Dynamite Entertainment will be celebrating Nancy Drew's 90th anniversary with a new limited series whose title shocked some when it was announced: The Death of Nancy Drew. On the face of it, celebrating a character's long life by killing them might seem odd - but the story is more than what the title infers.
Scheduled to launch April 1, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew by writer Anthony Del Col and artist Joe Eisma isn't a 'Women in Refrigerator' type storyline robbing the iconic female detective of her agency, but putting her in the active role of solving her own murder - with help from the Hardy Boys.
"I’ve been a fan of Nancy Drew since I was a young boy, so I would never create a story that’s not fair or cruel towards her, Del Col told Newsarama. "I don’t want to reveal anything about this story but Nancy will be front and center in this story, along with the Hardys, the entire time."
For more, Newsarama talked with Del Col and Eisma.
Newsarama: Anthony, Nancy Drew has been around for 90 years, how did you want to recreate her character and the Hardy Boys for a 2020 audience?
Anthony Del Col: Let’s face it. Despite the new CW series, most people still think of Nancy Drew as a “goodie-goodie” girl from an earlier era. So, when I sat down to, as you describe it, “re-create” their characters, I realized I wanted to put them into a new style of genre, one that would give them a little more edge and make them more relevant to today’s readers. And that’s when I conceived of creating these stories (The Death of Nancy Drew, as well as the earlier series The Big Lie) in a hardboiled noir.
I first came up with my take with the IP owners Simon & Schuster (and licensing agent Moxie Co) before Riverdale had been announced, and years before the new CW series. I told them I wanted to create a story in their world unlike any that had come before – and especially with this series, I think that’s very apt.
Nrama: Why do you think The Death of Nancy Drew was a story that needed to be told to celebrate her 90th anniversary?
oe Eisma: I know there were some concerns we were we were tastelessly marking her 90th by killing her, but it was purely coincidental that our story lined up with the anniversary. I actually started work on this book last summer.
Del Col: Yeah, I’ve been working on this story for almost five years now so it just so happens that it’s coming out the same year the character turns 90.
But in terms of the story, what we really wanted to create was a completely original Nancy Drew mystery. She’s solved a lot of crimes in all those years but never her own death! And since this was a hardboiled noir, we figured it played right into the tropes and structures of those stories – a death kickstarting an investigation. And through this, we’re going to meet a very modern Nancy, both the good and bad, and find out what contributed to her fate.
Nrama: Nancy Drew is one of pop cultures most popular detectives. How did you want to put a twist on the classic detective narrative as the story surrounds the death of an all-star detective like Nancy Drew?
Del Col: As mentioned, this is a hardboiled noir mystery tale. And with a lot of these stories, a death at the beginning sets everything in motion. It could be the titular Laura Hunt in Laura, detective Miles Archer in The Maltese Falcon, or Harry Lime in The Third Man. But, with a lot of these, the deaths lead the detectives to discover greater evils lurking around the corner.
Of course, in this story we start off with Nancy’s death, which I’d say is very, very different from any other Nancy Drew mystery. And as we dive into River Heights to figure out who would have wanted her dead, we discover more about Nancy herself before and leading up to her death.
Nrama: Did you want to connect this to other Nancy Drew continuity (like Kelly Thompson’s previous comic book run) or make it completely your own?
Del Col: As alluded to above, I was the one that approached the owners of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys brands, Simon & Schuster and Moxie Co, with the idea of doing this take on the classic teen detectives (I think that was back in 2015 or 2016). They loved it and I worked with them to put together a pitch and we sent it out together to comic publishers, and Dynamite immediately snapped it up. The Big Lie was the first series released. The plan was always twelve issues (or two volumes), and this second part was to take place in River Heights and deal with the criminal organization known as the Syndicate (inspired by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the original creators of the characters).
The reaction has been incredible and if there’s demand for more, I’d love to dive back into this world and these characters. I know what could happen after the Hardys solve this crime and it’s a really fun story.
Nrama: Will we see any of Nancy Drew’s other supporting cast members or will this solely be a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys story?
Del Col: Absolutely! This story takes place in Nancy’s hometown of River Heights so we will definitely weave her best friends George and Bess, her ex-boyfriend Ned Nickerson, and her father Carson Drew into this tale. They’re all reeling from her death and the Hardys have to figure out whom to trust as they investigate Nancy’s possible murder.
Much like we did in The Big Lie, we also incorporate other characters from the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which means that the Bobbsey Twins are also living in River Heights and suspects in Nancy’s death.
Nrama: Why was it important to you to add the Hardy Boys into this story instead of Nancy’s supporting cast to solve the mystery?
Del Col: This series was always conceived as a Drew/Hardy Noir tale. The first tale involved Nancy going to Bayport to help solve the murder of Frank and Joe’s father, and this one includes them going to River Heights to solve hers.
The three are indelibly linked in literature because they’re created by the same person/organization, their ages, and their histories. So, it was natural to have all three together in our stories, working together/against one another in this very modern tale.
Nrama: Some fans have been worried that this won't center around Nancy Drew as a character enough and focus too much on the Hardy Boys? What would you tell those fans?
Del Col: I’ve been a fan of Nancy Drew since I was a young boy, so I would never create a story that’s not fair or cruel towards her. I don’t want to reveal anything about this story but Nancy will be front and center in this story, along with the Hardys, the entire time. It might be through flashback, it might be through another storytelling device, but she’ll be there along with Frank and Joe.
Eisma: My main wish would of course be to just give the story a chance, but really, Nancy is at the center of this story.
Nrama: How are you avoiding the Woman in Refrigerator trope?
Del Col: The full title of this series is Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew. So, Nancy will not only be in the story, but in fact is our lead character. She’s the one that’s dealing with a lot of issues and learns things along the way. Again, I can’t really speak to how that’ll be (flashback, other means) but this is her story.
Eisma: I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say Nancy’s death isn’t about advancing or furthering the development of the Hardy Boys at her expense. There really is more to it than that. Nancy is the core of this book.
Nrama: Joe, how were you approached for this project?
Eisma: Anthony brought me on. He sent me a message about this project he was working on with Matt Idelson, an editor I had worked with previously. I had a great experience with Matt, and had been a fan of Anthony’s for a while, so it seemed like a no-brainer.
Nrama: From a style perspective, there has been so many different iterations of these characters. What went into creating your own take for these classic characters?
Eisma: I’ve been approaching this project the same way I have with my work on Riverdale - iconic characters through a darker lens. I tried to not let past versions influence my takes too much - I want these characters in this story to feel very much in the here and now. They’re also a bit older too, so that informs some of their design.
Nrama: Did the two of you read the Hardy Boys and/or Nancy Drew novels growing up?
Del Col: Absolutely! I was visiting my grandparents in Western Canada when I was six and found my mom’s old copies of Nancy Drew books. She introduced me to Nancy, and shortly after that Frank and Joe, and they were the first mystery books I had ever read. Because of that, I have a huge affinity for them and it’s a dream come true to now tell their stories in comics.
Eisma: My sister and brothers had both series around at various points of my childhood, and I read them that way.
Nrama: From a visual and storytelling perspective, were you influenced by the Nancy Drew TV show on The CW at all?
Del Col: This hardboiled noir take on Nancy, Frank and Joe was originally conceived of five years ago, before Riverdale and the new CW Nancy Drew series. I think it’s really interesting that they were all developed at roughly the same time, though - it shows that there’s something in the air and a desire to tell edgier, darker tales with these normally “squeaky clean” characters. As I often like to say, this is a story that wonders if three normally very "good" people can ever go "bad," and what happens when they try.
I’m a huge fan of the CW series and have met with the writing staff. They’re so incredibly smart and nice and remind me of the characters themselves. There are some parallels between them and some imagery that seems to be shared but were concocted completely separately! Again, there’s something in the air, I imagine.
Eisma: The Nancy Drew show does have some great production design, and it and Riverdale have both been visual touchstones for me, but for the most part, I’m digging into noir films of the 1940s for most of my visuals here.
Nrama: This is a tough question, I know, but who do you think are the better detectives: the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew?
Del Col: I feel so close to all three characters by now, but if someone had a gun to my head, I’d probably have to say Nancy.
Eisma: Nancy Drew, all the way.
Nrama: After working on this limited series, would you like to work on these characters on a more frequent basis?
Del Col: Hell yeah! I’ve got a really cool idea on a possible follow-up to this series I’d love to tell.
Eisma: I would not be opposed!