Writer Anthony Del Col may be “icing” the beloved teen detective, but says it’s not “fridging.”
Last week, Dynamite announced its celebration of Nancy Drew’s 90th birthday. “Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew,” will not only see the death of the beloved super sleuth, but also task the Hardy Boys with solving her case. Fans were understandably outraged.
“‘Hey, how’d you celebrate that iconic young woman sleuth character? The one beloved by many?’” said comic book author Chuck Wendig in a tweet. “‘We killed her, stuffed her body in a fridge, had two less popular boy sleuths solve the murder, thus robbing her of agency. Very respectful of the character and of women in general.’”
It’s not a great look. Despite years of crossovers between Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, killing off the titular female character and leaving a bunch of boys to save the day is a hard sell for feminism, especially considering Nancy’s role as an independent icon for young girls.
The comics industry is notoriously patriarchal, if not altogether hateful toward women, and the practice of “fridging,” killing off a comic book hero’s wife or girlfriend in order to inspire or motivate him, is pretty commonplace. Writer Anthony Del Col confirmed to Book & Film Globe that it was his decision to ice the leading lady, but encourages fans to have a little faith in him and in our heroine.
“This is a very, very noir story,” he said in an email. “Some of the best noir deals with the main characters [being] dead at the very beginning of the story…and I wanted to really play with that concept and see how it could be told in the modern-day.”
“This line about Nancy Drew being dead didn’t fool me,” author Jennifer Fisher, who runs the Nancy Drew Sleuths fan club, told Book & Film Globe. “My suggestion is to think outside the box and not take everything at face value–kind of like how Nancy Drew might approach [this mystery] if she were trying to figure it out.”
The forthcoming monthly series follows the 2017 Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, which Del Col also wrote. That story meets the Hardys on the heels of their father’s death–and as the police accuse them of his murder. It’s much darker than the whodunnit paperbacks of old. Del Col cites Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s 2013 Afterlife with Archie, which reimagines the classic comic strips as a noir story and served as a basis for his development of the CW’s Riverdale, as inspiration. The forthcoming series even features the work of illustrator Joe Eisma, who designed the Riverdale comics.
“I really enjoyed the notion of taking characters people are widely familiar with and placing them into a completely new genre,” said Del Col. “I decided to put Nancy, Frank and Joe into a hardboiled noir story and see what would happen.”
In 2019, Nancy Drew joined the likes of Riverdale and scored her own CW teen soap opera, though Del Col’s reimagining of the timeless character predates the show.
“Before Riverdale and the excellent CW Nancy Drew series, people always looked at Nancy, Frank and Joe as clean and wholesome characters,” said Del Col. “What happens when they’re forced to do some darker things in order to do the right thing?”
“My feeling is that as long as they don’t drastically change the essence of the character of Nancy Drew, who is a very bold, independent, strong and intelligent woman who is out there to solve mysteries, right wrongs and save the day,” said Fisher, “then she can solve mysteries in modern settings that may differ from the past.”
There’s something to be said for killing your darlings. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew it when he killed off detective Sherlock Holmes, just like it was the right move for George R. R. Martin to separate Ned Stark from his head. In a world that’s often hopeless, it makes sense that you’ll lose a hero from time-to-time. But that doesn’t make it easy.
Fans of Nancy Drew will have to wait and see what Del Col has in store for their heroine when “Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew #1” hits shelves and screens everywhere in April 2020.