'Girl Detectives' Still Draw From Drew

She’s looking pretty good for 75.

Nancy Drew (search), the "girl detective" who helped lead the way for strong female characters in pop culture, just had a birthday.

And not only does Nancy, who started solving mysteries in 1930, live on in the fictional sleuths who have stepped into her gumshoes, she's still going strong herself.

"Over the 75-year period, she was modernized at times — her 1930s roadster gave way to a convertible in the 1950s and then later a Mustang convertible and now presently a hybrid car," said Jennifer Fisher, president of the unofficial Nancy Drew Sleuth fan club.

Indeed, there are still some Nancy Drew publications in print, and they are still very popular.

In the current children's series, "The Nancy Drew Notebooks," (search) Nancy and her entourage are only 8 years old.

In the new "Nancy Drew: Girl Detective" (search) series, introduced by publisher Simon & Schuster in April, Nancy has new mysteries to solve, but this time they're written in the first person, by the teen herself, and the stories come with a comic-book style counterpart.

"She drives a hybrid car and Ned [Nancy's boyfriend] is a computer mechanic, but she has the same insatiable curiosity that makes her a perennial character," said Stephan Petrucha, author of the graphic version of "Nancy Drew: Girl Detective."

Other modern "Nancy Drew" characters are not really Nancies, but take their inspiration from the beloved character.

In "Not a Girl Detective," (search) an adult mystery published this spring that reads like a blend of Nancy Drew and "Sex and the City," author Susan Kandel's protagonist, Cece Caruso, is a racier version of the wholesome heroine.

A former Miss Asbury Park who got pregnant at 17, Cece leaves her husband and her rocky past behind to become a mystery writer in Hollywood.

Cece is passionate about sexy clothes and sexy men, but she has the same good-natured personality, courage and sense of morals as Nancy Drew.

"I think we still like these types of mysteries, in which the character is an ordinary woman, not a private eye or a police detective, because we can project ourselves into them," Kandel told FOXNews.com.

But for some people, there's nothing like the real thing. Many grandmas, daughters and granddaughters still turn to the original Nancy Drew books, which are still in print.

The first Nancy Drew mystery was published in 1930; the classic series consisted of 56 hardback books beginning with "The Secret of the Old Clock" and ending with "The Thirteenth Pearl."

Simon & Schuster bought the series, and continued the books in paperback form with volumes 57 through 105.

Through the 1930s, Nancy was very stylish and modern with her cloche hat. In the 1950s, she emerged as a young "June Cleaver" type. In the 1960s, she was a demure debutante, and in the 1970s she even had a spell of disco fever.

In the mid-1980s, the "Nancy Drew Files" (search) series lasted 124 volumes and over 10 years. Nancy enjoyed romance and even dealt with murder in these mysteries. This was a busy time for Drew, because she also teamed up with the "Hardy Boys" (search) for a series called "Super Mysteries." (search)

Then in the 1990s, Nancy forgot she liked to solve mysteries and instead went to college for three years and 25 volumes.

It's hard to imagine the legacy Nancy Drew's creator, Carolyn Keene (search), could have envisioned for her beloved character — actually, it's impossible. That's because "Carolyn Keene" was and still is a pen name for an evolving group of male and female writers called the Stratemeyer Syndicate (search).

(It is still not known why the name "Carolyn Keene" was chosen; Fisher surmises that it is a play on the word "keen," as Nancy had a keen eye and a keen wit.)

The Syndicate was responsible for many of the other popular books of the day, like "The Bobbsey Twins," (search) "Tom Swift," (search) "The Hardy Boys" (search) and "The Dana Girls" (search) (the female counterpart of "The Hardy Boys," which ran from 1934-1968.)

Today, they keep Nancy Drew alive in the aforementioned "Nancy Drew Notebooks."

Even now, when the term "girl detective" seems antiquated and sexist, new fierce females embody the same pluck that Nancy was famous for.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (search) know that sleuthing sells — they made a fortune on a series of tween mystery movies like "The Case of Thorn Mansion," just as their hit show "Full House" was fizzling out.

More mature audiences can see a bit of Nancy in a grown-up form in the popular character of Sydney Bristow on "Alias." (search) On the ABC show, Jennifer Garner (search) plays Bristow, a CIA secret agent who is a more physical and more professional Nancy Drew with a James Bond attitude.

The most recent addition to the clue crew is Veronica Mars (search), the star character on the WB's new series of the same name. Seventeen-year-old Veronica works with her dad, a private investigator, trying to uncover the dark secrets of her town.

"'Veronica Mars' is in some ways the cultural offspring of Nancy Drew," said Syracuse University pop culture expert Robert Thompson.

Like Nancy, Veronica has no mother and a father who likes to spoil her. She also has Nancy's trademark blond locks and good looks.

But Mars, who is caught up in fashion, gossip and boys, doesn't have Drew's squeaky-clean image (Mars doesn't hesitate to throw in a cuss word or a comment about hickeys; the closest Nancy came to vulgarity was the occasional "jeepers!")

For the most part, the female detective has become "much more hard-boiled and sexual than Nancy Drew," said Thompson.

But even in a new millennium, there is something about Nancy herself. Many women admire her combination of guts and a non-complaining attitude.

"She's got the grace of a socialite mixed with the prowess of a tomboy as she attends swanky country club dances and eats at tearooms, yet can climb fences, chase after suspects and change a flat tire with the best of them," said Fisher.

Petrucha agreed.

"Even 75 years later, she has the same female-empowering character appeal," he said.