Straight from Dynamite, here's a Writer's Commentary from Anthony Del Col where he talks about the fourth issue of Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, with art by Werther Dell'Edera and a cover by Fay Dalton. Find out more on Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie here.
I always like to slowly bring the reader into an issue by focusing on a specific item or facet of a character that will either be expanded upon – or serve as a metaphor within – over the course of the issue.
In this case, I chose to focus on Sam Rover, the youngest of the three Rover Boys, and someone who's never been taken seriously by his siblings. I placed the scene in a very small space (a worker's shed at a golf course) to represent how trapped Sam feels – his brothers have cut him off and he has nowhere else to go. Artist Werther Dell'Ederra did a great job visualizing this on this page by keeping the exact same angle with the nervous Sam pacing.
One of the most interesting aspects of this story/series is that Nancy and the Hardy brothers (Frank and Joe) are wholesome teenagers. They know what's right and what's wrong. But in order to solve the mystery of who killed Fenton Hardy, they can't show any weakness at all. So they need to look and act tough – and this is acknowledged with Nancy's line: "The golf clubs are for show. But I'm not going to tell Sam that." I always like to tip my hat to my editors, Matt Idelson and Matt "Chet" Humphreys, and this line actually sprung from a conversation they had to ensure that the reader doesn't think that Nancy's gone over the edge. I'm really lucky to have great editors working with me on the project.
Similar to the first page, I wanted to simply focus on Sam Rover and his reactions to the situation. It's almost like "the six faces of Sam". So he goes from confused to smarmy to hurt to apologetic, all in the span of six pages. Werther's done a great job showing these sides to him.
"Too on the nose?" This is a caption line that I went back-and-forth on, trying to figure if it should be kept in or not. The question I kept asking of it, ironically enough, was if it was too pointed, or "on the nose". Hopefully readers will enjoy it, and not roll their eyes.
One of the difficult aspects of writing for three leads is allowing them all the opportunity to not only shine but also steer the ship. Since this is a "Nancy Drew issue" I thought it important that she's the one the leads the investigation with Sam Rover. But as the scene plays out Joe and Frank get their turns working Sam to get information out of him.
I'd love to take a moment to highlight (pun intended?) the coloring work of Stefano Simeone, our colorist (obviously). I really like the purple, blue, and red vibes he created for the scene. I think it really plays up the claustrophobic feel of the scene, adding to the tension.
And here's a page where Joe Hardy loses his cool and attacks Sam. When I sat down to craft the entire series (from Issue 1 to Issue 12) I decided to expand upon Joe's tendency to lose his cool easily. It's a direct contract to Frank, who's more calm and collected. Nancy's sort of the same way too, as the calculating "femme fatale". So it's actually a relief in some moments to have Joe jump out and add to the conflict of the scene. A major reason for Joe's eruption is that he's having difficulty with this "double life" of his. Pretending to be bad is against his nature, and this is his way of letting off some of that tension.
This was a difficult page to script – Nancy here has to turn around Sam Rover's allegiances completely. He starts off the issue not trusting his brothers but still being loyal to them. But through this conversation Nancy is able to shed some light on how much his brothers haven't been there for him over the years. They haven't been brothers at all.
What interests me about the conflict between the Rovers is that it parallels the growing tension between Frank and Joe Hardy, but also allows for insight. However, I find that as humans we don't pick up on this immediately. Normally it's only after being told about it, or a change in perspective.
And speaking of perspective, I love how Werther's framed the second panel from Sam's perspective. It's a great shot of Nancy, and because we're looking up at her, she seems more powerful – and someone we want to take advice from.
I'd love to focus on the coloring style of colorist Stefano Simeone here. This is a scene taking place in the wee hours of the morning but instead of traditional oranges or yellow he's introduced pinks here. It really reminds me of the recent trend of '80s colors used in comics like Paper Girls and The Wicked + the Divine. I think it gives the scene a different sense of foreboding as we continue to have growing friction between the three.
I liked the idea of setting this on the actual golf course at this time. As someone who used to golf quite a bit, I always wondering what sort of things happen on a course overnight. Golf courses are wide open spaces but have a LOT of corners and shadows throughout that bad things could happen in…
One of the things I've tried to do is dab a little comedy into each issue. Sometimes it's the wordplay of Frank Hardy – or Frank getting beaten up because of said wordplay. But here I incorporate another character – the hapless Detective Peterson of the Bayport Police. Funny "sidekick" characters are fun to write, even if in very small doses. And here it's something that Nancy can use as a distraction so that she doesn't have to speak to her father.
I've been quite impressed thus far – I thought more Nancy Drew fans would object to the fact that Nancy and Carson Drew are not as close as they traditionally are. But I've received a lot of support – mainly because they believe I have a bigger plan for this conflict. And indeed, I do. But you'll have to keep reading the series to figure out what that is…
And so we go from one incompetent cop to one that actually knows what he's doing…Police Chief Ezra Collig. I had to write this scene a number of times and in different locations. It was set at first outside the Old Mill Inn (where Nancy and her father are staying), and then in a diner, but then when I figured out that it made more sense to make it more personal, put it in Nancy's bedroom. There's something about a police officer appearing and invading your personal space that makes it more threatening.
And threatening, Collig is. It was important to make Nancy feel here that not everything they're doing is under the radar. Collig knows that something's up, and if Nancy, Frank and Joe aren't careful, they could be discovered.
Yes, you read that correctly. This page is a montage showing how Frank, Joe and Nancy make their way through the Rovers criminal group, and how they gain the confidence of Ricky and Teo.
In the script I used the now-cliched examples of people mathematical equations on glass (The Social Network, A Beautiful Mind, etc.). I wanted that sort of "brainstorming" feel where the four are working together to figure out the best strategy to get close to Ricky and Teo. I love the angle that Werther's been able to put together here, and the insert panels are a lot of fun.
As mentioned above, our three leads are good people. Noble. Moral. So now that they've been doing work in the underworld, how do they feel about it? Not great, and that's what this scene is portraying. They feel dirty, and – to use the metaphor used in Issue #2 – they feel like they're trapped. Hence another reference to lobster traps.
The showdown begins!
This page was a last-minute rewrite. Originally I had the scene set elsewhere in Bayport, but then I started to think about the history of small seaside towns like this. And after doing some research realized that a lot of them served as spots for bootlegging. And I figured that would be a nice little backstory for Bayport (and MAY be referenced in the Hardy ancestral lineage in a future issue…) and provide a fun locale for this scene.
I told Werther to have a lot of fun with the statue. Some cities have the silliest of statues so this one is a lobsterman holding up a fish. I don't know, perhaps I try too hard to have fun while writing…
Though I'd love to write more about this issue, I don't want to give away too much. So for those that are about to dive into the rest, you can look forward to some romantic tension, a great chase scene (inspired by The Third Man, one of my favorite films!) and a shocking twist ending to the issue. Enjoy!
COVER A (FAY DALTON'S COVER):
I feel like a broken record when I compliment Fay Dalton's covers every month. Man, that woman is an amazing artist! This was a very tricky cover for her – I had given her the notion of our three leads escaping from a mysterious attacker but wanted it to have more action than previous covers. And Fay did a great job with this, giving the action a kinetic energy important to this entire issue. At every moment Nancy, Frank and Joe feel like they could be caught, and this issue doubles down on that with a climactic chase sequence that Fay drew inspiration from.