The Hardy Boys stand over Nancy Drew’s grave. The beloved teen detective, who has survived countless scrapes, cliffhangers and close calls, is dead — or so it seems — killed while pursuing a high-stakes investigation of organized crime. And it’s up to the Hardy Boys to solve the mystery of her murder.
What a way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of an unstoppable female hero.
The forthcoming comic book series “Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew!” was intended to commemorate the publication in April 1930 of the first Nancy Drew book by putting a noirish spin on the classic tale of the roadster-driving, truth-seeking sleuth from River Heights.
But the possibility that Nancy — whose pluck and valor have helped her triumph over villains since the Great Depression — was murdered infuriated some of her passionate fans. It also sent her name trending on Twitter recently.
“I’m very surprised” by the blowback, said Anthony Del Col, who wrote the series, which is to be published by Dynamite Entertainment in April. Del Col said he had envisioned the story as a continuation of a previous series he wrote for Dynamite in which Nancy and the Hardy Boys team up to solve the murder of the boys’ father, Fenton, a crime that the boys themselves stand accused of committing.
As in that series, he said, the gritty settings and dark themes in the “The Death of Nancy Drew!” were inspired by the conventions of film noir. Perhaps the bigger question on the minds of fans: Is she really dead?
Some Nancy Drew readers said the possibility that Nancy had been killed, even if she turns up alive in the end, smacked of crass marketing, particularly for a character who has been embraced as a feminist role model.
“The idea of killing her really flies in the face of her appeal as a character — if they have killed her, which we don’t actually know,” said Melanie Rehak, author of “Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her.”
Some Nancy Drew fans also complained that killing Nancy and having the Hardy Boys work to crack the case played into antiquated gender stereotypes, just the kind Nancy herself tried to upend in her books, which have sold more than 80 million copies.
Nancy has captivated readers since she first sprang to life as the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer, the head of a children’s literature syndicate who created the Hardy Boys in 1927.
Rehak said the intense reaction to Del Col’s comic book series showed the enduring power of Nancy Drew.
“She’s still so powerful as a character that it creates an immediate firestorm,” Rehak said. “I think that’s very significant. There are other characters who would not provoke such outrage.”