Dynamite’s latest all-ages original graphic novel, Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Missing Adults, brings everyone’s favorite sleuthing teens into the 21st century, complete with non-stop adventure, sibling rivalry, and a koala-in-a-diaper costume. When the adults go missing, it’s up to Nancy, Frank, and Joe to solve the case.
Writer Scott Bryan Wilson (Batman, Star Trek: Waypoint) and artist Bob Solanovic (Mister Meow) head up the 104-page hardcover book with Valentina Briski and Tom Napolitano (Justice League, Aquaman, Red Sonja) on colors and letters respectively. I sat down with Wilson and Solanovic to chat about updating these characters for a new audience.
Deanna Destito: Did you read Nancy Drew and the Hard Boys books?
Scott Bryan Wilson: I actually read both series when I was a kid a few years before I discovered comics. I liked that they were numbered and I could collect them, but it was those Rudy Nappi covers for both series that got me hooked. If you want to see something scary, check out Nappi’s cover for While the Clock Ticked. As a boy, of course, the Hardy Boys were thrilling to me because their books promised burning airplanes, underwater treasure, samurai swords, and voodoo dolls—and always delivered. Nancy’s books were less action oriented and more mysterious, which was an equal draw to me. I don’t know that I ever had a favorite, but they meant a lot to me for many years. So of course getting offered the chance to write them now was something I was super excited about.
Bob Solanovic: Haven’t read any of the books. I know about them strictly as a pop cultural term mentioned in TV shows or something like that. Matt Idelson from Dynamite Publishing drew me to Nancy Drew (ha!). He contacted me and offered me some mysterious gig and I waited for three days, I think, before he told me what the job was. Then I googled for some visuals, found out there was already one Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mini-series so I gave that a quick look and thought okay, it’s an angsty, post-pubescent crime type of thing. Turned out Matt wanted something completely different, both visually and story wise, which was much closer to the stuff that I used to do here in Croatia. What’s really interesting is that my first professional gig as a comic book artist was on a series about a girl detective and her sidekick so I think I completed some kind of a circle here.
Destito: Scott, how did you approach characterizing these classic, iconic characters? Did you stay true to their original concepts or was an update needed?
Wilson: We took a totally different approach, I think, than anyone’s taken on Nancy and the Boys—our version is a little more irreverent, not too precious with the characters. Their heart is still there—the nucleus that makes them these enduring characters—but we gave them some flaws and quirks. Joe and Frank, for instance, are always fighting with each other, like most brothers. Nancy is still the smartest person in the room but has her faults, too. We took some liberties with the supporting cast, as well, all in the interest of modernizing the property and making it relatable to today’s readers. It’s a big credit to Simon & Schuster and Dynamite that they turned us loose with these icons, and Bob and I are very appreciative of their trust. I think we found a balance where longtime readers will love the slight refresh, seeing the characters they love in a new light, while new readers will enjoy the modern approach.
Destito: Bob, how did you work in your personal style with these iconic characters?
Solanovic: Initially I wanted to try something new, probably not too radically different from the stuff I did recently but different enough. When I read Scott’s script I found out it was packed with visual gags and action so I kind of reverted to my, let’s say, default style because it made absolute sense. And it was a pragmatical choice, too. Since all the characters were detectives, the main character of a French graphic novel series, Jérôme K. Jérôme Bloche, kind of influenced the Hardy Boys’ noses (although I can’t honestly say the boys or any other thing in this book have any visual similarity with the work of Alain Dodier who is an absolute, untouchable master of our medium but for some reason big noses stuck to mind every time I would think about the boys’ design). I wanted to keep Nancy as tomboyish as possible. I was inspired by the way Werther Dell’Ederea drew Frank and Joe, but his Nancy was way too femme fatale for this kind of book.
Destito: Which character was your favorite to design and draw throughout the book?
Solanovic: Joe. I mean, when I drew that hair… I just knew I was onto something. And one of my colleagues joked how his hair will probably get bigger as I progress through the book and I think it actually did. But I also loved drawing Frank and Nancy, too. I like how Frank is more of a cool, unemotional Sherlock Holmes kind of character while Joe could be any of the famous American detectives such as Paul Newman’s Lew Harper or somebody like that so I was very careful about their body language. At first I was struggling with both Nancy’s hair and glasses (and bangs, especially) but after a while I realized how radically different it is from, I think, most of Nancy Drews I saw on the Internet and I’m really proud of that. Hope people will dig it.
Destito: What was it like working with the rest of the creative team?
Wilson: We set out to make an exciting, high-octane, relatable, funny book, and our unofficial approach was “nonstop action, nonstop jokes.” My partner on the book, Bob Solanovic, was perfect for the task—his art is expressive, kinetic, and fluid, and he is able to convey action and comedy (seemingly) effortlessly. His pages are full of detail and full of life, and working with him has been an incredible experience. We’ve worked on this book for so long together that we’ve become very good friends, even though we’ve never met. Colorist Valentina Briški did an exceptional job, using a simple color palette with some beautiful flourishes. There are so many of Bob’s details and background jokes that I missed until I saw Valentina’s colors, which brought it all to life. And of course, letterer Tom Napolitano makes the whole thing readable, adding to the mayhem with his exceptional sound effects and some of my strange textual requests. Editor Matt Idelson encouraged us to keep pushing ourselves the whole time. It’s been a dream to work with all these folks.
Destito: Who do you lay your money on if you need a mystery solved: Nancy or the Boys?
Solanovic: Honestly, if I needed a mystery solved I would try to solve it myself. I always wanted to be a private detective. But for some reason becoming a comic book artist seemed more realistic so I went that way.
Wilson: If I’m bound and gagged, stuffed in the trunk of a car with a starving, rabid dog, and the car has a bomb in the backseat, and the car’s being pushed out of a plane over a jungle full of anacondas and caimans and jaguars and violent gangsters who are making their hideout there? If I need that mystery solved? If I knew Nancy and Frank and Joe were on the case, I’d be cool and collected in that free-falling car. I have no favorites here, I love them all equally—intrepid, intelligent, inquisitive, fearless, and tenacious. They’re the best.
Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Missing Adults is set for release in June. Check it out digitally on Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, ComicsPlus, and more.