12 November 2007

Brothers Undercover: Hardy Boys Go Comics

I decided to ease into reading Japanese-style comics through American adaptations of the style--specifically, one of Papercutz's manga-style additions to the Hardy Boys books. This one was called, somewhat ironically, Identity Theft.

In this revamping of the Hardy Boys series (the third major reworking in its history, I believe), Frank and Joe have been granted several attributes that the heroes of adventure comics usually have. They now have secret identities as agents for A.T.A.C. (American Teens Against Crime, but that's a secret). They sky-dive. Joe wears bicycle gloves throughout the adventure, showing how edgy he is.

And the bigger change is in their personalities. When I was a boy, all Hardy Boys books were hardcover novels, and all Hardy boys were alike. Frank was a year older than Joe, but otherwise their characters were the same. Or, as the New York Times noted in 2001, their "personalities...barely extend beyond the color of their hair." (Joe's the blond one.)

Now Failure Magazine reports:

Frank and Joe are now exhibiting stronger and better-differentiated personalities. In the Digest series [started in 1979], "Joe is a bit more impulsive and Frank is described as 'studious,' but the reader can't tell them apart," reminds Gutman. "We're going to exaggerate their personalities. Joe will be younger, hipper, more impulsive and reckless. Frank will be more mature, grounded and perhaps a little nerdy. Think of Joe as Mel Gibson and Frank as Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon."
So basically the Hardy boys are now acting like the Sprouse twins--or at least the version that shows up in their TV show.

Still, I didn't expect them to go all shōnen-ai.

(And in case these new Hardy Boys comics on top of the old books aren't enough, here's a link for clean Hardy Boys fanfiction.)


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying this discussion of the similarities/differences between picture books and comic books very much. Did you catch Gene Yang's NYT review of THE ARRIVAL which opens by stating that Sendak's IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN, Rathman's GOODNIGHT, GORILLA, and Wiesner's FLOTSAM are all comics.


J. L. Bell said...

I did see that review, and tried to figure out how Yang was using the term "graphic novel."

Good Night, Gorilla uses speech balloons, as does In the Night Kitchen. So the link between those picture books and the comics form is quite visible.

The Arrival and Flotsam are wordless, however. I recall the latter as being made up mostly of full-page spreads, a hallmark of picture books but not comics.

Flotsam does offer series of similar images, especially toward the end, and maybe that's the connection with comics that Yang perceives. I haven't seen The Arrival yet, but I understand it uses the same visual strategy. Maybe that's part of his categorization.

Indeterminacy said...

In the 70's I had access to an large set of Hardy Boys mysteries, and read them all But it was a mixed set. Some where the originals which came out in the 20's/30's, while others were the newer, rewritten versions. Somehow I always preferred the originals. There was so more charm to them, especially the antique cars with running boards and rumble seats. I guess one reads to escape, but who wants to escape to where one was when one started.

I think as I kid I would have liked the comics even less.