happen. We look forward to learning about more amazing comics loving lady scientists as we open up to submissions and hopefully a few of [our] younger readers may even find something that interests them as well as the expert that they can ask about it.”

Marvel.com proudly presents the latest pair of scientific spotlights; for more, check out every installment of UNSTOPPABLE WASP, with issue #3 coming March 1 and issue #2 available now!

Hey, new friends, it’s Nadia! I’m so glad to see you again. You look great! Winter must really agree with you! Don’t worry, Team Wasp will be back next month to bring you another chapter of our story, but in the meantime, I have some more really special lady scientists to share with you. These new Agents of G.I.R.L. are extra amazing, so please check out what new recruits Jin Kim Montclare (@jkmontclare) and Raychelle Burks, Ph.D. (@DrRubidium) had to say!

Jin Kim Montclare and Raychelle Burks by Elsa Charretier

Jin Kim Montclare and Raychelle Burks by Elsa Charretier

WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU DO?

Jin: I am a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and I work on engineering new types of proteins. Proteins are important biomolecules that exist in foods such as eggs, milk and meat as well as in all living organisms–including humans. My research focuses on creating a protein that can detoxify toxic nerve agents such as pesticides as well as creating new protein biomaterials that can deliver important therapies to treat human disorders.

Raychelle: I’m a chemistry professor and spend my time teaching and doing research. My area of focus is analytical chemistry, specifically designing detection techniques for compounds of forensic interest (drugs, explosives, chemical or biological weapons, etc.). My research group is currently focused on using color image analysis as a stand-in for colorimetry–and we’re using cell phones to do it!

WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT YOUR WORK?

Jin: Two things really excite me: that I get to 1) work on research that can ultimately help people (by removing toxins or treating diseases) and 2) interact with a wonderful group of young aspiring engineers and scientists making exciting advances in research.

Raychelle: I love the challenge of coming up with low-tech, affordable, reliable and portable detection schemes. It gives me and my students an opportunity to play super-science MacGyver!

WHY ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUNG WOMEN GETTING INTO SCIENCE?

Jin: Being a woman in STEM, I feel fortunate to be doing what I love to do as an educator and researcher! My path was made possible through the support of my mentors from K-12 to now, so I do my part by encouraging other young women to pursue STEM.  More than half the students I mentor directly at NYU are women, and I am quite proud of it! I have also actively engaged in mentoring programs including STEM  Women on Fire as part of the Ultimate Mentor Adventure Contest! I work with science teachers at local K-12 schools to help effectively convey scienctific ideas and make them exciting. In fact, in collaboration with InSchoolApps, we made an app called LewisDots for kids to make chemical structures and learn about bonding!

Raychelle: As a black female scientist, I am familiar with the historical and current barriers to our access and advancement in STEM career fields. Margot Lee Shetterly’s great book Hidden Figures (now a feature film) speaks to such struggles. While gains have been made in accessibility, we have a long way to go in making STEM careers equally within reach for woman of color and other under-represented minorities.

WHAT FEMALE SCIENTISTS (REAL OR FICTIONAL) HAVE INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR WORK?

Jin: When I was little, my hero was Marie Curie. She not only won a Nobel Prize in Physics, but years later, she was awarded the prize in Chemistry, too! Very few individuals are awarded the Nobel Prize, so to earn two in two different fields is AMAZING! In terms of inspiration for my work, my graduate advisor Alanna Schepartz has mentored me through my own dissertation work on miniature proteins at Yale while serving as an incredible role model. Finally, the Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath, who was responsible for determining a high-resolution structure of the ribosome (a gigantic complex that helps decode DNA into protein), is an amazing source of inspiration because my group employs the insights from such structures to make cool proteins in the lab.

Raychelle: When I was little, I didn’t know of any female scientists–talk about hidden figures! It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I discovered Dr. Mae Jemison, medical doctor and NASA astronaut. Before that, I looked to my favorite fictional super-brain, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, for inspiration. She is one hell of a quantitative thinker! When I’m in need of inspiration, I look to Jeannette Brown’s African American Woman Chemists. I am also inspired by my science friends: Dr. Danielle Lee, Dr. Stephanie Page, Dr. Kate Clancy and Dr. Malika Jeffries-El.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE EXAMPLE OF CLEVER/UNUSUAL/OR NONSENSICAL USE OF SCIENCE IN COMICS?

Jin: I thought it was clever that the characters from X-Men had super-powers due to mutations. It made absolute sense to me since mutations in DNA can cause changes in living things in order to adapt (like a giraffe’s neck to allow them to reach the treetops for food).

Raychelle: I’m a sucker for super-hero-by-vampirism. Okay, that sounds splashier than super-hero-by-blood transfusion. She-Hulk fits the bill! Hulking out is a bit like a blood-borne disease? It almost makes sense, except…it totally doesn’t! I love these sci-fi stretches!

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN READING COMICS AND WAT WAS YOUR FIRST COMIC BOOK?

Jin: I started reading comics when I was in elementary school with Archie Comics, but my favorites have been Sandman and Lucifer…and of course Rocket Girl and most recently MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR! For MG & DD, I love that the protagonist is a girl STEM genius and I even get consulted on it for inspirational scientist/engineer quotes (because my husband, Brandon Montclare, is writing it)!

Raychelle: I started reading comic books in high school, jumping into the Wonder Woman reboot by George Pérez when I stumbled across in my local public library. It caught my eye because I grew up watching reruns of Linda Carter’s Woman Woman!

Please send all of your suggestions for girl, lady or lady-identifying geniuses in science and technology to us at MHEROES@MARVEL.COM and mark your letters “Okay to Print”! You can also tweet at us using the hashtag #AgentsOfGIRL.

Until next month, do svidaniya!

Nadia

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Meet the highly intelligent ladies getting recruited by Nadia Pym!

Traditionally, dudes like Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner have topped the list of Marvel’s smartest characters.

But times have changed.

Beginning in UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 on February 1, Nadia Pym will assemble a team of girl geniuses—known as Genius In Action Research Labs, or G.I.R.L—to break into this boys’ club. Writer Jeremy Whitley gives us the scoop on each of these bright young women.

Taina Miranda
“A Puerto Rican character from Washington Heights, New York, Taina has talent as an engineer. She builds robots, working with scrap and salvaged junk, while also facing multiple sclerosis. Taina looks forward to having the money and facilities to make better prototypes. And her sister Alexis first appears in a Hawkeye story I did in A YEAR OF MARVELS.”

LaShayla “Shay” Smith
“A physicist from Brownsville, Brooklyn, Shay has a lot in common with me as a teenager: a Latchkey kid who goes home on her own at the end of the school day. During that time, she works on her science and tends to get in trouble thanks to her work. She has a tendency to blow things up and break things. She currently focuses on teleportation and faster-than-light travel.”

Priya Aggarwal
“Priya, a second-generation Indian American, lives in Queens, specifically Jackson Heights. She specializes in biology, and botany in particular. But she keeps her intelligence largely hidden because she just wants to be a regular kid, and do normal, popular kid stuff. Priya shows reluctance when it comes to joining the group, and Nadia has to persuade her. But we’ll see her come into her own.”

Honorable Mentions
“Lunella Lafayette—aka Moon Girl—will appear in the second and third issues [of UNSTOPPABLE WASP]. We’ll see her around, though she’ll have some other issues of her own that she’ll have to deal with, too. I’ve talked to the creative team on [MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR], and we’d like to do some more crossovers with her.

“We’d love to do some stuff with Riri Williams, as well. We could have a lot of fun putting all of these super-intelligent girls together, and they could get into all sorts of situations.

“G.I.R.L. will also possibly have one other additional member, but she will play a major role in the first story arc, so I don’t want to reveal too much about her yet. One of the big questions of the story will be whether she’ll join the team. This first arc will get pretty intense!”

Join up with the G.I.R.L. gang in UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier on February 1!

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Artist Elsa Charretier mixes super powers, vintage 90’s fashion, scientific brilliance, and more!

Can you imagine being a teenage genius let loose for the first time on the world in New York City? That’s the place Nadia Pym finds herself in as her new comic UNSTOPPABLE WASP launches on January 4.

Written by Jeremy Whitley and drawn Elsa Charretier, the series focuses on the daughter of Hank Pym as she gets used to life outside of the Black Widow-creating Red Room, adjusting to her new roles as a super hero and a teenager. We talked with Charretier about nailing Nadia’s retro-infused style, separating the new heroine from her more well-known counterpart, and developing a gallery of rogues for her to face.

Marvel.com: How does it feel to be making your Marvel debut on a book like UNSTOPPABLE WASP?

Elsa Charretier: This book came at a perfect time for me. After doing my own creator-owned series and a few issues for other publishers, I thought about going back to indie comics. I liked my experience with mainstream comics very much, but I felt the need to create a character from scratch: designing them, their environment and, overall, having a bit more “control” over the book. UNSTOPPABLE WASP being a new series allowed me to do that, in a sense.

Although Nadia has had previous appearances, Jeremy and I were really able to put our mark on the book, and it’s been creatively extremely fulfilling. And it’s an ongoing book! We get to work on a whole story arc, which is challenging in a way, but really exciting.

Marvel.com: How would you say that Nadia carries herself differently than her predecessor, Janet Van Dyne, both in and out of the costume?

Elsa Charretier: Nadia is completely new to all this. To super heroes, to S.H.I.E.L.D.—and, since she was raised in a Russian assassin school, even the real world is new to her. And she approaches things a bit naively. She doesn’t understand why everyone can’t be friends, why all the heroes can’t just sit down and talk their problems out. Janet, who knows her way around, is well aware of the issues and why they can’t be solved that easily. Nadia may be extremely smart, but she is still a teenager, and Janet is a grown woman with more experience, of life and the field. Science has been all Nadia has [known] since she was born, and naturally thinks that it can answer everything. And of course, it can’t.

Marvel.com: With a character like this who’s both relatively new, but also part of a legacy, do you have some freedom when it comes to designing her look in the series?

Elsa Charretier: Luckily, I did. Alex Ross handled the design of her Wasp outfit. His suit not only looks fantastic, but practically draws itself. Designing a super hero costume requires nailing the right balance of originality and simplicity, and I’m glad such a talented artist did Nadia’s.

As for the out-of-costume part, I had complete freedom. Her face had to carry both fun and charisma. She is still young, but not really a kid anymore. You want to convey her optimism, but also hint that she is able to put her fists on the table if necessary. Another important aspect of her is her style. She was forced to wear uniforms growing up and I’m guessing she didn’t have access to fashion. And now she is [a teenager], and she lives in [New York City], one of the richest and craziest cities when it comes to fashion. Nadia is hyper active, and curious of everything, every culture. So, from the beginning, I pictured she would shop in second hand cool stores. The 90’s style being back, it’s pretty easy to find cheap and awesome pieces and vintage jewelry. I really wanted her outfits to reflect her curiosity.

Marvel.com: What makes Nadia unstoppable?

Elsa Charretier: To me, that would be her creativity. She is smart, but what defines her the most is that she is an inventor. Her thing is to come up with stuff, with ideas, and thus [she] is able to adjust to all kinds of situations. It’s actually pretty close to my own vision of life. No matter the cards you’ve been dealt, it’s always about what you do with it. If you add that to Nadia’s natural optimism and energy, you realize that you won’t quit that easily.

Marvel.com: Wasp isn’t known for having a deep rogues gallery. Do you and Jeremy have plans to change that?

Elsa Charretier: We’re really trying to develop Nadia’s world in the series. Her lab, her friends, everything that makes her who she is, and that, of course, includes rogues. What’s great with her, and what made me laugh all through the first issue, is how Nadia interacts with people that are considered evil. She’s genuinely concerned as to why they decided to turn to the dark side. Almost telling them, “Hey, there’s still time, you can still be one of the good guys.” That leads to pretty absurd scenes and dialog. So definitely, there’ll be more of them, and I can already tell we’re having tons of fun with their designs.

Marvel.com: Overall, how has it been collaborating with Jeremy so far?

Elsa Charretier: I’ve been really lucky to be paired up with him. We have a similar vision on the portrayal of female characters in comics. We both love strong female leads. Nadia is only [a teenager], but she’s on top of things! And the cast of characters he [has] created—rogues and friends—are all deep and I love drawing all of them.

I’d say that’s what makes good teamwork: we’re going in the same creative direction. I trust him on the scripts, and I feel that he trusts me on the pages and layouts. He welcomes my ideas, encourages me to do layouts that are different than his original panel breakdown if I think of something else. The same goes for the entire team, actually. Our editors, Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith, have kept a very open mind since we’ve started the book, and Megan Wilson, our fantastic colorist, has been very involved in the process as well. All this creates a very welcoming and safe working environment, and I’m very grateful for it.

THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier soars into stores on January 4.

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