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Literature / The Hardy Boys

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Homer: These Hardy Boys books are great too! This one's about smugglers.
Bart: They're all about smugglers.

A Long-Running Book Series of mysteries for kids and teens, published under the pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon. They follow the adventures of Frank and Joe Hardy, a pair of brother detectives. Frank is the logical, calm one, and Joe is the more impulsive, instinctual one. The series (alongside their Distaff Counterpart and frequent crossover partner Nancy Drew) invented or popularized most of the Kid Detective tropes.

The series was created in 1927 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a prolific group of ghostwriters under the direction of Edward Stratemeyer (and his daughters, who took over when Edward died in 1930) that put out many successful children's books. Canadian writer Leslie McFarlane was the original writer of the first 16 books, writing them only to pay his bills and feed his family (getting ~$100 US for each book, with no royalties, which wasn't all that bad at the time; a large number of the original Stratemeyer ghostwriters were journalists, and using journalist salaries as comparison, $100 per book was roughly six weeks' salary for four weeks' work), and dreaded having to write the books (referring to the books in his diary as "the damn juveniles"), and by the mid-30s other writers began to write the books as well (such as John Button, whose books are infamous for their use of sci-fi elements, inconsistencies, and strange plots), leaving McFarlane free to forget about the books and write his own stories.


In the late 1950s until the early '70s, the first 38 books were revised and rewritten to update the stories, eliminating outdated terminology ("chum", "roadster", etc.), removing politically incorrect terms and stereotypes ("Negro", "swarthy foreigner", "Chinaman", "colored", etc.), and shortening the books from 25 chapters to 20 chapters. Newer books were also made, with the "original" series coming to an end in 1979 with #58. The original editions can be recognized by having dust jackets and plain brown (and later, tan "tweed") covers; the revised versions, beginning in 1961, have the cover picture printed directly on the book to better withstand being used and abused by kids.

After the books were acqired by Simon & Schuster (which took control of Grosset & Dunlap in the 70s after a lawsuit), the series was continued as "Digests". Later on, the Darker and Edgier Casefiles series was added and ran concurrently with the Digests. Both series have since been discontinued, the Casefiles in 1998 and the Digests in 2005. The series has since continued under the Undercover Brothers subtitle, which reinvents the brothers as agents working for an all-teen secret agency; there is also a corresponding graphic novel series.


The Hardy Boys have also appeared on TV many times, including:

  • "The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure" and "The Mystery of the Ghost Farm", two serials running on the original Mickey Mouse Club in 1956 and 1957.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries on ABC in The '70s, which they shared with Nancy Drew, starring Parker Stevenson as Frank and Shaun Cassidy as Joe. Arguably the most famous of the TV incarnations.
  • The Hardy Boys, produced by Nelvana in the The '90s (one of their rare live-action projects), starring Colin Grey as Frank and Paul Popowich as Joe.
  • The Hardy Boys, a 1969-1971 Saturday Morning Cartoon series that featured the Hardys as working undercover in their own rock band, with accompanying bubblegum pop albums and a group of live actors touring. It was notable for being the first cartoon series to have an African-American character.
  • The Mystery of the Chinese Junk, a 1967 CBS pilot that starred Tim Matheson and Rick Gates.

Definitely not to be confused with the wrestlers of the same name.

They seem a bit prone to a Crossover with Nancy Drew.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Much like Nancy Drew, there have been a few names that have fallen out of favor since 1927, and now come across like this. Just look at their close circle: Frank, Joe, Tony, Phil, Jerry, and Callie are quite common, Chet and Biff are marginal (and nicknames for Chester and Allan, anyway), but Iola just completely sticks out. Considering she was replaced with a girl named "Vanessa" in the Casefiles, it's possible the publishers thought so, too.
  • Aloof Ally: in the Casefiles series, the Gray Man and, by extension, the Network he works for.
  • Alternate Continuity: There's several different continuities, as the publishers try to keep the series relevant to modern kids. There's the "Blue Spines", which is the blue hardcover books & digests (and that's broken down to the Original Texts and the rewrites of the '70s), the Casefiles, Undercover Brothers, the Clues Brothers, the new Adventures series, and the second "Case files" series which has little to do with the first. The various TV incarnations (The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries of The '70s (the best known), The Mickey Mouse Club serials of the 50s, and The Hardy Boys of the '90s) are also considered separate continuities, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the printed tales.
  • Animated Adaptation: CBS had a cartoon version which ran 34 episodes from 1969-1971.
  • Big Eater: Chet Morton, but both Hardy Boys seem to qualify as well. Joe sometimes rivals Chet's, and Frank, well...
    Callie: We polished off a huge pie at Mr. Pizza's. And I only had two slices.
  • Born Detective: Since Fenton Hardy was a private investigator, it would seem Frank and Joe were doomed to be as well.
  • Busman's Holiday and It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: vacations and holidays are a good way to write the Hardys when they have to spend "overtime" in their work without worrying about school. Especially when a case will take them out of the States.
  • Brains and Brawn: respectively, Frank and Joe themselves are often compared to each other like this.
  • The Case Of: The series used this a few times, with titles like The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals and The Case of the Psychic's Vision.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue / Danger Deadpan: Both brothers are very prone to this, due to their snarky personalities and Nerves of Steel.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Chet Morton and his loads of hobbies that seems to change for each book.
    • Frank and Joe are both guilty of this too.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: At the end of the Casefiles book "Blown Away", Frank and Joe uncovered an international conspiracy, saves two African countries (Bhotai and Katara), and cleared the name (albeit Acquitted Too Late) of their friend's boss (and mentor) from smuggling charges. The president of Katara then sternly asks if they were also responsible for blowing up his country's new weapon that cost his treasury millions of dollars. Frank contemplates that he and Joe might be used as scapegoats, but when they bravely admit their guilt, the Kataran president is instead actually grateful to them.
  • City of Adventure: A lot of stuff seems to happen in good ol' Bayport. Also averted, since the brothers travel all over the world when they stumble into mysteries.
    • In the Hardy Boys, it's slightly justified. Bayport was a port city (duh), so some smuggling was expected. It makes less sense in Nancy Drew's hometown River Heights (although both were suburbs of cities which were known for mafia activity, New York and Chicago.)
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: The "Be a Detective" series, which ran for six books and was a Crossover with Nancy Drew.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Charity in the Casefiles. Fiona Fox in the '88 Super Mysteries.
  • Clear My Name: the first three volumes of the Casefiles series all charges the Hardy with murder, but that was just part of the villains' plot.
  • Cliffhanger: The Stratemeyer Syndicate actually insisted in their outlines to Hardy Boys ghostwriters every chapter end with one. It is a directive that has been carried through to almost every book to this day.
  • Cool Bike: In the most recent series of books
  • Cool Boat: the Sleuth in the original series. Who knew that a term for a detective would be a good name for a boat?
    • Their friend Tony's boat, the Napoli, also qualifies, as it's used to help them out on a number of occasions.
  • Cool Car: Several of them
    • Subverted in the original books, where their car was described by Chet as looking "like a million dollars but drove like thirty cents", and can barely make 15 miles an hour.
  • Crossover: With Nancy Drew in the "Super Mystery" series and Tom Swift in the "Ultra Thriller" books.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Casefiles series. Iola Morton is Joe's long-running girlfriend in the original series, and blown up by terrorists seconds before the opening scene of the first book.
    • Not to mention that some cases would place tension between the brothers, which would often lead into not-so-friendly brawls between them. Later, it also modifies their relationship with the police (which is scarcely a problem in the original series), with an Ascended Extra of sorts in Con Riley as the only officer that takes their skills seriously. They also use guns, and bad guys regularly try to Just Shoot Him. And then there are the Assassins, the terrorist group responsible for Iola's aforementioned murder, and are also the most frequently recurring villains in the series who, exactly what you might expect.
    • The original edition of "The Sinister Signpost" features a vaguely middle-European villain named Vilnoff who tries to destroy Bayport, and kills himself via electrocution to avoid arrest.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both of them, very much so, but Joe in particular. They've been addressed and referred to as "wise guys" on more than one occasion, by friends, foes, and everyone in between. This is more prominent in Casefiles,Undercover Brothers, and Adventures, though.
    • They've backsassed the bad guys so many times that you have to wonder how they didn't get themselves shot in the face long ago.
  • Distressed Dude: Both of them, also Fenton and Chet on occasion.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: As the years went on, Frank became much more bookish, logical, and occasionally downright shy around girls, while Joe became much more extroverted, temperamental, and a much bigger flirt.
  • Doppelgänger: In a Casefiles book, body doubles of the boys are made once they're captured. They play Spot the Imposter. It turns out Iola kept a diary, so when Joe asks her questions, in standard trope fashion, "only she would know the answer to"...
  • Eagle-Eye Detection
  • Eco-Terrorist: In the "Undercover Brothers" novel Blown Away, the person behind the attempted bombing of the Billington Resort is a member of the terrorist group Ecology First, which resorts to extreme methods in order to preserve the environment.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: when the Big Bad of "Mystery of the Desert Giants" is captured, he plans on selling out his gang and framing an innocent man to feign his own innocence. His chief mook is so disgusted that he testifies to make sure the Big Bad goes to jail, and mentions how he should never have been involved in the criminal racket in the first place.
  • Eye Scream: in "Witness to Murder", Frank and Joe run afoul of a leader of jewel thieves named Cutter, who Frank notices never takes off his tinted sunglasses, even though Cutter remains mostly indoors. After escaping, Frank turns to his father for a profile on the guy. Fenton's file mentions that Cutter got his alias because he used to be a master safecracker with a large amout of luck. He changed his criminal profession when his luck ran out one day with his acetylene torch...
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: the Casefiles doesn't hold back in how murders are committed. And since practically more than half of these books deal with such a crime, there is sure to be aplenty.
  • Fat Best Friend: Chet Morton is the best friend of The Hardy Boys, and has been described as fat, plump, chubby, stout, heavy-set, etc. He has a huge appetite, and vacillates between types A, B and C as the plot dictates.
  • Five-Man Band: The Hardy Boys and their friends in the Digests and Casefiles:
  • Food Porn: The series originally included extended, lavish descriptions of meals. Stratemeyer reasoned that since teenage boys have huge appetites, they'd appreciate such detail. Later editions of the earlier volumes saw such passages removed, in accordance with the growing preference of young readers for dialogue and action over description.
  • Friend or Foe
  • Girl of the Week: Happens pretty often in the Casefiles series, although they usually tended to go for Joe (if not one of the other male non-Hardys); the ones who would have eyes for Frank would have to be let down gently in the end because he's with Callie, of course.
    • The Frank/Callie relationship in the Casefiles is further enforced by the fact that, interestingly, nearly every single time that Frank doesn't let the girl down and actually almost has a fling with her, she turns out to be one of the bad guys. Even some of the ones he does turn down are bad guys. This sometimes happens to Joe, too, of course, but not nearly as much as it does to Frank.
    • Goes in the opposite direction in the Undercover Brothers series. Frank, who is painfully shy around women and is easily flustered, seems to have every girl he sees fall for him, while Joe, who claims to be a smooth womanizer, can barely get the time of day. He has no clue how Frank does it.
    • The Adventures series goes back to Joe being the more popular one with girls. The one time that Frank took an interest in the Girl of the Week, she was the bad guy (again).
  • Guile Hero: Especially at the Casefiles books when they are almost always have to fend for themselves to outwit their enemies. Frank in particular can be a very efficient chessmaster, but even Joe can pull a few tricks of his own.
  • Hard Head
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Done intentionally by the most prolific of the authors, as a way of injecting humor into a job he didn't care for much. See more details here.
    I'm getting a raging clue right now.
  • Hero Secret Service: the reason the Hardy Boys got involved with the Network in the first place: the Assassins are targeting Fenton Hardy through his family, and he calls on a small favor from the Network (who he had dealings with before) to keep his loved ones safe.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Brothers though they may be, Frank and Joe also have this relationship in ALL of their different incarnations. Though their personalities change in the various series, one thing that is constant throughout is that they're a team and are inseparable, doing just about everything together and basically able to read each other's minds. They have their friends, and they have their girlfriends/love interests, but each of them is always the other's number-one priority.
    • In the original series, they also had this relationship with Chet, who was involved in almost all of their adventures.
  • Kid Detective/Amateur Sleuth
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Although Applewood Books reprinted the original versions of books 1-16 complete with the original bindings and dustjackets, the only way to get books 17-38 in their unabridged form is to hunt down original copies at thrift stores and eBay. Also, Applewood has stopped printing the books, but they can still be bought new online.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: in the Cold Open of the Undercover Brothers graphic novel, "Mad House", Frank and Joe come to the rescue of a secret agent. His name is never given, but the agent's manner of speech strongly implies he's James Bond.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: The Mickey Mouse Club adaptation in the 1950s; ''The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries'', which ran from 1977-1979, and the short-lived The Hardy Boys in 1995.
    • There have been rumors for a long time about "The Hardy Men," a live-action movie starring Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise as the Hardy Brothers as adults.
  • Long-Running Book Series
  • Made of Iron: Joe, who takes most of the punishment due to him being the "athletic" one.
  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: Former Trope Namer, due to the fact that in the early books, the Hardy brothers would often find out who did what, but at the same time the police were doing the same. Essentially, the had grand adventures but didn't affect much in the long run. This was later changed.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: For the series as a whole:
    • The originals and Casefiles are told in third-person, with the narrative mostly describing the events, actions, and thoughts/feelings of Frank and Joe, but occasionally showing those of other characters as well (especially in the early Casefiles novels).
    • The Undercover Brothers and Adventures are told in first-person, exclusively from the Hardy Boys' point of view, with Frank and Joe alternating first-person chapters.
      • There are two UB books that contain the multiple modes within the book: the first Super Mystery ("Wanted") has the prologue and epilogue described in third person (and acting as Book-Ends, with quite a bit of Ironic Echo between the two), and "The Children of the Lost" has the prologue in third person from the point of view of an escaped kidnap victim. In both books, the main story was told in the usual way.
  • Mystery Magnets
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: in "Bloodsport" (a Casefiles story), Frank and Joe are looking into the disappearance of Frank's fencing teammate and rival. They literally have nothing on their prime suspect, the coach of the Opposing Sports Team, who was also pegged responsible for the disappearance of other fencers over the years. But then that coach decided to "scout" Frank as well, kidnapping him and taking him to an underground fighting ring. Frank proceeds to rescue his teammate and undermine the whole operation. (it should also be considered that the coach knew of Frank's detective skills, yet he thought that Frank would be easily swayed by money and fame that Frank will keep things under wraps.)
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Joe is 17, Frank is 18. However, they're growing up slowly. In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, Joe was 15 and Frank 16, in the 50s through 70s blue hardbacks, Joe was 16 and Frank was 17. Still, that's nearly a century for 2 years.
  • Not Me This Time: A heroic variant: The Hardys once got pulled over because of an anonymous tip for the cops. A quick search of their van revealed counterfeit ATM cards (related to their father's recently solvednote  case). The police, knowing the boys wouldn't get themselves involved in the crime, instead questioned to what extent did they help their father in solving it. Frank and Joe make it clear that they NEVER even helped Fenton at all.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: The Hardys met with this in a lot of the early books. Eventually, Chief Collig and Con Riley figured out they should probably listen to them once in a while...
  • Odd Couple
  • Orgy of Evidence: Blood Relations has Joe and Frank approached by Greg and Mike Rawley, who are convinced their mother, Linda, is going to be killed by their stepfather. Given he's Walter Rawley, an old friend of the family's, the brothers are unsure. They keep it up, finding some evidence after Linda is kidnapped. Frank goes missing as well with Joe a detective who's been hunting Walter for a while coming to rescue Linda. At which point it turns out Linda and her sons were using Frank and Joe to make it look like Walter was the bad guy so they had an excuse for killing him in "self-defense" and get his fortune. And the "detective" is Linda's real husband and Greg and Mike's dad. At which point, Frank manages to bust in with Fenton, their friends and the real cops. Frank explains he was struck mid-way through on how easy and obvious the case was shaping up as "we've never had to do so little work" to crack it. He thus "flipped it around" to consider Walter the innocent and realized how much more made sense.
  • Painting the Medium: Casefiles opens right after Iola is murdered by a car bomb. The confusion the readers feel is mirrored by our heroes, and long-time fans are going to be just as shocked as Joe.
  • Put on a Bus: The majority of the Hardy's circle of friends have slowly faded away as time has gone by. Chet is still a regular; Biff Hooper, Tony Prito, and Phil Cohen make rare appearances; but Jerry Gilroy and Perry "Slim" Robinson seem to have completely disappeared.
    • In Undercover Brothers and Adventures, Chet is the only male friend of theirs who appears; all the others are never name-dropped even once. Callie here as well; she makes one appearance in an earlier book of the former series before dropping out, and hasn't yet appeared at all in the latter series. Even Iola, who still appears, is no longer Joe's girlfriend; she's simply a friend of both brothers (as was Callie for her sole appearance).
  • Recycled INSPACE: The 1969 animated show featured the Hardy a hip groovy rock band!
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: prominent in the original Hardcover series, where the titles give it away (The Phantom Freighter, The Ghost of Skeleton Rock), although some are more subtle about it (for example, Secret Warning deals with both the ghost of a pirate and an ancient curse revolving around a golden Pharaoh's head). Even the Casefiles managed to squeeze in a seemingly supernatural plot at least once (Cliff-hanger sees a mountaineering expedition on Yeti's Tower being threatened by the creature from which the mountain got its name).
  • Sibling Team
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Occurs very often between the two brothers in Undercover Brothers, and also a lot in Casefiles and Adventures.
  • Spin-Off: There have been several:
    • The Hardy Boys Casefiles: Darker and Edgier and Hotter and Sexier series designed to appeal to teen audiences by removing the previous roadblocks of the parent series (No Hugging, No Kissing, Never Say "Die", etc.) Although it played up the violence and played down the romance compared to its Distaff Counterpart The Nancy Drew Files. Might qualify as a Quietly Performing Sister Show since it had a successful run of 12 years (1986-1998) and 127 issues.
    • The Hardy Boys are: The Clues Brothers and The Hardy Boys Secret Files: Spin-Off Babies series which both involve 8 and 9-year-old versions of Frank and Joe solving mysteries in the vein of missing pet cats.
    • Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers: Considered a continuation of the original series by the publisher, it hovers somewhere between the Originals and the Casefiles in terms of storytelling (less graphic than the Casefiles, but also more liberal than the Originals.)
    • Both the Casefiles and Undercover Brothers spin-off had their own spin-off, a Crossover series with Nancy Drew. Interestingly, they were both titled Nancy Drew-Hardy Boys Supermysteries. (Fans tag them '88 and '07 for the sake of avoiding confusion.) Both shared a lot of similar traits, including hinting at Nancy/Frank and Bess/Joe relationships.
    • The Hardy Boys Adventures: Set to begin in early 2013, this series will take the place of The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers as the "official" canon (meaning it's not considered a spinoff like the Casefiles) and it appears it will try to fix some of the more disliked parts of Undercover Brothers (such as the first-person narrative and using actual paintings for covers instead of clipart.)
  • Split Hair: In the mystery "The Secret of Pirates' Hill", Joe drops an envelope on the blade of some pirate cutlasses in the museum to test it's sharpness. {Hint, it's very sharp}
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Iola in the first chapter of the first Casefiles book.
  • Switching P.O.V.:
    • Since there are two main characters, Frank and Joe, this is bound to happen. It's especially prominent when the boys are separated, at which point the narrative will usually jump back and forth between them to show what each party is up to until they inevitably meet back up. Occasionally averted when one of them gets kidnapped, though; he will sometimes drop out from the narrative altogether for quite a while, until his brother manages to find him.
    • When the brothers are together, they sort of share the narrative; we might see a few sentences about what Frank is currently thinking, only to then read about Joe's thoughts a couple of paragraphs later.
    • Though Frank and Joe are naturally the usual focus of the narrative as the main characters, we're occasionally treated to the thoughts of other characters as well. In the originals, said other characters were usually the boys' family (Fenton, Laura, Gertrude) or "chums" (Chet and others). However, in the Casefiles (especially the early Casefiles, where the POV switch happens much more often), we get the POV of all these people and more, including Callie Shaw (pretty frequently), a few of the one-shot characters from the novel, and even the bad guys.
    • The first-person Undercover Brothers and Adventures make this switch the norm, although only with Frank and Joe; the brothers alternate chapters, so the POV constantly switches back and forth between the two.
  • Tap on the Head:
    • Frank & Joe have been knocked out by getting hit in the head so often that, in real life, the two should be vegetables in permanent coma in the hospital.
    • Lampshaded in Casefils 17, "The Number File". The Boys' car gets forced off the road, into the ocean, and once they're safe, Joe quips about losing brain cells from hitting the windshield.
  • Teen Genius: Frank, who has a disturbingly deep knowledge of things like investigative technique, criminal profiling, and computer hacking for an eighteen-year old.
  • They Fight Crime!
  • Vague Age: Not the Hardys themselves, but rather in relation to their friends. While numbers have never been explicitly stated, there are still conflicting accounts on what each character's age in relation to Frank and Joe's. (for example, in "Mystery of the Chinese Junk" only Frank and Tony are of legal age to take a boating license, yet in the Spin-Off Babies Clues Brothers, Tony's in the same grade as Joe.)
  • WHAM Episode / Establishing Series Moment: The first Casefiles book opens a few seconds after Iola has been blown up. This establishes that the series is going to be Darker and Edgier.
  • Where The Hell Is Bayport?: The most you really get is that it's a coastal town in New England within driving distance of New York City. The earliest series implies New York state, where there's an actual Bayport in real life, however, later materials will say New Jersey and Massachusetts as well.
  • Working the Same Case: Frank and Joe's investigations often end up coinciding with one their father is working on.
    • Every. Single. Supermystery. No matter how different the two cases seemed to be, they would have their case tied together to Nancy's roughly two-thirds of the way through the book. Operation: Titanic is likely the crowner of this, as there was very little book left when they finally met up.
      • Although there are some examples that they don't even bother, in how the Hardys often outright ask for Nancy's assistance from the very start. In those cases, Nancy will often become sidetracked by something seemingly unrelated, which will inevitably tie into the main case eventually.

Alternative Title(s): Hardy Boys


Example of: