So in today's review of the excellent Blue Beetle figure from DC Direct, I said BB has "a long and surprising history." Let's take a look:
- The original Blue Beetle was patrolman Dan Garret, a policeman who wore a bulletproof costume to work outside the law. His partner, Mike Mannigan, thought the Beetle was a criminal mastermind, not a hero, but never figured out Dan was the one in the suit. Eventually, Garret befriended a local pharmacist, Dr. Franz, who developed the mysterious "Vitamin 2X," which would temporarily give the Beetle superpowers. There was never any in-story reason why he chose the name "Blue Beetle" - out of story, it was just a rip-off of the Green Hornet. This is the version that had the radio program and the newspaper comic strip.
- When Fox Features Syndicate went out of business, the Blue Beetle was one of the properties bought by Charlton Comics, who revamped the character. Archaeologist Dan Garrett (note the spelling [and job] difference) found a strange blue scarab talisman while on a dig in Egypt. The amulet gave him both his name and his powers. This version only lasted about two years before getting replaced.
- The third Blue Beetle was Ted Kord, a former student of Garrett's. This version, created by Steve Ditko, was a millionaire inventor, much like Iron Man. When Charlton went bankrupt, their properties were acquired by DC Comics, and Blue Beetle was introduced to the DC Universe post-Crisis. The fanboys got their panties in a twist when Ted died in Countdown to Infinite Crisis - they had a big soft spot for this character whose biggest claim to fame was being turned into a complete joke two decades prior.
The original "one T" Dan Garret version of the Beetle doesn't exist in DC continuity - he's somehow found a home at AC comics under the name "Scarlet Scorpion." The various Blue Beetles were the inspiration for the Nite-Owl in Alan Moore's Watchmen.
DC's newest Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, found Dan Garrett's scarab, but gained much different powers than the original owner. He's been getting a hard time from readers, who are still pissed off about Ted Kord actually being used for something better and more important than a joke. Ted's final story returned some of the heroism that had been missing from the character for years, so I'm not sure why the fanboys are all so angry.
The new Blue Beetle book is really very good, a fun read with great art. You should definitely check it out, even if you were a big fan of Ted Kord - after all, Ted replaced Dan Garrett, so the legacy just lives on...