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Drew's Clues

Nancy Drew has been given a graphic novel makeover, thanks to the husband-and-wife writing team of Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney and artist Sho Murase. GraphicNovelReporter talked to all three to see how Nancy Drew has been brought to new life in comic form.

How did you reinvent Nancy Drew for a comic?
Stefan Petrucha: We didn’t, exactly. The original girl-power figure, Nancy’s been around since 1930, created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which did various serial novels. At some point the rights were sold to Simon & Schuster, who publish new books to this day. The original series had something like 175 volumes.

Sarah Kinney: Around 2004, Simon & Schuster reinvented her, giving her a cell phone and hybrid car. So now Nancy and her pals Bess and George use 21st-century technology to solve crimes. We're pretty lucky, though, to be the first to bring the iconic girl detective to the modern medium of graphic novels. The comic captions let us hear Nancy's inner detective while placing her in visually exciting settings. Her relentless curiosity still gets her into trouble, but ultimately leads to her catching the crook.

Sho Murase: In essence, she is the same as she always was, clever, feminine yet strong and independent. The change has been mainly in adapting her to the current times. With the help of the talented writers, Nancy is a modern day young woman, with current issues (as well as the timeless ones), with her cell phone and social expansions now so broad with the introduction of the internet, mobile services, etc….keeping all the basics of what it means to be Nancy.

What was the work process? What's it like working with several people on one project?
SK: Stefan and I usually have a brainstorming lunch to nail down an idea and plot beats, which one of us summarizes for our editor, Jim Salicrup. After he approves, we write a full comic script, starting with a page bre4akdown, then a panel breakdown and the dialogue. Once we polish the whole thing, the script goes back to Jim. He edits it and sends it on to Sho for the artwork, the lettering added later.

What’s it like? The delay can be a little weird—we don't see the art until the book is published, and at that point it's too late to ask for any changes if something isn't quite how we envisioned it. Usually, though, the books are as good or better than we hoped!

SM: For the most part, there is creative freedom, based on the script. On the editorial side, Jim Salicrup and Michael Petranek from Papercutz are great people and they know what they are doing. I feel very lucky working with them. Aside from a schedule going haywire every once in a while, things are pretty smooth. Working with my colorist is awesome. Carlos J. Guzman is very talented, and the work is very collaborative. I usually thumbnail all the pages, then we go ahead and create the backgrounds together or sometimes I do it by myself. The next step is me going over drawing in all the characters. We move on to the coloring work, and this part is also collaborative. Some books have been entirely colored by Carlos, some from the both of us, some just by me…depending on both our schedules.

Stefan and Sarah, how long have you been writing comics together?
SK: About 15 years.

SP: Way back around 1993 I started writing for Egmont Publishing, in Denmark, doing stories for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Co. Sarah started working for them about a year later, and in time we just naturally started working on each other’s scripts.
Sho, how long have you been drawing?
SM: Since I was barely able to read. Back when I was tiny, I was already drawing sequentials (they may have looked more like a fleshed in stick figures!).
How did you get started in the comics industry?
SP: I grew up reading comics—it’s how I learned to read. Jim, our editor, was a childhood friend. He eventually went to work for Marvel. I did my first script for them, an awful Spider-Man story, and broke into the independents a few years later with some original series, like SqualorMeta-4 and Lance Barnes: Post Nuke Dick. As mentioned above, Sarah originally got involved with Egmont through me.

SM: I was already working for a few years in the animation industry when I decided to draw my first graphic novel, Sei, published years ago by Image Comics. I got several offers based on Sei and the rest just followed.

Whose idea was it to make a Nancy Drew comic?
SP: After working at Marvel and later Topps Comics (where I did the X-Files comic with him), Jim partnered with Terry Nantier to create Papercutz. The whole idea was to create a line of graphic novels that would appeal to a very underserved section of the market, tweens. As such, they licensed the rights to Nancy Drewand The Hardy Boys.

Jim asked me to write Nancy. I did the first few on my own, but my novel writing was taking off, so around the fifth book, I asked Sarah to step in.
What are your favorite comics?
SK: SqualorLance BarnesMeta-4, anything by Stefan. I kind of like Fruits Basket.

SP: I love Sarah’s taste! For me, it was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Marvel), then Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, that sort of thing.

SM: I read a lot of books and comics. It is hard to name favorites because I love so many different books for different reasons. Currently I am following 20th Century Boys,
Nijusseiki Sh┼Źnen) by Naoki Urasawa , Real by Inoue Takehiko. I also read a lot of stories written/drawn by current Japanese female artists, such as Souko Masaki or Yazawa Ai, and European comics.
How is the Nancy Drew comic different from the books? How is it similar?
SM: It’s different in that is up-to-date and happening in this time, and the cases and 
mysteries are new, but in essence are the same Nancy.

SK: The thing that strikes me most is that the visual depictions really drive both the humor and the tension in a way prose by itself can't. Seeing someone hanging from a cliff, for instance, is very different from having it described. Seeing Nancy face the reader as an assailant creeps up behind her provides a tension closer to watching a movie. Her narrative thinking “out loud”—when placed strategically on the page—has an impact you can’t even get in films, I think.

SP: What she said.
What do you hope to accomplish with these books?
SM: If those books can inspire even just a little, the little ones, to become not necessarily a sleuth like Nancy (or maybe yes?) but find the joy and adventure in their own life, and helps just a little by keeping them company while they grow, I'll be very happy.

SK: I'd like to see Nancy continue to be the icon for teenage brilliance she's always been, help facilitate readers’ discoveries using all the technology at their disposal. I'd also like to see her appeal to all ages.

SP: I want to respect her incredible history, but not be afraid to take her in wildly different directions, like with the new Nancy Drew Vampire Slayer storyline. It’s a balancing act, but key to keeping her fresh and exciting.