Nancy Drew Retro-Style Action Figures Celebrate Illustration
We chat with Wandering Planet Toys maestro Chris 'Doc' Wyatt and Nancy Drew Sleuth Jenn Fisher.
Welcome to our Creator Corner, our new reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the comics industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Chris Doc Wyatt and Jenn Fisher about the Nancy Drew retro-style action figures from Wandering Planet Toys . Listen to the unedited audio on our PATREON PAGE.
Before The Dark Knight Detective, before Jessica Jones, there was Nancy Drew. For ninety years, Edward Stratemeyer's sleuth has appeared in numerous books, comics, television shows, and movies, and yet, she's never had her own action figure line. Until now.
The good folks at Wandering Planet Toys follow up their successful molded plastic adaptation of The Prisoner with a new line dedicated to Nancy Drew. Even more significantly, they're paying tribute to the character as she appeared in those classic cover illustrations by artists Rudy Nappi. Each retro-style collective figure is styled after a Nappi design and will come packaged in a Secret Book Box, complete with various accessories associated with their particular story.
Even better, in partnership with Simon & Schuster, Wandering Planet Toys hired author Carolyn Keene to pen a new five-chapter novella called "The Clue of the Curious Collection." Not only is this new Nancy Drew tale written in the vibe of the classic stories, but it will also feature a nostalgic cover image by artist Ruth Sanderson.
Also, Wandering Planet Toys recruited the President of the Nancy Drew Sleuths, Jenn Fisher, to ensure they got the figures right. Her mission was to maintain Nancy Drew's legacy (and Rudy Nappi's legacy). Like many readers, these Nancy Drew stories mean a great deal to Fisher, and she was eager to celebrate what makes them so unique within the pop culture landscape and hopefully pick up a few new fans in the process.
They have just eight days to go on their Kickstarter campaign. With just a few days left, we sat down (via Zoom) with Wandering Planet Toys co-founder Chris "Doc" Wyatt and Jenn Fisher. We discuss what it means for them to bring a Nancy Drew action figure line to life finally and how they hope the fandom will receive them.
Brad: I am curious. Why Nancy Drew, Doc? Coming off of your Prisoner action figure line, another series that Lisa and I quite adore, how do we end up with Nancy Drew as the next figure wave?
Doc: My partner Gavin [Hignight] and I get asked that a lot, because I think, people expected, "Well, The Prisoner did really well, so you guys are going to do some other cult British TV show from the sixties or seventies." They were guessing things like Sapphire and Steel and The Avengers, the Emma Peel, John Steed Avengers, or something like that. I think Nancy Drew surprised a lot of people. But the bottom line about Wandering Planet Toys is we are making action figures that we want, but we don't see anywhere else. We're making the action figures that haven't happened.
The Prisoner never had action figures and Nancy Drew never had action figures. Both Gavin and I were fans of the books growing up. Nancy Drew has had so much success over the years. I mean, she's been around for longer than Batman, she's been a detective longer than Batman's been of a detective, and she's had three different TV shows across the decades, something like nine different feature films, featured in just hundreds of publications, but never had an action figure. And that's not fair and it's time to fix that.
Brad: Why was it important to get Jenn involved as the president of the Nancy Drew Sleuths?
Doc: Well, I've known Jenn for years. My wife's a big Nancy Drew fan. I'm a fan. We went to one of the conventions that Jenn, as head of the fan club, organized many years ago. When Gavin and I hit upon the idea of Nancy Drew action figures, she's literally the first person we reached out to. She actually helped us get the license through Simon & Schuster, she helped us get our art assets together.
Our concept had always been that we were going to do action figures based on the covers, because there's just these iconic classic covers from a number of artists. But we zeroed in on the ones from Rudy Nappi who. They're just amazing. For any kid of the eighties, who ever walked into a library or a bookstore, these covers are memories.
We're producing a line of figures based on the books, not any given TV version of Nancy or any given movie version of Nancy. So we thought, "Well, the theme of the line is organizing it around covers." And Jenn, the second we said that, she's like, "Oh, I've got an archive of cover art. Let me send you the link." And we started. That's how the process started of selecting what the action figure line would be, with comments from Jenn and with Jenn helping us get that. I mean, she's deep into the Nancy Drew fan world that just helped us get that detailed perspective on everything. I mean, to be honest, I didn't know the name Russell Tandy or Rudy Nappi. They didn't really feature the artists' names heavily, I just knew these images. And Jenn was like, "Oh yeah, that cover, the cover you're talking about was..." And just gave me the artist info I needed to make it make sense.
Brad: And Jenn, was this the phone call you've been waiting for? Was this an immediate like, "Heck yes, let's make this happen," or was there trepidation or anxiety around it as well?
Jenn: No, not at all. Actually. I was thrilled. I've known Doc, as he said, for a long time, and I just thought it was a really cool idea. I was a huge fan of Star Wars, still am, and so I had action figures back in the early eighties that I got for Christmas, and I always loved my Star Wars action figures. So just having a Nancy Drew action figure was really a cool idea to me as a fan of action figures, and then also bringing the character to life from those covers. It's like she just stepped right off the cover with her accessories or some clue from the cover, and she's ready to sleuth. So for me as a fan, that was really cool.
Brad: And as a fan, Jenn, were there things that you wanted to see specifically from an action figure line devoted to Nancy Drew?
Jenn: Well, for sure I wanted to see something that looked accurate as to the cover image. So it looks just like she stepped off the cover. I wanted to see the accessories, like her flashlight or a magnifying glass or other things like that, where she's in total sleuthing mode. I wanted them to be very evocative of classic Nancy Drew, which Doc and Gavin were totally on board with. I think there wasn't really anything necessarily that I didn't want to see, just getting action figures after all this time was really cool, and being a part of the process to see how they develop everything and all the work that goes into that has been amazing too.
Brad: it's a validation for Nancy Drew, but it's also a validation for an artist like Rudy Nappi. You are maintaining that gorgeous art that I think a lot of us think about when we think of Nancy Drew. We think of those covers. The the idea of not just making a 3D representation of Nancy, but those covers as well, that's genius. It's a massive "Thank You" to him.
Jenn: There's so many facets to Nancy Drew. There's the covers, the stories that we read, but there's all these people behind the scenes that made it happen, and the history behind Nancy Drew that is so fascinating. We have some collectors in our group that just really focus on the cover art and collecting actual original paintings from some of these artists. So, you have a rich, vast collecting fandom that has a lot of different likes and dislikes, but we all kind of come together to support projects like this. But celebrating those artists is a great way to bring out Nancy Drew's history and focus on their accomplishments and what they did with the artwork in bringing Nancy Drew to life.
Brad: How did you come to the conclusion that these were the specific covers you wanted brought into a 3D life?
Doc: Well, that took hours of discussion and conversation debate. There are some technical things about how we pick the covers in terms of what we can do in action figure and what we can't. We are focusing for this line on Nancy herself. In success, we'd love to do a wave two that had Bess and George and some of the other characters, the Hardy Boys. But we're focusing on Nancy in wave one. So that means covers where Nancy is the only human figure in the cover.
We also wanted to have a wide range of cool accessories and so we took a look at some of the creepier ones because it kind of gave us those cool accessories. We have one called "The Clue of the Dancing Puppet", in which there is this faceless marionette that-
Brad: So good.
Doc: Yeah! It comes in the middle of the night to Nancy. And as soon as she chases after it, it disappears, and it's so creepy and weird and it was just like, "Oh, we just want to do a faceless freak puppet as an accessory." We gravitated towards some of that. We've got a two figure set, which the second figure is a giant retro looking robot that's straight from a cover of a really weird lesser known Nancy Drew book. It's called, "The Crooked Banister." She goes to this bizarre house that's like a Winchester Mystery house, she has to cross this moat of fire to get to the house, and when she goes inside there's staircases that lead to nothing and there's secret compartments and things like that.
One of the things she finds inside is a robot on roller skates that is programmed. It's programmed by tape. And she accidentally, I think, puts in the wrong programming tape, and it tries to crush her to death. It tries to wrap its metal arms around her and crush her to death. And we're like, "Oh man, we're doing the robot. I mean, for real, that's happening." So, part of it was there were some technical considerations, part of it was aesthetic considerations. I mean, you're not going to do a line that features the covers of Nancy Drew and not do "Secret of the Old Clock," because it's book one, it is the iconic cover, and we're not going to not do that. And plus you could have that clock is a cool accessory with the little opening door and stuff. Then, sometimes it was just about what would be fun, what would be fun to make into an accessory or into a figure.
Remember, the Nancy Drew Retro-Style Action Figure line has a few days left on Kickstarter.