Kelly Thompson’s Writer’s Commentary on Nancy Drew #4 Begins With a Duff First Page…

Kelly Thompson writes her Writer’s Commentary on Nancy Drew #4 from Dynamite, out this past week.


Even though this is probably my favorite issue of the series, I don’t actually love this first page. I think I really failed to make it feel a bit more ominous and with higher stakes. It’s perfectly fine, but it’s just not my favorite page or my favorite opening. I do think it will not really be so noticeable if you’re reading it as a trade, but as an opening page to an issue…I could have done better.


There’s always a risk by repeating something in a comic – in this case everyone chasing after Nancy in trouble, literally racing toward her, worried about her, and also Nancy’s lack of reliability with her phone. This is the second or third time we’ve showed something like that in the series so far…but it was important to me to show that these are real patterns for these characters – and not easily broken. That Nancy is this amazing woman, who is whip smart and almost preternaturally talented at solving crimes, but that she also has blind spots and weaknesses. Fortunately for me, Jenn St-Onge is so talented with expressions and storytelling, she makes it feel different and fresh every time we revisit the idea.


It’s such a weird subtle thing, but Jenn really nailed the sort of casual run down ambiance of this office. And colorist Triona Farrell’s slightly sickly office lighting really adds to that. As a result, I feel like the dramatic break away from “normal” in the last panel really lands.


Jenn is so good at drawing a douche like Blake – and I mean that as a compliment! He just oozes slimy – the body language, the knit cap, his smug grin. It’s all so perfect.


One of the best things about adding new characters like Pete and Danica to the story is how it allows us to see the complex relationship dynamics between Nancy and Bess and George and The Hardys through new eyes. It gives interesting context to the whole relationship.

This page is a bit crazy with the text and it’s a credit to the entire art team that it looks as good as it does, despite all those dumb words! But we really needed some of this information and I also love the insight into Nancy’s interrogation process. It’s one of my favorite character bits in the whole series. I should do more of this! But with fewer words!

The ongoing joke about Bess’s parents having this vibrant and mysterious life cracks me up. I wish we could do a Bess’s parents back up story to see what those two crazy kids are up to!

It’s so hard in a five-issues series to build a mystery to solve (or in our case, several) with such a large ensemble cast and also try to sort of slow burn develop these new relationships like with Nancy and Pete. But it’s all thanks to Jenn that it works as well as it does. She finds these great body language moments and expressions that are worth a thousand words.

Bess is just THE BEST. I love her so much. And that panel 2 with her insane text babble…I know some people look at such a wordy panel and sort of inwardly groan, but I hope most readers can appreciate the effect we’re going for here and enjoy the extreme lean into this choice as showing off a character trait for Bess. It’s also just not a bad joke. Letterer Ariana Maher perfectly executed it.

Love the color shift to night Triona did here, it’s so gorgeous. Pulling off “dramatic” while still keeping tonally appropriate is impressive. The entire book is a bit of a highwire act balancing between comedy and mystery/horror…I think we usually pull it off, but it requires that everyone be really smart in their choices…Triona’s colors here capture it perfectly. And she hasn’t even hit the really tough stuff in this issue yet…that comes next!

The colors here just totally set the stage for what’s to come…and I love them. They feel appropriately punk and sort of psychedelic but also slightly sinister.

So I honestly think you have to talk about these pages…these SPREADS as a unit. Because thanks to the concept they sort of succeed or fail based on how well they work together. This was an ambitious idea that came about from an idea our editor Nate Cosby had for issue three that I just couldn’t really make work there for a few reasons including the fact that I just didn’t have the space to do it justice. But I knew when everyone splits up inside the club it would be the perfect opportunity to try to pull it off.

And it worked better than anything else we could have done…because while I don’t want to undersell what Jenn (and Ariana) did and it was particularly very hard work on Jenn (look at all those people crowding every page! Yikes!)…I think we all knew that it was the execution of color that would be the thing that really sold this. We lived or died on Triona pulling off these super complex colors.

The colors are not only lush and stunning and fun, but they serve two other functions perfectly as well – 1) to convey the right tone and energy of this kind of complicated club scene and 2) to lead you through the scene as a reader but to do it in an almost effortless way where you don’t even initially realize that’s what’s happening.

The way the colors shift you through the scene…it’s honestly one of my favorite visual scenes I’ve ever gotten to do in comics…and I feel so lucky to have had a team that could pull it off so perfectly. You can’t just write that scene for anyone. Plenty of collaborators wouldn’t have understood what you were going for, or could understand but couldn’t deliver. I never had a doubt with these guys and yet it still managed to surpass how I originally imagined it.

And then we’ve got our brutal classic thriller cliffhanger…lives in peril, mysterious shadowy figures! Dun Dun Dunnn! It’s not a Nancy Drew story unless someone gets thrown in a trunk, right? I don’t know if that’s really a rule, but it should be!

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.