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A Deep Dive into the Origins of DC’s ‘Blue Beetle’

A Deep Dive into the Origins of DC’s ‘Blue Beetle’

The trailer for DCEU and Warner Bros.’s live-action adaptation of Blue Beetle just dropped, and the fandom is ecstatic as a beloved but slightly underrated hero is finally getting some spotlight.

The upcoming film stars Xolo Maridueña, who already has some acting experience with action scenes given that he also starred in Cobra Kai. However, for those who aren’t acquainted with the character, this still doesn’t answer the question of who Blue Beetle is and how he fits in DCEU.

Well, we’re here to discuss the origins of DC’s Blue Beetle and the multi-generational history that’s surprisingly not that comprehensive. In fact, the character has gone through multiple iterations throughout the decades. The current media, including the upcoming film, mostly centers on the latest Blue Beetle, a young Mexican-American teenager, Jaime Reyes. But we’re here to take a deeper dive into the origins of DC’s Blue Beetle and the generational legacy that stretches all the way to the Golden Age of Comics.

For DCEU enthusiasts who aren’t acquainted with the comic book history, the Golden Age of comics refers to a period between 1938 to 1956 — it’s generally accepted that the release of Action Comics #1, which featured the first appearance of Superman, marked the beginning of the Golden Age of comics. This also makes Blue Beetle, which was first released in 1939, a very old superhero, justifying all the changes to his origin, as well as creating different iterations of the character as the publisher’s attempt to keep him somewhat relevant in the ever-evolving world of comics.

But Blue Beetle actually wasn’t a DC superhero to begin with. Instead, he was created by Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski for Fox Publications in 1939. The original version of the Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett, a police officer who fought crime using the superpowers he obtained by ingesting Vitamin 2X (not a real vitamin). His superpowers were mostly limited to superhuman strength, speed, and agility, like with most heroes at the time, and he actually wore a blue and red costume with a Scarab beetle emblem on the chest (sometimes).

To be fair, though it didn’t achieve the levels of fame as other Golden Age superheroes such as Superman or Batman, the original Blue Beetle was popular enough to warrant its own radio show comprised of 49 episodes. Unfortunately, by the mid-1950s, coinciding with the end of the Golden and the start of the Silver Age, Blue Beetle’s popularity waned along with most other superheroes. Fox Feature Syndicate, a subsidiary of Fox Publishing, went out of business, and Blue Beetle and several other characters were bought by Charlton Comics.

Charlton Comics reintroduced Blue Beetle in 1964, but this time, they retconned Dan Garrett’s story. The new Dan Garrett was an archeologist who came into possession of an ancient Egyptian scarab, which granted him various superhuman abilities, while investigating an ancient Egyptian tomb. Two years later, in 1966, Charlton also introduced Ted Kord as Blue Beetle in Captain Atom #86. Interestingly enough, the two versions of the character coexisted in the Charlton Comic universe during the 1960s.

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Narratively, Ted Kord was Dan Garrett’s student and a mechanical genius who inherited the Scarab from Garrett when Garrett died. However, he was never actually able to use the Scarab; instead, he built gadgets that helped him fight crime, continuing his mentor’s crime-fighting legacy. Charlton Comics went out of business in the mid-1980s, and Ted Kord’s version of Blue Beetle was incorporated into the DC Universe — even becoming a member of the Justice League shortly after the character was acquired by DC.

Unfortunately, the character has had fluctuating popularity over the years, despite his fair share of devoted fans. In the DC version, it was actually presumed that Ted Kord lost the Scarab early in his crime-fighting career, but the truth is that he actually lost the Scarab on a visit to the Rock of Eternity, the home of the wizard Shazam. Kord was later killed by Lord Maxwell (who made an appearance in Wonder Woman 1984), the Rock of Eternity was destroyed, and the Scarab found its way to our third Blue Beetle.

Following the destruction of the Rock of Eternity, the Blue Beetle Scarab came down to El Paso, Texas, where Jaime Reyes found it and took it home. That night, the Scarab came alive and fused itself into Jamie’s spine. Instead of just granting him powers, as it did to some of its predecessors, Jaime’s Scarab becomes a living suit of armor, allowing the upcoming film’s protagonist to master and use its power in ways Dan Garrett and Ted Kord never even dreamed of.

Not only did Jaime begin mastering the abilities granted by the Scarab, which now include flight, weapon formation, energy manipulation, and so on, but he also discovered that the Scarab is a piece of alien tech and started bonding with its built-in AI. This is where the narrative becomes very hard to keep track of. Jaime discovers that the Scarab belongs to an alien race that was beaten into submission by the Green Lanterns; he goes back in time and saves Ted Kord and later learns that the Scarab is the product of both technology and magic.

As to which one is true, well, both are—it really depends on the continuity, which is really hard to keep track of. Some continuities include various timelines in which friends and mentors become foes, foes are identified as allies, and so on. How does that translate to the upcoming Blue Beetle film? That remains to be seen since the DCEU is preparing a whole new world of interconnected films, series, and video games that are probably going to touch upon Blue Beetle in one way or another.

We’ll likely learn a lot more when Blue Beetle hits theaters on August 13 this year.

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