I 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.