Though the Blue Beetle (or, more to the point, one of the Blue Beetles) has been part of the DC Universe since 1986 or so, his storied career dates back to the very beginning of the Golden Age.  With everyone’s favorite Beetle, Ted Kord, back in the spotlight in Convergence, it seems like the perfect time to delve into his history and see a little of what makes him so beloved…

Strap in, Faithful Spoilerites, it’s time for the origins of the Blue Beetle!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Blue Beetle #2 awaits!

BlueBeetle2CoverBLUE BEETLE #2
Writer: Steve Ditko/D.C. Glanzman
Penciler: Steve Ditko
Inker: Steve Ditko
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: A. Machine
Editor: Dick Giordano
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $75.00

Previously in Blue Beetle: Way back in the Golden Age of Comics, Dan Garret debuted as the first Blue Beetle, originally a rookie cop turned two-fisted mystery man, who eventually gained a mask, bulletproof chain mail costume and even super-powers, thanks to the mysterious Vitamin 2-X.  He got more and more powerful as the superhero star rose, then lost his powers and ended up hosting true-crime tales before disappearing into limbo.  Revived in the 1960s, Dan Garrett’s back story (and last name) changed to that of an archeologist who found a mystic scarab, which empowered him with pretty much the same powers as his peak Golden Age self, when he spoke the magic words “Kaji Dha!”  (A later tale actually implied that Garret the cop was killed in the line of duty, and resurrected by Egyptian gods as Garrett-the-archeologist, but it’s probably not canon.)  Suddenly, in 1967, Charlton Comics gave us the first issue of a new Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, who used superior technology and his wits to fight crime, with no explanation of what happened to the other fellow.  That story, they saved for issue number two, as young Ted Kord receives a visit from Lt. Fisher of the local constabulary, who swears he’ll find out the truth about the missing Dan Garrett.  A frustrated Ted decides to blow off some steam, as Blue Beetle!

Side anecdote: I was probably only twelve or thirteen the first time I encountered a Charlton Comic (or more likely, a Modern Comics 1970s reprint of a Charlton Comic) and was immediately irritated by the lettering, which I now know to be typeset, rather than using a comic-book letterer, thanks to Charlton’s legendarily cheapjack production style.  The tiny little letters, especially in wordier panels, make most of the typeset Charlton books murder on the eyes (and more than a little bit difficult to reproduce digitally for your reading pleasure.)  Still, the story manages to grab my attention, as Ted Kord’s lady-friend Tracey implores Blue Beetle to help her find evidence to clear her boyfriend of murder charges…


Note the first appearance of the locking mechanism that keeps Blue Beetle from ever being unmasked by his foes, one of Ditko’s more clever conceits for the character’s arsenal.  Ted explains to Tracey what really happened that fateful night on Pago Island, starting with his less-than-savory Uncle Jarvis, who employed Ted to help him with an unspecified project.  After creating several scientific breakthroughs, young Master Kord finally demanded answers, wanting to know what it was he was helping to create…


The explosion left Jarvis dead, and destroyed all evidence of the experiments he had been running with Ted Kord’s financial resources, but a lucky break came in the form of a hidden canister, one that contained a shocking bit of film.  Jarvis’ million-dollar idea to save the world was actually the development of an army of super-powerful robots, obedient to only their owner.  Ted quickly consults with his college friend Dan Garrett…


In a classic Silver Age coincidence, Garrett is secretly Blue Beetle (but you know that, ’cause you read the ‘Previously’), and the trip to Pago Island leaves both Ted and Dan in the clutches of Jarvis’ robots.  Jarvis monologues evilly about his new army of android monsters, before consigned the once-and-future Beetles to death…


Suddenly worried that his plans will be stopped by his meddling nephew, Jarvis vows to destroy the Blue Beetle, even at the cost of his robot army…  that he’s trying to protect from Blue Beetle…  who will destroy them if Jarvis doesn’t stop…  Skip it, it’s the Silver Age, he’s evil and resorts to murderous means.


Jarvis is successful in bringing down a rain of electrical death, not just for Blue Beetle, but for himself, as well…


Ted promises Dan that he will continue on as Blue Beetle, but before Dan can pass on the scarab of power, the floor collapses, leaving him to dig his way out.  He is rescued by a passing sailor, but the police are skeptical of his hastily made-up story, suspecting that he was somehow involved in the disappearance of Dan Garrett.  (Much of the detail of this story is actually provided in retrospect, thanks to the DC revival nearly 20 years later, but this issue sets nearly all the framework for it, including the expectation that Ted was worried for the company when he hid Uncle Jarvis’ nefarious misdeeds.)  Still, he had bigger fish to fry and a promise to keep…


With the assembly of his airship, The Bug, Ted Kord enters a rigorous program of physical training and equipment design, leading to a brand-new Blue Beetle!


As he finishes his origin tale, Tracey and Ted are startled by the appearance of a cadre of the very same androids, who immediately attack.  Blue Beetle quickly gets his lady-friend to safety inside the Bug, but is forced to fight the super-powered robonoids on their own terms.  His speed and quickness help him, but he is slowly but surely overwhelmed by their numbers…


Using leverage and his wits, Blue Beetle is able to overcome the androids’ sheer power, chucking them both into one of the crevasses created by the explosions in the flashback.  (Chekhov’s Gun is the best weapon of all, Faithful Spoilerites!)  Escaping into his Bug, Ted once again greets his lady-friend, who finally understands the reason why he keeps Pago Island a secret…


Dun DUN DAAAAHHH!  I’m gonna be honest here: I don’t remember what that mysterious thing in the ruins is, or even whether it gets revealed during the Charlton or DC runs, so just pretend I said something pithy here.  As for Blue Beetle, this origin stands are one of the better (perhaps even the first coherent) origin and back story in Charlton history, probably due to Ditko’s experience as one of the architects of Silver Age Marvel just a few years earlier.  Many people liken Blue Beetle to Spider-Man, with his technical prowess and acrobatic fighting style, but Ted Kord is truly a hero all his own.  As someone who has all the Charlton-scarab-magic Dan Garrett Blue Beetle stories (we had a great, if overpriced, antique shop near my college), it’s a vast improvement in both quality and tone, and sets the groundwork for the stories of Ted Kord’s beloved Beetle run.  Blue Beetle #2 is hard to find in even decent shape, and can be a little rough on the eyes from a lettering perspective, but delivers a strong story and the wild art stylings of Ditko in his prime, earning



Come for the awesome Ditko art, stay for the seeds of one of the best modern-age superheroes...

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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

1 Comment

  1. The thing in the canister returned in a late Charlton comic, and turned out to be a robot version of Dan Garrett. It passed itself off as Dan, but eventually Ted found out and defeated it.

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