Blue Beetle’s Legacy: The Makings of an A-list Superhero

Every so often, the following question is posed to comic book fans: What is your favorite superhero? A lot of the time, the answers are A-list superheroes such as Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man. But what makes a great comic book character and A-list superhero? Is it the powers that he or she possesses and their willingness to stand up for justice and against the evils of the world? Or, is it because there’s a part of them that is relatable? For me, it’s a combination of these things and so much more; and Blue Beetle happens to cover all of these facets. Ever since I could remember, comic books have been a great source of entertainment in my life. From the fantasy-sized stories and world-building, to the realistic and political parallels, comic books have always been an escapism yet reflection of life for me. And since the day I came across the character of Blue Beetle, my love for comic books would never be the same.

Blue Beetle is a comic character that was created in 1939 by Charles Nicholas. Originally published by Fox Feature Syndicate in Mystery Men Comics, Blue Beetle would go on to have a great impact in comic culture. From having his own radio show in 1940 to being depicted in television and video games throughout the decades, Blue Beetle certainly had his imprint in popular culture. And though the character has seen his fair share of publishing companies, he’s found his permanent home at DC comics since 1983.

Over the years, the Blue Beetle moniker has been used by three different characters: Daniel “Dan” Garret(t), Theodore Stephen “Ted” Kord, and Jaime Reyes. Each character bares distinct personalities and looks, but one thing remains: all three of them have significantly contributed to the Blue Beetle legacy. Throughout history, these characters have been undeservingly labelled as C-list heroes either by those who only read the stories occasionally or those who find that the characters don’t live up to their potential. But for us Blue Beetle super-fans, we know that these characters have made significant contributions to comic book lore. And if written properly, anyone could fall in love with them.

As there are no current (canon) stories being published by DC Comics involving Blue Beetle, it’s been a trying time for fans of the beloved character(s). Even then, some fans have been unwelcoming of the changes facing the Blue Beetle mantle. But while some fans have missed the old and others have somewhat embraced the new Blue Beetle stories, I’ve been reminiscing of the various personalities and arcs that have been showcased throughout the years within the realm of the character. And in the end, I realized that the three Blue Beetles have equally captured my heart. These characters offer distinct methods of solving mysteries and fighting crime; and their personalities and methods of being superheroes have enhanced my love for the character. So, to that end, here is a look into the lives and stories of each Blue Beetle, along with my favorite aspects of each character that have contributed to the legacy and their worthiness as A-listers among the greatest heroes:

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Daniel “Dan” Garret(t)

Dan Garret was an intelligent and attentive rookie police offer who was always willing to put his best foot forward. Even if it meant putting his life on the line or having run-ins with the police (his ever-persistent buddy cop Mike Mannigan has been dying to catch the Blue Beetle), Dan’s pursuit of justice for victims was inspiring. Throughout his run as the Blue Beetle, Dan used Vitamin 2x, created by Dr. Franz, to give him super strength and (in later comics) abilities prior to being introduced to the Scarab. But truth be told, Dan didn’t need them. His skills as a police officer and persistence in crime fighting were unmatched, which provided great stories and adventures for readers.

During a time in which he was compared to the likes of Batman and Superman, Blue Beetle was forming his own destiny. Indeed, some even argue that he was created in the shadow of Batman in 1939. But truth be told, he was a blend of both Batman and Superman. He was intellectually advanced, he had great combat skills, and he always stood up to bullies. Charismatic and unapologetically witty, Dan Garret is the type of character I always enjoy reading about in older comic books. Whether it was braving the gangs of the city or dodging the local police, his rookie cop days proved that he was a crime fighter with or without the blue beetle suit. And Dan’s “crusade for law and justice” will always be among some of my favorite comic book stories.

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Story Spotlights:

Origin: Dan Garret’s first introduction was in Mystery Men Comics in 1939, but it wasn’t until his solo book, The Blue Beetle issue #1 (1940), in which readers came to know his history. Like many comic book characters, Garret faced tragedy even at an early age when his mother died from a flu epidemic. Interestingly, it only made him grow into a more positive and self-reliant young man, and he went on to use his misfortunes to be kind to others. What makes Dan stand out even among the typical A-listers in the golden age is that he was “normal.” He worked throughout his teenage years, he earned scholarships for college, and he played sports (football, hockey, and boxing). People truly related to him. These aspects made people believe that they could be a Dan Garret. Unfortunately, he would eventually lose his father to gun violence by a murderous crime lord, Chick Alonzo, but from a despicable act of unnecessary hate was born a long fight against crime, as Daniel Garret would become a police officer by day and the Blue Beetle by night.

Faulty Playground Equipment: In perhaps one of the darkest arcs of Dan Garret’s Blue Beetle run, Issue 16 of Mystery Men Comics shows just how willing he was to put his life on the line and obtain justice. The story centers on the death of children on a playground due to faulty equipment and materials sold by crime lord Big Dix. The comic pages feature many dead children on the ground as mothers hover over their lifeless bodies weeping in agony and declaring murder. And it was Dan who was passionate about solving the crime and seeking justice. Throughout the issue, Dan was met with physical obstacles, and Big Dix even attempted to bribe him into staying quiet about his findings. However, Dan stood fast on his beliefs and his determination to see justice served, leading to one the best issues of his introductory stories.

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After the shuffling of the character from several comic companies, Blue Beetle found a new home at Charlton Comics during the Silver Age. Though his origin story remained, some details changed such as his profession from policeman to archaeologist and the spelling of his last name to Garrett. This was also the first appearance of the Scarab, which gave Dan a variety of powers including flight and energy blasts. Finally, in May of 1986, after DC Comics acquired the character, Blue Beetle held a spotlight in Secret Origins. “KAJI DHA” was all it took for Dan Garrett to transform into “a figure who seems more than man, more than human – The Blue Beetle!” But unfortunately, Dan would utter those words only once more before an untimely death. But an enthusiastic and bright student would soon take his place…

Theodore Stephen “Ted” Kord

Ted Kord, created by Steve Ditko, is the brilliant and charming second Blue Beetle. Often criticized as the screw-up and one who doesn’t take things seriously, his personality is infectious and his commitment to justice is endearing. His first appearance in comics was during DC’s Secret Origins spotlights in 1986. Ted was a student of archaeologist Dan Garrett at the time. For readers who know this story well, it’s hard not to immediately be captivated by this character. Ted was great and enthusiastic about everything and unwavering about evil. When uncovering dark truths about his uncle Jarvis Kord one day, Ted turns to Garrett for help, leading to an exciting adventure yet an emotional end for Garrett. But out of this tragedy came a new inspiration for Ted. He would go on to graduate college with honors, become a successful and genius inventor, and helm the Blue Beetle mantle in honor of his mentor. And though he could never obtain the powers from the Scarab that Dan wielded, Ted’s ability and willingness to fight crime without aids is what makes him a standout in every right.

For years, Ted Kord was undeservingly deemed a C-list superhero. This is most likely due to writers incorporating his mission failures or jokes as being integral to his stories. After all, it’s what brought in the laughs. But Ted Kord is not only one of the smartest characters in the DC Universe (His IQ is equal to Batman’s at 192), he is undeniably charismatic, committed, loyal, and worthy of accolades. And he’s the hero that I relate to the most in the entire DCU.

Ted Kord is a scientist. I am a scientist. So, it’s easy to see why I relate to him so much. But beyond our careers, beyond having the capabilities and intelligence to get the job done, there’s the underlying feeling of never being good enough. And this was always brought in by outside forces and voices. But if there’s one thing that’s true about Ted Kord, it’s that he is bigger than trying to prove everyone wrong, he is bigger than needing to be the best; but that’s exactly why he is one of the best, to me. He has the biggest heart with the purest intentions when accepting the responsibilities of the Blue Beetle. Sure, he’s been clumsy on missions and made mistakes, but his silliness isn’t because he’s incapable. He masks his hurt from “never being good enough” with jubilee and positivity to get through. It’s something that I certainly related to so easily, so it was so nice to finally find a character that I loved and related to completely. If you were to tell me that a young black girl from urban New Jersey would identify with a privileged, millionaire white man in comics, I would’ve laughed—but here we are. Ted believes in truth and justice and doing the right thing to benefit society, all while having a little fun along the way; and it’s exactly why he’ll forever be an A-lister to me.

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Story Spotlight:

Countdown to Infinite Crisis (by Johns, Rucka & Winick): Along with his first introduction in Secret Origins, Countdown to Infinite Crisis is one of my favorite Blue Beetle stories of all time. Despite the title book being a lead-up to one of DC’s largest events, Countdown is, without a doubt, a Blue Beetle story. In fact, fans may even argue that it’s in this story in which Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle truly shines. The book follows Ted as he ambitiously tracks down a threat to the Justice League. It’s a remarkable telling of his intelligence and intuition because even the world’s greatest detective couldn’t uncover the truth. Early in Ted’s investigation, he relentlessly sought out more information regarding the potential threat known as O.M.A.C. And despite coming up short with evidence according to The League’s standards, Ted persisted.

Throughout the book, we observe Ted demonstrate profound levels of acumen, genius, resilience, and loyalty—all characteristics that make Ted many people’s favorite Blue Beetle. Even when his back was against the wall, Ted would not give up despite knowing what his fellow league members thought about him and the dangers that would lie ahead. His insight and tenacity would eventually lead him towards uncovering the shocking truth about O.M.A.C., whose information came at a high price for Blue Beetle.

One of the best things about this story aside from it being Ted-focused is that the readers will get insight into the beautiful friendship that is “Blue & Gold.” So often in comic book media, heroes’ tales consist of battling enemies, stopping world threats and saving cities from villains. And though there is plenty of that type of storytelling in this book, Countdown is special because the writers show how important friendship is within the context of the story and along with Ted’s investigation. The great Blue Beetle & Booster Gold possess a friendship like no other, and that was beautifully written in this book. They might’ve been written off as screw-ups over the years, but there is something more profound and special in these characters at their cores, and that’s why they work so well together. They understand each other, they lift one another up from depressive sinks, but most importantly, they are there for one another no matter the cost. They are truly the “Blue and Gold” standard of friendship, and Countdown sums it up perfectly.

In the end, Countdown shows many wonderful sides of Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle. His unrequited loyalty to the Justice League, charismatic personality and strength to overcome his fears and doubts are things that add to the Blue Beetle legacy and have been embedded in my heart. Thus, Blue Beetle solidified his place as a hero worthy of top recognition and will forever be one of my all-time favorites.

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Jaime Reyes

With the unfortunate death of Ted Kord, Blue Beetle fans around the world were heartbroken. But in Infinite Crisis #3, a young Mexican-American named Jaime Reyes picked up the Scarab that once belonged to Dan Garrett, and his life changed forever. Two issues later, the Scarab had fused to his spine, giving him the powers of the great Blue Beetle.

Between the two successors to Dan Garrett’s reign as Blue Beetle, Jaime has been met with the most hesitation and undeservingly so. Jaime made significant contributions to the legacy of Blue Beetle since the day the Scarab fused with his spine. Called to action by Booster Gold in Infinite Crisis, Jaime was one of the main reasons the Justice League was able to defeat the Brother Eye Satellite, but that is just one of many things that made Jaime such a great character.

Frequently criticized for his reluctance to be the Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes took on more hate from readers than necessary. It only takes one sudden event to change your life drastically, and that is exactly what happens to Jaime Reyes. He was just a young high school student when everything changed, and his response to taking on such a burden was very reasonable. But Jaime and the Scarab, together, are fascinating. For one, he is eventually able to build an alliance with the Scarab instead of being under control. This leads to a lot of humorous banter that could make any reader smile.

One of the best aspects of Jaime as Blue Beetle and something that sets him apart from every other hero is that he doesn’t hide the Blue Beetle from his friends and family. Too often in comic book lore, superheroes claim that they’re protecting people by lying and keeping their secret from those they are supposed to love. But with Jaime, his openness and honesty are characteristics that make him a great Blue Beetle despite his reluctance to bare it. Furthermore, it leads to trusting relationships with the supporting cast which, oddly enough, is unusual in comic stories. It’s a beautiful aspect to the character because it teaches us that we could all learn something from someone, even if that person is younger than us. And for a hero who was new to the game, Jaime sure could teach the “A-listers” a thing or two about trustworthiness when it comes to the secrets of being a superhero.

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Story Spotlight:

Blue Beetle Vol. 1: Shellshocked (by Giffen & Hamner) is one of the best comic stories of all time when it comes to showcasing a character’s transition into a superhero. The story picks up where Infinite Crisis left off, where Jaime wakes up alone and afraid with frightening memories of his time as Blue Beetle piercing his mind. Eventually, he finds his way home only to realize that he had been missing for an entire year. Right away, Giffen & co. provide readers with an emotionally gripping story for our young Blue Beetle, but what was to come was even better.

At times, Jaime completely despised the Scarab and wished for things to go back to normal. It’s what makes him relatable in every essence of the word. How many times has something occurred in our lives that might’ve altered our plans and paths for ourselves? It’s an important question to consider when reflecting on the character of Blue Beetle because of his young age and innocence. As the story progresses, readers soon realized that despite his reservations and hesitations, he continuously confronts the evils that threaten to destroy his home in El Paso because he knows it’s the right thing to do. But more importantly, when faced with the decision and “gift” of living without the Scarab, Jaime has always chosen to remerge with it despite never being able to live a normal life. And for these reasons, he is among some of the bravest and daring young heroes. With or without the scarab, with or without a tragic event occurring in El Paso, Texas, Jaime Reyes has proven himself to be a worthy advocate of crime fighting and a deserving hero in modern times.

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The greatest part about having three characters holding the Blue Beetle moniker is how they all possess very different but important qualities towards defining heroism. There’s the ever-charming Dan Garret(t) who in all iterations put his life on the line for others at any cost, the spirited Ted Kord who uses his privilege and charm to be a champion of justice and positive light in dark times, and Jaime Reyes, the anxious teen who, despite his uncertainties, continuously subjected himself to danger to protect his home town..

Together, they’ve contributed to a legacy that has become timeless for me. From stopping street gangs to battling monsters in space, the Blue Beetle iconography, stories, and heartwarming adventures make him my favorite hero of all time. And the Legacy of the great Blue Beetles have convinced me of their worthiness as A-listers due to their relatable nature, heart-warming tendencies and steadfast approaches to being the best heroes they can be no matter what obstacles stand in their way. So, the next time someone asks me who my favorite superhero is, without hesitation, I will happily say:

the three Blue Beetles.

Dan

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