"Don't you believe him," Nancy said quickly. "I have solved some mysteries, I'll admit, and I enjoy it, but I'm sure there are many other girls who could do the same."
The reigning queen of long-running franchises, Nancy Drew has been around in one form or another for over eighty years.
It started as a series of young adult mystery novels, the first of which was published in 1930 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The premise is simple enough: Nancy Drew is a young teenage girl, who alongside her friends Bess and George (and sometimes her boyfriend Ned Nickerson), solves mysteries. The original series ran from 1930 all the way to 2003, consisting of 175 books in total. A sequel series, Girl Detective, was published from 2004 to 2012, before being rebooted as the Nancy Drew Diaries in 2013. Along the way, a large number of spinoff book series of varying canon status were published. Between all the different series and spinoffs, the number of books totals at over four hundred, and still counting.
One of the most noteworthy traits of the original books is that the first 34 volumes were rewritten in the 1960s to reflect changing cultural values. This has produced mixed views; on one hand, this did get rid of a lot of racist stereotypes and other Values Dissonance issues that were in the original versions. On the other hand, the changes were also criticized for making Nancy herself less assertive, and simplifying the plots of many of the books (they were 5 chapters shorter). That being said, a large number of powerful and influential women, including politician Hillary Rodham Clinton, journalist Barbara Walters, and no less than three female current and former Supreme Court Justices have mentioned not only being fans, but inspired by Nancy to enter what were considered traditionally masculine fields such as politics, journalism, and law. As a result, feminists tend to have a love/hate relationship with the franchise.
Besides the books, there have been quite a few other adaptations. In the late 1930s, there was a series of four film adaptations, which were widely criticized at the time for being campy and In Name Only (and have mostly been forgotten since). In 2002 there was a television movie, and in 2007 there was a more tongue-in-cheek film adaptation, poking fun at the 1950s incarnation of Nancy. Another one went the modern high school mystery/comedy route in 2019. There were two prior television series starring Nancy; the first in the late 70s, the second a 1995 series canceled after half a season. A third series, centered around an adult Nancy as a police detective, was announced in late 2015, although ultimately never greenlit. A few years later, another TV series, Nancy Drew (2019), successfully made it to air, with Nancy, now 18, investigating a Twin Peaks-esque small town murder mystery ... and also Paranormal Investigation. A series of Nancy Drew point-and-click Adventure Games has been in production since 1998. More recently, a comic book series was published by Papercutz, starting in 2005. There has also been occasional lines of merchandise throughout the decades.
With the variety of media and the sheer popularity of the franchise, Nancy Drew will likely be around for decades to come.
Works in this franchise (dates of publication/release are in parentheses) include:
- Nancy Drew: An Animesque series by Papercutz. (2005-2010)
- Nancy Drew: The New Case Files (2010-2011)
- Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew (2012-2013)
- Nancy Drew Diaries (2014-2017)
- Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie (2017)
- Nancy Drew: A Continuity Reboot by Dynamite Comics (2018)
- Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Missing Adults! (2019)
- Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Death of Nancy Drew (2020)
- The four 1930s films, starring Bonita Granville as Nancy note :
- Nancy Drew: Detective (1938)
- Nancy Drew...Reporter (1939) note
- Nancy Drew: Trouble Shooter (1939)
- Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939) note
- Nancy Drew (2002): A Made-for-TV Movie with Maggie Lawson. It was supposed to be a Pilot Movie for a TV series on ABC Family that never materialized.
- Nancy Drew (2007): Starring Emma Roberts, and directed by Andrew Fleming (The Craft).
- Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019): A Direct to Video film starring Sophia Lillis as Nancy, directed by Katt Shea. Ellen DeGeneres and Wendy Williams are also producing.
- Nancy Drew: The book series that started it all. (1930-2003)
- Girl Detective: The sequel series. (2004-2012)
- Nancy Drew Diaries: A reboot of Girl Detective. (2013-present)
- The Nancy Drew Files: A Darker and Edgier mystery series. (1986-1997)
- Nancy Drew Notebooks: A Spin-Off Babies series. (1994-2005)
- Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew: Another Spin-Off Babies series. (2006-2014)
- Nancy Drew Clue Book: A reboot of Clue Crew. (2015-present)
- Nancy Drew On Campus: Exactly What It Says on the Tin, as Nancy attends college. Focuses on social issues and Coming of Age, instead of mysteries. (1995-1998).
- River Heights: A series of romance novels focused on Nancy's hometown. Nancy herself is a background character here, instead of a protagonist. (1989-1992)
- Desilu (Lucille Ball's production company) and CBS filmed a pilot called Nancy Drew Detective in 1957 with Roberta Shore as Nancy, Tim Considine (Frank Hardy in Disney's Hardy Boys TV serial) as Ned, and Frankie Thomas Jr. ("Ted" in the 1938-39 Bonita Granville films) as Carson Drew. The pilot was never picked up, as a sponsor could not be found.
- The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979): A TV series that included both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Started off alternating episodes between the two sides in the first season with some crossover, but the second season focused more on the Hardy Boys, with Nancy in a progressively supporting role. By the third season, the show had dropped Nancy Drew entirely. Pamela Sue Martin played Nancy in the first season and most of the second before quitting the show, and Janet Louise Johnson (AKA Janet Julian) took over for her last four appearances.
- Canadian studio Nelvana attempted to produce a miniseries for USA Network in 1990 entitled Nancy Drew & Daughter where Nancy, played by Margot Kidder, would solve mysteries with her daughter, played by Kidder's real life daughter Maggie McGuane. However Kidder was badly injured in a car accident while filming a scene in the first episode, and the show was canceled after she dropped out. The accident confined Kidder to a wheelchair for two years, and heavily contributed to her public breakdown in the years to come.
- Nancy Drew (1995) (1995): A Nelvana TV series, cancelled after half a season due to low ratings.
- Drew (2016): A planned series focusing on an adult Nancy Drew's work as a police detective. Nancy was played by Sarah Shahi. Unfortunately, it never got off the ground.
- Nancy Drew (2019): A show on The CW about Nancy solving a murder mystery during her time between high school and college, starring Kennedy McMann as the title role, Scott Wolf as Carson Drew, and Pamela Sue Martin with a cameo in the pilot. Combines aspects of mystery and horror, as Nancy and her friends frequently find their investigations helped or hindered by ghosts and other supernatural presences haunting Horseshoe Bay.
- The Nancy Drew Mystery Game (1957)
- Nancy Drew Mystery Party Game: One Step Ahead (2005)