Coast to Coast with the Blue Beetle.

One of the things most people don’t know or realize about the Blue Beetle, is that the character is actually really old. Like pre World War 2 old. Batman only predates him by a whooping 3 months, though as originally created, the Blue Beetle was almost definitely one of many Bat-copies from the time period.

Originally published by Fox Comics, Dan Garrett was a police man (with requisite murdered parent) who became a costumed crime fighter. Much like the original Green Arrow, he was a straight Bat-copy; driving a Beetle-mobile, flying a Beetle-Bird plane, and carrying a Beetle signal to strike fear into the hearts of criminals (and like the original Batman, he also carried a gun). But he also had a pill called vitamin 2X, that would temporarily give him super powers should he need them for a case.

For a character we now think of as strictly B list, the original Blue Beetle actually got a lot of press. I don’t know how popular the character actually was, but he was popular enough to not only get a newspaper strip, but to get a half year run as a national radio show in 1940. The original comic ran until 1950. 14 years later, Charlton Comics now held the rights, and brought the character back in his own title, though in a much less serious vein.

Yeah. From smashing spy rings and arresting criminals to fighting giant mummies (who aren’t dead). Still, that is what was going on with superhero comics at the time, so you can’t really blame them. While still superficially the same, the character received a completely revamped origin, going from policeman with murdered father to archaeologist who found an ancient scarab that would give him superpowers. This version of the Beetle lasted a mere 2 years, before he was replaced with the original version that most of us who grew up on comics in the 80s and 90s are now familiar with.

Brought to life by comics legend Steve Ditko, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle is the one most modern fans know and love. This Blue Beetle took aspects of both versions of the Dan Garrett Beetle, and combined with a dash of Ditko’s best known creation: Spider Man. A wise cracking genius type, Kord was a student of Dan Garrett, and inherited the mantle when Garrett died fighting Kord’s maniac robot building uncle (don’t ask). Unlike the Garrett Blue Beetle however, Kord’s Beetle never utilized the mystic powers of the scarab; Ditko preferred a more street level hero, so he simply had Kord never figure out how to make it work. Instead, he flew around in a giant Beetle shaped plane, and used a “BB gun” that shot blinding light and air blasts. DC kept this origin intact when they purchased the rights to the character in the 80s as part of their acquisition of the Charlton superheroes, though they did add a splash more of Batman back into the character by making him head of his own company, Kord Industries.

The DC Beetle’s solo series only lasted 2 years, and while a guilty pleasure of mine (I was a big fan of bad guys, and Beetle had some good ones, like Catalyst, a stereotypical poison super villain, and the Hybrid, X-men stand ins who were actually Teen Titans villains, but had a 2 issue spot in Blue Beetle where they turned one of Kord Industries employee’s into one of their number) was fun but relatively uneventful. It was only later that Ted Kord would gain greater fame in a more comedic vein as a member of the Keith Giffen era Justice League International, and then a few short years ago become infamous when DC kicked off it’s systematic destruction of that era by having former JLI figure head (and Sam Neil look alike) Max Lord shoot him in the head.

DC then proceeded to replace Ted with a new, scarab powered Blue Beetle with a futuristic robot look named Jamie Reyes, a Hispanic teenager. By all accounts it was a good book, that was canceled too soon, and the Reyes Beetle is arguably the best of DC’s many late 00’s politically correct replacements for classic B list characters (I will never accept Renee Montoya as The Question, sorry). But for me, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle is the version that stands out the best.

80 pages of Ted Kord being made relevant again, ending with his brains on the carpet. But hey, it’s autographed!

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