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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #183

DITKO WEEK enters its ninth day with a profile on the other great hero Ditko created for Charlton. Yep, it’s that guy. Everyone’s favorite. (Archive here, yo.)

7/2/07

183. Blue Beetle

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Yep, Blue Beetle. And, as cool as Dan Garrett and Jaime Reyes are, I’m going to talk about Ted Kord, the greatest Blue Beetle of them all.

That’s right, Ted Kord, the awesome Steve Ditko creation first debuting in the back-up strips of Captain Atom #83. Ted Kord, the happy-go-lucky, wise-cracking superhero inventor with one of the coolest superhero vehicles around. Ted Kord, the cool inspiration for Nite-Owl in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Ted Kord, the heart of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League International.

If Peter Parker had Tony Stark’s money instead of a radioactive spider-bite, he’d be the Blue Beetle. Ted Kord had no superpowers, but he did have fantastic athletic skills and a brilliant mind, which he used to fight crime in order to honor the memory of the original Blue Beetle. He built the Bug, an awesome flying beetle ship, and outfitted himself with some gadgets.

He was borne out of the back pages of Captain Atom, and later received his own series (from which the Question was launched– Ditko creations begetting Ditko creations). It only lasted five issues in the late ’60s, but it put him out there. Later, DC would purchase the character from Charlton, and gave him his own ongoing, penned by Len Wein. It was a standard superhero book and it lasted two years. Did anyone here read it? Did you like it? I’ve never picked it up, myself, but I’m willing if I hear good things.

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The Blue Beetle’s big break, however, came when he joined the Justice League in the much beloved Giffen/DeMatteis era, when the adventures weren’t always deathly serious and humor was much appreciated. The Blue Beetle provided transportation for the team (via the Bug) and scientific know-how, but he was also the friendly funnyman, constantly quipping and exchanging in banter. I’d say he was very much the heart of the team– as Martian Manhunter was the soul and Guy Gardner was the, er… pancreas.

Beetle put the “Bwah” in “Bwahahahah!” He became best pals with Booster Gold, enacted crazy schemes, like the one on KooeyKooeyKooey, battled with unwanted weight gain, and proved his worth as a hero, whether it was in skirmishes with Wally Tortellini or epic battles with Eclipso. The world was Beetle’s oyster– but it didn’t last. Oh, sure, he remained on the team for quite a while, even after Giffen and DeMatteis left and Dan Jurgens took over, but all good things must come to an end, and so Beetle departed from the League.

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He had stints with Extreme Justice and LAW before settling into a nice supporting role in Birds of Prey, even romancing Barbara Gordon. He also reunited with his old JLI pals in Formerly Known as the Justice League, where they started calling themselves the “Super Buddies” and working out of a strip mall. It was a great little mini with a cool sequel that featured as an arc in JLA Classified. I believe they’re both in trade. Seek them out.

Beetle’s new lease on life was cut short, though, by a little one-shot called Countdown that used Blue Beetle as a martyr for a cause, and turned old JLI pal Maxwell Lord into a raving bad guy who shot his pal Ted through the brain. Let’s just say it was an awful comic and move on.

The mantle of Blue Beetle has been picked up by a new guy who is currently starring in a fun little series that really needs the sales, so I encourage you to pick it up. Still, I miss Ted, and I always will. He was a great character who was never really appreciated but always came through for his friends and for the readers. He was a terrifically written hero and starred in fun, joyous comics, including the greatest Justice League run of all time. So thanks, Mr. Ditko, for creating a guy that showed a lot of readers a good time.

The Ted Kord Blue Beetle had loads of potential left, but, like with many Ditko heroes, that potential was squandered, that awesome, fun core was thrown away. So here we are, in a silly little column, honoring a superhero the world never heard of, a guy who never existed– and yet, I mourn him. Here’s the wake he never got.

So, come on, gather ’round. Let’s all join in for one last gut-busting guffaw. Ready? Say it with me–

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The Blue Beetle is dead– long live the Blue Beetle.

For a more in-depth history of Ted, hit up this cool little profile.

23 Comments

Thanks for this one. You’ve made my month.

So is Speedball next? Wasn’t he a Ditko creation? He certainly seems to fit the “characters who got the shaft” theme.

I disagree on Countdown. I thought it was a good way to go out. Blue Beetle, the guy everyone brushes off is the one guy who figures out what is really going on. I liked Ted in the issues I’d perused of the Giffen/Dematteis League. I liked him pretty much every time he popped up, but Countdown made me love him. It put him, for me, in the same category as Barry Allen, a classic character who died but went down fighting. He didn’t save the Universe from certain destruction like Barry but he did play a vital role in the exposure of the whole Checkmate conspiracy thing. Anyway, that’s just my thought on that. I liked Ted, sad he’s gone. Love your column, always eager to read the next.

I thought JLI kind of ruined Blue Beetle actually, because it made him ridiculous to the point that a story like Countdown to Infinite Crisis was possible. The guy that appears in JLI is just a whole other character than the one Ditko created, poor and simple.

Any thoughts about being halfway through the year so far?

Uncle Sean,
I don’t really understand how getting shot in the had counts as “going down fighting”.

That Len Wein / Paris Cullins series was great! It introduced me to both the Beetle and the Question. It was one of the most Marvel-esque series DC ever put out (in a good way)– every issue devoted about fifteen pages to the main story and seven pages to ever-burbling subplots. Cullins was always under-appreciated, too. His loving take on Ditko here was followed up with an equally loving take on Kirby in the great Evanier “New Gods” book.

The Question three-parter was great. Also great is issue #8, a poignant POV-shift where we get to find out what life is like for the flunkie of a two-bit supervillain.

I miss Ted. The Giffen/DeMatteis JLI is one of my favorite comic runs ever, and Ted was definitely its heart. I really missed him when Morrison’s run started, as even with the return of the big seven it just didn’t feel like the Justice League without Blue Beetle.

Still, that said, I really do think that Ted’s death was very well handled (ridiculous Max Lord character assassination aside). He truly died a hero, and it’s good to see that his legacy is still felt. His cameo in the last issue of 52 was a truly beautiful and poignant moment. And, if nothing else, the role of Blue Beetle is in excellent hands now.

I’ve never read the original series.
Did he bwah-ha-hah back then, or did that start in the JLI?

Ditko characters don’t BWAHAHA!

So is Ditko week over? Without Captain Universe, the Mysterious Traveller… Without Konga and Gorgo?!

This hurts my heart.

I’m another fan of the Wein/Cullins Blue Beetle.

I don’t think that Captain Universe was a Ditko creation. He was from the original run of Micronauts #8 (Mantlo/Golden I think).

Always loved that issue!

My first DC comic was Invasion #2, featuring the JLI quite prominently. I followed them back to their own comic, starring Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Marvel, Mr. Miracle, Barda, Martian Manhunter, Captain Atom, Rocket Red, Fire, and Ice. I fell in love with the DCU with those characters.

Look at that list now. I think two of them are still active and recognizable as the same characters. Ah, I’m ranting.

Anyway, Great tribute to the hero who was my #1 favorite for many many years.

The Kirbydotter

July 3, 2007 at 7:18 am

Ditko’ BLUE BEETLE (and Question and Captain Atom) at Charlton was sone of the best Silver Age stories. They are quite a few notches better than the stuff he did at DC (Hawk and Dove and Creeper) for pure Ditko fans.

I read in an interview that Len Wein wanted to do an old school type of series with his BLUE BEETLE. Paris Cullins was at his best blending his Kirby influences with some of Ditko’s style. It was a fun and cool series. I liked the team-up with Question (his first DC appearance). I think the style of stories was considered a bit “passé” in a time when WATCHMEN and Miller’s DARK KNIGHT were the talk of the business. I guess Wein’s BLEU BEETLE wasn’t dark enough. I enjoyed it a lot, especially the first 12 issues or so. Then I think Paris Cullins moved on to an other series and the series was plagued by second rate fill-in artists (if I remember correctly).

For me too the Giffen/DeMatteis run of JUSTICE LEAGUE (including the related minis, specials, annuals, JLE, Quarterly, etc.) was a high point in my comic book reading experience. It was fun! It was gorgeously drawn (how come they always managed to get such cool beginning artists like Maguire, Hughes, Willingham, etc.).

I will get a Dan Didiot voodoo dool to curse him forever for his hatred of the Justice League fun era and his murdering/destroying of every fun related to this great run. Max Lord, Ted Kord/Blue Beetle, Ice, Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, etc… We miss you…

I’ve always fondly recalled that Justice League annual where Blue Beetle faced off against Eclipso. That was a great story, probably BB’s finest hour in the League. And the artwork was pencilled by Dave Cockrum, which was awesome. Anyway, I liked that the story presented Ted Kord as a guy who had a really goofy sense of humor but who, when the chips were down, could use his skills & intelligence to hold his own against any number of serious threats.

Blue Beetle is a great example of how two people can like the same character but really be liking two different takes on one character that have almost completely different personalities.

Fun bit ‘o Pre-Ditko Trivia: As far as I can tell, the Golden Age Blue Beetle was the second superhero to headline his own series, after Superman.

I too vote for Len Wein/Paris Cullins beetle. I too liked the JLI and Agree Ted Kord was a big part of why the series was good.

I also really liked him in B of P as a new love interest/friend for Barbara Gordon.

And yup, totally pissed off when they killed him in that rag of a book.

Thanksfully the new BB series is one of the few fun books still at DC. Go and buy it and enjoy!

Agreed on the SPidey?Beetle connection–see my comment on Spidey’s day.

I have #3 of his original series–one of my most prized comics.

I have the entire DC run–I was sad when it went.
The Millenium crossovers weren’t too good–but few were in any series.

Overall a fun series with some obvious nods to SPidey from some former SPidey writers & artists along the way.

I liked Ted–a great character in & out of costume.
In the original, in his DC series & in JL/JLA/JLI, etc.

I know he’s only a fictional character, but the way they killed him off really bugs me–no pun intended.

Now all we need is a League of Ditko characters–they’d kick butt…

Any Blue Beetle fans interested in helping out with http://www.vicsage/bluebeetle/, let me know….

The Millenium crossovers weren’t too good–but few were in any series.

I thought Blue Beetle had by far the best of the Millenium crossovers. The reveal that the character who’d waited 1,000 years to betray him was a new character who was already a villain was a bit lame, but other than that it was cracking. Especially the ending.

The Mad Monkey

July 4, 2007 at 6:20 am

Incidentally, the Question (along with BB and the rest of the Charlton characters) made his first appearance in COIE.
The BB/Question team-up issues was Vic’s intro into the rebooted DC Universe.
So, technically, you’re right Kirbydotter, but still just a bit off.

Jeff Albertson

July 5, 2007 at 9:50 am

I thought Killjoy was the last hero Ditko created for Charlton. (Static was published by Eclipse first, otherwise, I’d have said him.)

Still, I love the Ditko Blue Beetle. In a just world, it would have been a huge hit, and we’d have 40 or 50 issues. Oh well.

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