Agents of G.I.R.L. reunite!
For the eight issues it lasted, Marvel’s recently concluded Unstoppable Wasp was a special book. Nadia, the daughter of Hank Pym, proved not only to be relentlessly optimistic, but her infatuation with science was infectious.
And it wasn’t just her — even the book’s colorist, Megan M. Wilson, is a mechanical engineer! To continue showing Wasp readers that there are plenty of bad-ass ladies in science, writer Jeremy Whitley assembled the Agents of G.I.R.L. (Genius In action Research Labs), profiling two real-life, comic-loving scientists in each issue.
AiPT! caught up with some of those women to find out what it was like to be profiled in Unstoppable Wasp and if they think the intended outreach succeeded, now that that book has finished.
How were you contacted to participate on Unstoppable Wasp?
Rachel Silverstein (paleontologist): Jeremy contacted me on Twitter and asked if being interviewed for the letters page of his new comic about female scientists was something I’d be interested [in].
Lisa Johnson (aerospace engineer): A mutual friend of Jeremy Whitley and myself put us in contact after Emerald City Comicon this year.
Jin Montclare (biomolecular engineer): Through Jeremy by Twitter. My husband Brandon Montclare [who writes Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur] suggested me to Jeremy. I had met Jeremy earlier at AwesomeCon in DC as Brandon’s booth was next to his and we bought a bunch of his trades for our daughter, who was with us.
Tracy Fanara (environmental engineer and contestant on Mythbusters: The Search): I was contacted through Twitter! I believe it was one of my followers who suggested me.
Tamara Robertson (chemical engineer and contestant on Mythbusters: The Search): I actually used the wonderful world of Twitter to reach out to Jeremy while the Mythbusters: The Search campaign was going on to ask about joining the Agents of G.I.R.L. team after reading the first few issues of Unstoppable Wasp and loving what he was doing to promote diversity and inclusion of women in STEM fields.
I myself am a big supporter of utilizing heroes kids already recognize (i.e. superheroes) and helping them connect the fact that most superheroes are also participants in the STEM field and thus elevate the world of STEM. I find it’s easier to get kids excited about science when you connect it to things they already love and The Unstoppable Wasp was an amazing example of this that I am sad to see leaving the market.
What was your reaction?
Rachel: I was beyond excited after he contacted me! I was told [series artist] Elsa [Charretier] would draw the head sketches, which got me even more excited. I’m a huge fan of Elsa’s art and have commissioned her for original art many times! Once Jeremy and Elsa told me about the idea of interviewing female scientists I knew it would be a big deal in the comic and science communities, so I [am] forever grateful I was asked to be a part of it.
Lisa: Ecstatic! I’m a huge fan of Jeremy’s work and I adored the issues that were out by then of Unstoppable Wasp. I’d actually been planning to email him myself, my friend just beat me too it.
Jin: I was thrilled to participate! It’s very important to me to get kids excited about STEM and this was a perfect opportunity. The world between my husband and me finally collided and I was in a comic book!
Tracy: I honestly didn’t think it was real. How could something so cool happen through the Internet?! Even after I sent the email answering questions for the comic, I was still in disbelief! Such an incredible honor!
Tamara: When Jeremy let me know that he’d be happy to have me join the Agents of G.I.R.L. I was ecstatic! I’ve always loved comics and as I noted above thought the world of what he was doing to inspire young women in STEM, so to be a part of that was a true honor! The other female scientists that he has highlighted in the comic have become a second peer group for me which I think is great because a lot of them I was unaware of until I read about them in the comic. Getting to then later be at Free Comic Book Days in North Carolina with him talking superhero science with the kids and directing the young girls and boys to him for The Unstoppable Wasp just made the experience that much better!
Have you read the book since it’s come out? What do you think of this approach to outreach?
Rachel: I’ve purchased all eight issues (to be honest, I pre-ordered nearly 15 copies of issue #1, which I was co-featured in). Most of my fellow comic-loving friends know how much I love Jeremy’s writing, and I make sure I always buy whatever comes out of that snarky brain of his. As far as outreach for the book, it was done SO well! It was a perfect bridge between science and pop culture, especially with real-scientist interviews in the letters pages.
Lisa: Unstoppable Wasp was on my pull list from the day it was announced. Jeremy has done such an amazing job with Princeless and Elsa Charretier’s art is just lovely so I knew this was a “must buy” for me.
I love that they used the backmatter for this kind of outreach and representation. I think it’s just so cool that kids can flip to the end of a comic about scientist superheros and see real scientists and engineers that don’t fit the “stereotypical” mold. And it’s been fun for me to find new awesome science women to follow on Twitter.
Jin: Yes. We bought the book and my 7-year-old daughter read it, too! It was really neat for her to see me in comic form, especially since she had read Jeremy’s other books.
I really loved this approach to outreach as it exposes the reader to real women in STEM. Oftentimes the first vision people have about scientists and engineers is of a man, even in comics. So to have women heroes and real awesome scientists and engineers (who happen to be women and diverse) helps change that perception. It increases the diversity in who those comic book readers are and inspire these readers into STEM fields.
Tracy: I have read the books and love them! Apparently they were doing well with outreach as the issue I was in sold out in many places! I absolutely loved how they involved real scientists, it gives readers a chance to see that they actually can become scientific superheroes with a little passion and hard work!
Tamara: I have read them and I love them for so many reasons! I love that he has Nadia’s “Neat Science Facts” where he actually teaches about STEM topics and Nadia uses science terminology in her speech. I love that he shows healthy, empowering relationships between the females in the comics – they are always working together and supporting each other instead of competing or tearing each other down. He also highlights in a fun banter way the unconscious bias among males in STEM, which Nadia takes on by forming her Agents of G.I.R.L. In a way, through the comic, he’s taking on all of the same things that we as women in STEM try to take on daily in our outreach, but as a male writing for Marvel, he’s able to elevate it further than most of us can, which is why it means so much.
Overall I’m sad to see the comic go – I have pre-ordered both volumes of Unstoppable Wasp because I want to be able to read them to my nieces who I’ve already shared Jeremy’s Princeless collection with. I am hopeful that by the time they’re old enough for the Unstoppable Wasp it will be back up and running.