Welcome to another edition of Post-Game. As the title suggests, we’re aping a little NFL-inspired post-game coverage for the realm of comics, allowing a slew of creators to come in and examine their work after the fact. Through this rare instance of hindsight, we can all gain a better appreciation for our favorite stories and series and better grasp the truly nuanced creative process. And unlike with football, we promise no (excessively) wacky graphics or needlessly bulky suits.
Title: Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie
Creative Team: Written by Anthony Del Col and art by Werther Dell’Edera
Story Arc: A six-issue miniseries.
Original Release Date: March to September 2017
Synopsis: When they’re accused of murdering their father, super siblings Frank and Joe Hardy join forces with Nancy Drew to crack the case. It’s a modern, noir-style reinterpretation of the beloved pulp wunderkinds.
AIPT’s Thoughts: The idea of bringing back everyone’s favorite childhood detectives struck even the most open-minded of comics fans as slightly bizarre. But Anthony Del Col’s story has been a reinvigoration of characters, a kind of “gritty reboot” that provides that noir delight without impacting the innocent core and relatibility of these cherished characters. And the art of Werther Dell’Edera injects more grit and playfulness essential to this highly entertaining mystery tale. This series is an example of past and future clashing together to make genuine magic.
How do you feel now that this story’s been told? Is there a sense of relief, or are there any uneasy feelings? Was its creation/development a “good” experience overall?
Well, one of the first things you need to know about me is that I’m my own worst critic. I will always look back on something I’ve written and cringed at how much I wish I could re-do it. I mean, I don’t want to say I’m the Adam Driver of the comics industry, but I am pretty tall… and have a big nose… and am the son of Han Solo (what?)
Having said that, I’m pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish with this first story arc, Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie. I think we were able to capture the right tone and tell a story that entertained readers, so because of that, I view it as a success.
Are you the type of artist/writer to go back and think about what worked or didn’t with a story or the overall volume? Is that process helpful at all?
As mentioned, I love to throw myself into the ring and let my mistakes punch more over and over again. So, yeah, I look back on what worked and what didn’t work with them. However, I’m the sort of person that, when knocked to the ground, I quickly assess which mistakes got me there, and I’m excited to get back up on my feet and make things better the next fight and the one after that.
How do you think the overall storyline or larger aesthetic/visual identity played out now that you’re looking at it as a wholly completed project? Has that shifted at all?
I think overall the visual look of The Big Lie proved to be better than I imagined. A lot of that credit goes to artist Werther Dell’Ederra and colorist Stefano Simeone. They did some really great work and made the story come to life.
I’ll make a confession here. I can sometimes be unbearable when I start working with a new artist. I always have a vision of what the art can look like and when I first look at something I’m always comparing it to what I had in my head. I’m really glad that my editor on this project, the incredibly patient Matt Idelson, helped guide me through this process. I believe his first words of advice to any artist working with me is: “He’s going to be a little intense at the beginning, but it comes from a good place and passion for the project.”
When Werther first submitted pages to me I wasn’t quite sure how to react. They weren’t what I was expecting. But I took a second and third look at them and realized how good they actually were. He was not only hitting the tone but also the key emotions in every scene, and really making the entire book more stylish than I could have imagined.
What kind of feedback have you received? Has any of that helped shape some of your thoughts on the larger series/story?
The overall feedback was really positive! We received a Ringo Award nomination, received a great deal of acclaim, got me other writing gigs, and a sequel series has now been greenlit (The Death of Nancy Drew, previously scheduled for an April release, but now… well, you know…)
[Editor’s Note: The Death of Nancy Drew now hits shelves June 3.]
A lot of the evolution of the series moving forward are internal things that I knew didn’t quite work and I wanted to make sure would the next round.
What, if anything, surprised you about how the story or visual narrative plays out in hindsight? Is there some reaction or emotion now associated with the series that you might not have felt during the actual creative process?
I think the biggest emotion that I experienced from working on that series was patience. As mentioned, I wasn’t quite sure if Werther’s style at the beginning was going to mesh with the noir aspect to the story, but I went with it and it turned out to be the best thing positive.
Another visual aspect was the colors. When Stefano first submitted the colors for the first issue, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them. But Matt, as well as my editorial assistant, Keith Morris, told me that they were perfect. And I’m so glad I trusted them. Because, now that I look at them, they are. I can’t imagine that book without that style.
Now that it’s finished, how would you describe the series/story to someone (what’s your best elevator pitch)? Did that change at all from before publication?
“Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie is a noir murder mystery where the two teen brothers are accused of murdering their father and have to turn to an old friend, Nancy Drew, to help clear their names.”
I think the elevator pitch has been the same since the very beginning except for one detail. The original version listed Nancy as a “femme fatale” but as the writing and story went along, I realized that sorta diminished Nancy’s role in the story. She’s more than a femme fatale (who are often supporting characters). This is, in fact, Nancy’s story (and the sequel series even moreso!).
Did you have any goals going into the project? Did you “complete” those in some way?
I think the biggest goal was to tell a good story and prove that we could tell a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys story in a noir tone. And with that goal, I think we accomplished it!
Is there anything you might do differently in writing/illustrating/coloring/etc.? Some things you wish had played out differently?
I fear the ending to the story is a little rushed. This was one of the first times I was constructing a mystery story, and the key to scripting a good mystery tale is knowing the ending, and working backwards from there. With The Big Lie, I originally had a different ending in mind but along the way I came up with something better. I immediately pivoted to point in that direction, but I wish I had conceived of that from the very beginning. It would have made the entire story a little more organically point to that villain.
But, as I say, writing mystery stories are tough. Now that I’ve done it a few additional times, I feel like I’m getting a better feel for it. But every new project is still rough along the way.
Inversely, what do you think are the highlights of the story? What are the points in which you excelled as you’re looking at the whole project from a distance?
Other than tone? I think I told a strong character story for Nancy, along with narration. For the first point, we begin our tale with Frank and Joe Hardy, but as the story develops it’s really Nancy’s tale, exploring her fractured relationship with her father. And in terms of narration, it’s always difficult switching narration every issue (in The Big Lie, I alternate — each issue is either a mix of Frank and Joe, or Nancy). It can be tough to do so, but I think we were able to pull it off.
Do you have any final thoughts or observations on the story/series?
I’m often asked which of my multiple series I like the most. It’s kinda like choosing which of your children the most. I often mention my first (Kill Shakespeare), my one with my favorite ending (Son of Hitler), the most heart-felt (Luke Cage: Everyman), but I always say my best, in terms of tone and achieving the original goal, is The Big Lie, because we captured exactly what we set out to do.
I probably sound like a shill here but I think we did an excellent job of setting up the second arc of our story, The Death of Nancy Drew. The next story is set six months later, and we switch the story from Bayport to River Heights. We again capture the tone of a noir tale and our new artist, Joe Eisma, is doing an incredible job with art. I’m excited for people to check it out!