For over 90 years, Nancy Drew has starred in hundreds of books and graphic novels. The young detective has also graced the silver screen and the small screen in over six feature films and three television series. And for the first time in her 90 year history, Nancy is about to get her very own series of action figures based on some of the most famous novels cover art by Rudy Nappi.
The new line of fully-licensed figures by Wandering Planet Toys are currently available on Kickstarter until May 17, and we got a chance to speak to Wandering Planet Toys co-founders Gavin Hignight and Chris “Doc” Wyatt and the President of the Nancy Drew Sleuths Jenn Fisher in this exclusive interview.
Are you surprised that after so many years of Nancy Drew stories in a variety of mediums, that this is the first time that toys will be produced based on the character?
Gavin Hignight: It is absolutely crazy to me that Nancy Drew hasn’t had more prominent collectibles in the toy space. That’s exactly why Doc and I teamed up to make these figures based on the classic covers. She’s a great role model, a cool hero; she has tons of action, adventure and intrigue, all of the things that go into a great action figure or toy line.
Chris “Doc” Wyatt: I was surprised when I first found Nancy had never had an action figure. I mean, Batman, the “world’s greatest detective” made his first appearance in 1939, whereas Nancy first appeared in 1930. Which means Nancy has almost a decade more experience as a detective than Bats! Yet he’s had countless action figures, and her—nothing.
But when you think more about it, it isn’t that weird. Nancy may have been around since 1930, but action figures as we know them (in the 4-inch hard plastic, articulated format) didn’t really come around in a major way until the 80s. Nancy had one TV show in the late 70s, and another TV show in the 90s, but kind of missed the window on the 80s golden age of action figure toyline launches.
It’s unusual for action figures to come directly from novels, as opposed to coming from film or TV shows derived from those novels. We didn’t see Katness Everdeen figures when those books were tearing up bestsellers lists, but we did once the movies came out.
Jenn Fisher: Yes and no. Merchandising over the history of Nancy Drew was rather narrow in regard to items based on the books – the Stratemeyer Syndicate was very protective of the brand. For instance, an attempt at a doll in the 1960s by Madame Alexander was very short lived. These would have been perfect in the 70s and 80s when action figures became so popular, so it’s about time that we have them today! They are the perfect way to bring the character to life right off the covers.
How important was the cover art to the Nancy Drew books, and how did it inform the new figures and packaging?
Hignight: The cover art is HUGELY important. We made a choice to make figures specifically celebrating the cover art. The stories inside are well written, fantastic, timeless works of mystery fiction… but no one would have opened those books to discover that if they hadn’t been enticed by the incredible parole, mystery and adventure illustrated on the covers, especially the Rudy Nappi era, in my opinion. Also, now that everyone can see the packaging that we’ve kept a mystery… you can see just how important the classic books, book cover art and overall Nancy Drew aesthetic is to not only our figures but also to our packaging. Our designer Jenny Moore did such a fantastic job utilizing the classic books and art to transport us back in time with these packages.
Fisher: Everyone judges a book by its cover – and the literal depiction of Nancy as she is on the covers is the perfect way to translate the art to action figure. Fans will especially appreciate all the attention to detail and the accessories with each figure.
How did each of you initially come in contact with the world of Nancy Drew?
Hignight: I can remember exactly when and where. I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Ft. Worth, Texas. My brother and I were exploring their old attic and found boxes of my mothers old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books from the 1960s. I was too young to read the books but I went through the box carefully examining each and every cover. The gorgeous art grabbed hold of me even at that young age. I wanted to know what they were up against, what crimes they were solving, if they would get away safely. I was instantly pulled into their worlds and adventures, just from those dusty hardbacks hidden away in a box in an attic.
Wyatt: For me it was the public library where my mom would volunteer on evenings. I remember that rack of books with distinctive yellow spines, and the mysterious cover art. But decades later, when I met the woman that eventually became my wife, she was a massive Nancy fan, and got me back into it.
Fisher: I was reading them late 1970s/early 80s to start and through the early 1990s before going off to college and law school. Friends we rereading them and I also checked them out a lot at my school library and there were so many to read, that it kept me busy and happy. Trips to bookstores with my Mom always were a success in getting the hardcovers or the new paperbacks coming out and spin-off series like the Nancy Drew Files that came out in the mid-1980s.
Society has changed in many ways since Nancy Drew first came out. What is it about the character that still makes her so popular?
Hignight: I think society has been doing its best to catch up with Nancy Drew. She was way ahead of her time in the best possible way. Also, it’s not lost on me that the many fans of Nancy Drew Mysteries I’ve met in my life all happen to be smart, clever, intellectual and kind no matter their age or gender.
Wyatt: Nancy Drew, when she first premiered in the 1930s, angered a lot of parents, and was banned in some places. There were libraries that refused to carry her books. Nancy would ignore adult advice, speak back to grown-ups, challenge authority figures, and was clearly doing the kind of crime-busting usually reserved for men. It was a minor scandal, but also the reason it was so popular with kids. During the Great Depression, kids would pass these books around and trade them like baseball cards after they’d read them. Some would have to hide them from their parents.
Nancy’s behavior in those old books is tame by current standards, but back then she was a fire brand. I think some people read them for the nostalgia, but I also think that Nancy still is a symbol for going out and getting the job done, even when people tell you that it’s not your place to do so.
Fisher: She endures because she’s timeless and her message is timeless. Being good, honest, working hard, helping others. Righting wrongs – solving mysteries and having fun adventures. It’s the stuff that gets the 8-12 year old set enthralled. It is motivating and inspiring as well as good entertainment when reading these books.
Do you each have a favorite figure?
Hignight: This is the hardest question for me to answer!! I really love the “Old Clock” Nancy because she is so iconic and brings such nostalgia. She was the first figure we sculpted, and we worked hard to get her likeness right, which then carried over to the other figures. I must also say that I really love the Crooked Banister Nancy. I really dig the art for that cover, I like that her hairstyle had evolved a bit and she felt like Nancy in a slightly different era. It was a really fun set to work on… and she comes with a ROBOT! Can’t get cooler than that.
Wyatt: In our “Lilac Inn” two pack we have a Nancy that’s transparent-yellow. That’s my favorite because that’s not actually Nancy. In the novel, that’s Nancy’s rival, a villainous ex-actress named Gay Moreau, who’s dressed like Nancy, but is also faking a haunting, so she’s supposed to be a ghost. Love that.
Fisher: The Hidden Staircase figure as that’s my favorite book. Seeing Nancy Drew come to life in that iconic look with her flashlight is perfect. It’s a spooky suspenseful book with all the great mystery trappings like secret passageways.
Hignight: Thanks for your questions! Really fun to talk about these figures after having them in development for so long.