By November 23, 2010 8 Comments Read More →

Don't Be Messin' with My Hardy Boys

The Hardy Boys: Crawling with ZombiesI really don’t have anything against mash-ups. I loved Classic Comics as a kid, and only a few years ago I saw a version of King Lear at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre that was set in an unnamed Balkan country. Lear, played by Stacey Keach, was portrayed as a Slobodan Milosevic-like dictator ready to retire and turn over the family business to his daughters. No purist, I thought the transposed setting worked fine, and I didn’t even have a problem with Regan and Goneril driving onstage in a real Mercedes. And as far as I’m concerned, Jane Austen and zombies make a perfect match. But we all have our limits, and I seem to have met mine: The Hardy Boys Crawling with Zombies. Do whatever you want with Jane Austen, and if it pleases you, feel free to turn Charlotte Bronte into a madam at a Victorian brothel for vampires. But do not mess with Frank and Joe.

I was a Hardy Boys devotee as a boy; in fact, my friend Rob and I, a few decades ahead of the curve, formed a Hardy Boys book club. We were the only members, and meetings consisted of the two of us sitting in his attic and talking over which parts of the latest adventure we liked best. By common consensus, we declared The Yellow Feather Mystery the jewel in the Hardy Boys’ crown. So I’m speaking with the authority of a dedicated fan when I say that the portrayals of Frank and Joe in Gerry Conway and Paulo Henrique’s comic book series just won’t do. Joe is too skinny, for one thing, and Frank is way too much of a prig (granted, he was always the more conservative brother, the one who never wanted to improvise, but here he’s just a whiner). And, I’m sorry, as comic-book characters, they don’t look like right at all. I know, I know; the authors are more interested in capturing the images of Frank and Joe in the minds’ eyes of today’s young readers, but that’s just too damn bad. Where Frank and Joe are concerned, Rob and I should be the sole arbiters. Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way it’s got to be.

As to the zombies, oddly, I didn’t mind them much. Turns out they aren’t real zombies, only kids dressing up as zombies and then acting weird. So I’ll give Frank and Joe a zombie caper if only they’ll look and behave like they’re supposed to—like they did in The Yellow Feather Mystery. Some things just aren’t negotiable.



About the Author:

After more than 30 years at Booklist, editor and publisher Bill Ott continues to edit the crime fiction section of the magazine and still delights in discovering new hard-boiled writers. Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Bill.

8 Comments on "Don't Be Messin' with My Hardy Boys"

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  1. Daniel Kraus says:

    And what about Chet? Did the zombies turn the boys’ best chum into actual chum?

  2. david pitt says:

    I agree — there’s something…unseemly…about jamming zombies into the Hardy Boys world.

  3. Bill says:

    Dan, thanks for bringing up the important question of Chet. No, he’s not turned to actual chum; in fact, he’s the best-looking of all the characters (if we define best-looking to mean looking like I think he should look).

  4.' Pete says:

    I’m guessing you weren’t fond of Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy’s rendition either.

  5.' F. Elaine Maxwell says:

    I hate to see any of the classics altered. Why destroy the style of authors of the past to whet the appetites of junk food young people of the present? Every age has had to stimulate their imagination for the benefit of their times. What is wrong with people today? Can’t they create their own characters?Either they accept literature as it was written or leave it alone and do their own writing.

    I hated the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys as a child but I have left them alone and created my own mysteries. This also applied to to other books.

  6.' Joe Slobadnik says:

    What I don’t understand is why you say that you and your friend Rob should be the sole arbiters? Are you two the only two people on the planet who are allowed to interpret how the Hardy Boys should look? I’m sorry if I misunderstood you.

  7.' Jim Salicrup says:

    Hi, I’m the editor of HARDY BOYS The New Case Files #1 “Crawling with Zombies,” and I must admit I enjoyed reading your review and the responses so far. So, for what they’re worth here are a few of my responses…

    First off, regarding the appearances of Frank and Joe Hardy, one of the things we’re trying to do in our series of graphic novels is to merge the style of American comics with the very successful style of Japanese comics, or as it’s known today, manga. Why? While most modern American super-hero artists can come up with dynamic layouts and designs, they also tend to horribly distort and exaggerate their characters to the point where heroes such as Superman or Batman look like they’ve taken way too much steroids– and the action is way over-the-top. Japanese artists, while full of their own stylistic distortions, such as big eyes and tiny mouths, are better at creating more naturalistic characters amid realistic settings. We’re trying to take the best of both styles and create something new and exciting, and appealing for today’s young audience. Having Frank and Joe appear exactly as they did on the covers of their books from the 1930s just didn’t seem like the way to go. I will concede that we do struggle with getting Frank and Joe to look just right. Our very talented artist has gotten a bit carried away with Frank and Joe’s hairstyles, getting a little too manga-ish on them, but I understand what he’s trying to do. Look at the best-selling Naruto graphic novels and you’ll see he’s simply trying to make the boys appear a little hipper.

    As for the boys’ personalities, well, consider this. They’ve been on so many adventures together that they’re beginning to get on each other’s nerves! They even know they’re treating each other badly, but sometimes emotions make us act in strange ways. This part of the story really is the lead-in to the next graphic novel entitled “Break-Up!” I can’t wait to find out what you’ll think of that one, Mr. Ott!

    Daniel Kraus: Chet is still their ol’ chum, but he hasn’t been turned into chum… yet!

    David Pitt: Our adventures of the Hardy Boys, like every preceding incarnation of the Hardy Boys, is set in the time period of when the book is originally published, therefore featuring a zombie crawl (an activity very popular around Halloween) makes sense. And as Bill Ott so casually revealed, without any Spoiler Warnings, there aren’t any “real” zombies in the book. I hope that makes things a bit less… unseemly.

    Pete: Or what about Tim Considine as Frank Hardy and Tommy Kirk as Joe Hardy from the Hardy Boys serial that ran on the Mickey Mouse Club in the 50s?

    F. Elaine Maxwell: Gee, I appreciate that you’re considering the early Hardy Boys novels “classics” and “literature,” even if you hated them as a child, but how are we altering them? The Hardy Boys were created to be an ongoing series of adventure books for boys, and that continues to this very day. We’re just featuring the teen sleuths in comics form, just as they had been adapted several times into TV series (including an animated Saturday morning show). We’re, in our own way, being as faithful to the spirit of the Hardy Boys as possible, while continuing to present them to a new generation of readers. (The “original” books have been systematically revised and updated for decades, by the way.)

    Joe Slobadnik: I can’t speak for Bill Ott, but it’s fun to be the sole arbiter of how Frank and Joe should look. : )

    Thanks for the review, Mr. Ott!

  8.' Carrie says:

    This cracked me up! And I can relate. I feel that way about other books – namely Pride and Prejudice.

    Joe Slobadnik said: What I don’t understand is why you say that you and your friend Rob should be the sole arbiters?

    It was a joke, Joe.

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