In the past couple years, comics have seen a surge of classic properties that have been re-imagined to an older audience. “Afterlife with Archie,” “Flintstones,” “Sabrina,” and many more ave been successful in bridging the gap between the core of the property and an often more mature tone. With all that said if you told me a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys comic would be one of my favorite books of 2017 I would have told you you’re straight kookydooks (my 3 year old loves Moana so now I say kookydooks).
You however are not kookydooks because “Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie” has been one of my favorite reads this year. Just like the books I mentioned previously it merges the core ideas and essence of Nancy, Frank and Joe but throws them into a dark noir style mystery. The team of Anthony Del Col, artist Werther Dell’edera and colorist Stefano Simeon have successfully brought the crew into the modern age of comics but also with an interesting mystery and gritty art.
Being so enthralled with this title after I read issue one and two a few times I had to talk to Anthony Del Col about the series. Luckily he allowed me to. Below you will find our questions and answers with Anthony about the series, the characters and the challenge of re-imagining Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. After the interview, we also have an exclusive first look at three pages from issue #3. A big thanks to Anthony and the Dynamite team and be sure to look for issue three in stores and online May 17.
When I first saw the solicit for a new Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys comic I was not sure what to expect but it definitely was not this series. It’s a really great noir piece. How did this project come about for you guys and how do you approach a property like this people are going to come to with assumptions that they know what it is?
Anthony Del Col: Like many, I was a HUGE fan of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, the Riverdale-zombie mashup series a few years ago. I LOVED what how, by putting these well-known characters into a completely new genre they were able to bring them to life again (I think that’s a zombie pun…?). And it immediately made me think about other established characters that could be placed into a new genre.
And then it hit me: Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. And in a hardboiled noir genre ala Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. A story not with “gee whiz” scenarios but instead dames, drugs and death.
And by putting them into this totally new genre it immediately makes people know that this isn’t the typical sort of scenario they find themselves in. For instance, in the first issue we meet Frank and Joe as they’re being interrogated as suspects in the murder of their father. No Hardy Boys adventure has ever opened like that.
Where many of the classic stories focused on a certain crime what does The Big Lie center around?
ADC: The Big Lie centers around the most important – and most personal – crime that any detective could encounter: the murder of a loved-one. In this case, it’s Fenton Hardy, the beloved father Frank and Joe. At first it was considered a suicide but now the police believe that someone did it – and Frank and Joe are going to have to solve it to clear their names – with the help of a femme fatale-esque Nancy Drew.
Who are these characters to you? How important is to stay true to who they are at the core (look and feel)?
ADC: To me Frank, Joe and Nancy are some of the smartest and more courageous teenagers ever created. They’re so confident in themselves that they’re not afraid to take on the world, even if that puts them into danger. And that’s the real appeal of them.
I’ve done a couple projects now that take established characters and reboot them for new audiences (Kill Shakespeare for example). The key is to be true to what defines the characters and then build new layers upon that. So in this story, all three characters are, at their core, moral, courageous and persistent.Continued below
Comics might be one of the few times it might be ok to judge a book by its cover. Fay Dalton’s covers really got me excited about this series with their very pulpy noir magazine aesthetic. As a team you have completely captured that same feel in the tone and look of the series. As creators what is essential to the noir genre? Is this something you set out to establish with this series?
ADC: I’m so glad you like Fay’s covers. I discovered her work with some covers she did with Titan Comics and I immediately thought she’d be perfect for this series. Which she has been. Wow, that woman’s got talent – and nicely captures the hardboiled noir look we’re going for.
In terms of interior art, artist Werther Dell’Ederra’s done an amazing job with making it noir by his off-kilter illustration style. Werther’s an amazingly-talented storyteller and knows the best way to capture an action or a look through angles and shadows.
In terms of story elements, I’ve tried to include all the elements: a cynical voice-over, lots of shadowy figures, hardened adults and a murky moral code. These are the essence of noir.
The story moves between the past and present for both Nancy and the boys. How do you attempt to balance the background stories and the mystery in the present yet still establish the great pace you have in the series?
ADC: Because these are established characters it’s important to make it clear as soon as possible what version we’re reading. For instance, we quickly discover that brothers Frank and Joe aren’t very close and we also find out why. And for Nancy, how did she get to Bayport? Why is she helping them out?
The key is just show enough of the back stories and allow the rest to come out in the present. It’s tough – I had enough material to fill up many issues with her backstory – but it’s the present that’s more important.
And we (myself, our editors Matt Idelson and Matt Humphreys, Werther and colorist Stefano Simeone) made a decision very early on to have the flashbacks look different from the present-day. It gives it a nice contrast and makes it clear, I think. Werther and Stefano deserve all the credit there.
Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys are known for solving mysteries. What makes a good mystery and is there any intimidation in creating a mystery for this series?
ADC: I’m ALWAYS intimidated when I sit down to write a mystery. It’s really tough because it’s important to make sure that everything fits together nicely, like a puzzle. And then I have to break the puzzle apart and figure out when to give out each piece to the reader.
It’s quite easy to put a LOT of stuff in a mystery so the key is to make it as simple as possible – without making it look like that.
What is the process like between writing and art (and with Stefano)? I have really enjoyed the attitude and life that comes across in presentation and movement of the characters
ADC: It’s interesting that as a series goes on the writer and the artist become acquainted with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I find myself now knowing what Werther can and can’t do and tailor the scripts to that.
As mentioned above, Werther’s done an amazing job bringing the characters to life. He’s always been great at noir but he’s able to find the perfect angles to highlight a cop beating up a suspect, or a thug tossing over a poker table.
For readers who may have not picked up the series yet what are they missing out on and for those reading what can they expect going forward?
ADC: If you haven’t picked up the series… THE BIG LIE is a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys story like you’ve never read before. Take three teenagers that, when you think of them, the words “goodie-goodie” come to mind and place them into a shady world where they have to pretend to be bad to survive. And it’s lots of fun.
And for those that are already reading the series… we’re getting closer to discovering who killed Fenton Hardy, but when we discover that even MORE questions will be raised, leading us to a “big bad” that everyone should enjoy. Oh, and it’s lots of fun!Continued below