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.)
183. Blue Beetle
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.
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.
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–
The Blue Beetle is dead– long live the Blue Beetle.
For a more in-depth history of Ted, hit up this cool little profile.