Blue Beetle Tribute
April 27, 2009
In this episode, we have a tribute to a great, canceled series.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. All right, people, you begged and pleaded with me to talk about a good comic, so fine, here you go. Let's talk about the Blue Beetle.
(Cut to a cover of a comic of Blue Beetle)
Linkara (v/o): Now, immediately, you want to roll your eyes. Blue Beetle? That sounds like a parody of a superhero, something some untalented hack at a movie studio thought up because they haven't read a real comic book in years.
Linkara: And you know what? (abruptly points at camera) SCREW YOU, BLUE BEETLE IS FRIGGIN' AWESOME! ...At least until the book was canceled due to low sales. As such, (points at camera again) I blame all of you people for its cancellation! (audience is heard booing; he holds up his hands in defense) Okay, okay, I take it back.
(Cut to a shot of a cover for "Mystery Men Comics", where the Blue Beetle originated)
Linkara (v/o): But before we get into the awesomeness that is the latest incarnation of the character, let's look at the history of the Blue Beetle. Stepping into the Wayback Machine, we find police officer Dan Garrett, who, with a chain mail costume and the vitamin 2x, he gained superpowers to fight crime.
Linkara: Remember, kids, drugs are bad for you, unless they give you superpowers.
(Cut to a clip of an Underdog cartoon, in which Underdog shows Polly Purebred ring, which holds energy pills for him)
Underdog: A secret compartment of my ring I fill with an Underdog super energy pill.
(He opens up the ring and takes out a pill; swallowing it, his eyes swirl and form stars, American flags, and the letter U; cut to a shot of an old radio show featuring the Blue Beetle)
Linkara (v/o): Blue Beetle was actually pretty popular in his day, to the point where he even got a radio show for a while. And remember, these were the days before TV, so this was a big deal. But as was the fleeting passions of the Golden Age of comics, eventually, people stopped listening and stopped buying, and the character was sold to another publisher.
(Cut to a later Blue Beetle comic cover, showing him battle the Scorpion)
Linkara (v/o): His origin was revised, so that now he was an archaeologist who discovered an ancient Egyptian artifact. Compelled to touch the artifact, a mystical blue scarab, Dan Garrett was given incredible powers whenever he shouted the words, "Kaji da!"
Linkara: You know, what is it about ancient Egyptian artifacts and fiction that they always have magical powers? Think about it!
(Cut to a shot of Black Adam sitting on a pharaoh's throne)
Linkara (v/o): Black Adam got his power from another mystical scarab...
(Cut to a shot of a poster for The Mummy)
Linkara (v/o): ...all the mummies that pop up because of necklaces and jewels...
(Cut to a clip of Yu-Gi-Oh, involving similar artifacts being used to play a card game)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and let's not forget the artifact that makes you want to card games for the rest of your life. And to get all this crap, you had to pass insurmountable odds in Indiana Jones-esque fashion, and more than one person would die along the way.
Linkara: It seems to me that ancient Egypt was a freakin' DEATH TRAP! Screw archaeology! Ever think that maybe there was a reason this crap was buried?!
(Cut to the following message, read by Linkara...')
Linkara (v/o): Warning: The views of Linkara may not reflect the views of the producers of Atop the Fourth Wall... which actually would be Linkara, so make of that what you will.
(Cut to a Blue Beetle comic)
Linkara (v/o): Eventually, the publishing rights fell into the hands of Charlton Comics, where they decided to take a new spin on things.
(Cut to a shot of Steve Ditko)
Linkara (v/o): Enter Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man. Ditko had left Marvel for unknown reasons...
(Cut to a shot of a Spider-Man comic featuring the Green Goblin)
Linkara (v/o): ...though the most popular rumor suggests he was upset over the fact that the Green Goblin's identity was revealed to be supporting cast member Norman Osborn. Ditko was a staunch believer in Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy, and believed that someone like the Green Goblin should some anonymous individual, since evildoers are not necessarily going to be people you know, even if drama suggests otherwise.
(Cut back to the Blue Beetle comic)
Linkara (v/o): Freed of the constraints of Marvel, he reworked the Blue Beetle into one of the finest legacy heroes in comics. What's a legacy hero?
(Cut to a shot of a Flash comic)
Linkara (v/o): It's when you have characters who take over the mantles of other heroes. Both Robin and the Flash are popular examples...
(Cut to a shot of a Robin comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...each one having at least four different people under their respective identities.
Linkara: Even I know that someday, there will be a desire to have me retire, to have someone else take over the mantle of Linkara. (suddenly becomes angry) WELL, LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING: (points magic gun and a Power Rangers dagger at camera) THEY'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!! YOU HEAR ME?! I WILL ALWAYS BE LINKARA! NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER DO IT! I'LL KILL Y'ALL FIRST! I'LL–
(Cut to the "Anger-Induced Insanity" screen with a crazed-looking Fry; after a few moments, cut back to Linkara)
Linkara: (huge grin) Happy pills are happy! (squints)
(Cut to another Blue Beetle comic)
Linkara (v/o): So, anyway, Blue Beetle was second. Deciding to establish some continuity with the character, they had Ted Kord trying to rescue his mentor, Dan Garrett, who revealed to Ted his secret identity as the Blue Beetle. When Dan ended up buried in a pile of rubble, Ted swore to take over as the Blue Beetle. Ted was a scientist who didn't have access to the ancient scarab, so he devised technological ways of fighting crime, with a special flash gun that had multiple purposes, acrobatic fighting style, and a large scarab-shaped aircraft referred to as The Bug.
Linkara: Yeah, not exactly "I will become a bat and strike terror in the hearts of criminals," but hey, if you've been watching this show long enough, you know there are much worse origin stories.
(Another montage of Blue Beetle comics, from the Charlton Comics era, is shown)
Linkara (v/o): If you can find the six issues of Charlton Comics' Blue Beetle series, I say grab them up. Sure, the dialogue is kind of weird in that Silver Age kind of way, but Steve Ditko had some great art for the series and wrote most of the plot breakdowns and contributed to the dialogue, creating a character who was unquestionably moral, owing once more to his Objectivist beliefs. A particular issue I'd like to spotlight is issue 5, where Blue Beetle must fight a villain called Our Man. It's based on a statue in the story that's supposed to represent humankind as a heartless, weak entity that is cruel to its own people. A member of the counterculture movement dons a costume that resembles the statues and tries to destroy inspirational art that depicts humanity at its best and most positive.
Linkara: Damn dirty hippies!
Linkara (v/o): For a Silver Age story, it's a pretty well-thought-out debate on the subject of positive or negative representations of humanity, and of course, Blue Beetle eventually triumphs, showing that for all of humankind's faults, we're essentially a good lot.
(Cut to a shot of the Blue Beetle stories of this era cobbled together in a book called "The Action Heroes Archives - Volume 2")
Linkara (v/o): All of the Charlton Comics Blue Beetle appearances are collected in DC's "Action Hero Archives, Volume 2", and I highly recommend it.
(Cut to a shot of another Blue Beetle comic by DC Comics)
Linkara (v/o): Now let's jump ahead twenty years later. DC has purchased all of Charlton Comics' superhero line, and following "Crisis on Infinite Earths", had integrated the heroes into their main line. Blue Beetle gets a new push with a new solo series, as well as membership on the new Justice League International team. Though, as the book went into more humorous stories, his role was more to make jokes with his fellow compatriot Booster Gold. I never really read his solo series, though the only issue of it that I have features a villain who wants to kill firefighters, because apparently they ruined his life or something.
Linkara: So yeah, he's the hero of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
Linkara (v/o): DC didn't really do much with the character. He had his fan base and was a supporting character on the "Birds of Prey" book, and appeared in the boringly lame miniseries "Living Assault Weapons", which reunited the Charlton heroes. But otherwise, he didn't get major attention again until "Countdown to Infinite Crisis".
(Cut to a shot of a "Countdown to Final Crisis" cover)
Linkara (v/o): No, I don't mean that "Countdown".
(Cut to a shot of a "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" cover)
Linkara (v/o): That's kind of the problem with the more well-known events: they tend to have similar names. "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" was a one-shot that started the actual build-up to the 2005 miniseries "Infinite Crisis", which I've talked about more than once.
(Cut back to "Countdown to Final Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): "Countdown to Final Crisis" was an atrociously idiotic, 51-issue weekly series that just insulted the intelligence and good sense of every comic fan that had the misfortune to pick up its fetid contents!
(Cut back again to "Infinite Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): In "Countdown to Infinite Crisis", Ted Kord uncovers a conspiracy theory by former hero Maxwell Lord to kill all superpowered beings throughout the planet. While the characterizations of the heroes who continually see Ted as a joke as he voices his concerns about his suspicions range from spot-on to just insulting to the readers, it's still an enjoyable read and arguably one of the greatest Blue Beetle stories of all time. However, it ends with Ted imprisoned by Maxwell Lord and offered the chance to join his plan. Now, some people will argue that Ted would have joined in, if only to try to undermine the plan from within, but I gotta tell you, knowing how Steve Ditko conceived the character, the Objectivist backgrounds, and his heroic stand against evil, Ted Kord's final words, "Rot in hell, Max," show what kind of hero Ted was.
Linkara: And of course, DC is nice enough to let us see Ted's brains splattered all over the panel! How tasteful. Why don't you just show Marvin and Wendy from the Superfriends cartoon getting eaten by a demonic Wonder Dog–
(Cut abruptly to a panel from "Teen Titans #62", showing exactly that: a demonic Wonder Dog eating Marvin and Wendy alive, along with the following message: "Thanks for keeping it classy, DC.")
Linkara: (stunned) Oh... I think I'll shut up now. (hangs his head in guilt, then becomes angry as he looks up again) No, actually, no! What is with the insane level of gore and violence?! Why isn't there a book out there that can just be positive, fun and entertaining to read?!
(Cut to a shot of a Blue Beetle comic, taken from the pages of "Infinite Crisis", while the Alleluia chorus plays in the background, along with the following message: "Thanks for keeping it classy, DC!")
Linkara: Oh, hell, yeah! Now we're into the good stuff, people!
Linkara (v/o): During "Infinite Crisis", they unveiled the third Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes, a Latino teenager from El Paso who found the Blue Beetle scarab, and it became embedded in his spine, accessing the power that Ted Kord was never able to. And yes, his name is Jaime (pronounced "Hi-Mae"), not Jaime (pronounced "Jay-Me"). Don't make me pull out the "More You Know" logo. After "Infinite Crisis", Jaime disappeared for a year in-story, the scarab having teleported him away because it was afraid of the Green Lanterns. When he returned to his family and learned of the missing year, he did what any superhero would do and told them the truth about his heroic identi-ti-ti... wait, what?
Linkara: (mock surprise) A superhero who actually trusts his friends and loved ones with his secret, actually allowing them more protection instead of less? Nooooo, that's just crazy! What were they thinking?
Linkara (v/o): This series had a big supporting cast, from Jaime's family to his best friends Paco and Brenda; his girlfriend, the magic superheroine Traci Thirteen; and so many more. The dialogue was funny and clever and really full of great character moments.
Linkara: The problem was that, well, (feels guilty) nobody was buying the book, including me. (hangs his head in shame)
Linkara (v/o): At least, at first. I was going to give the book a chance, but to be perfectly honest, the first few issues of the series are, well, average at best. It sets the series up, but really, if you're gonna read the book, I'd actually start with the second and third trade paperbacks, since that's when things really began to take off. It established a few new facts. For one, the Blue Beetle scarab that Dan Garrett had actually wasn't magic, but damaged alien technology. That alien race, the Reach, arrives on Earth and does the most evil thing imaginable: they make peaceful contacts with the governments on Earth and open diplomatic relations!
Linkara: THOSE BASTARDS!!
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the Reach have one of the most unique invasion ideas ever. Instead of trying to conquer worlds through open conquest, they slowly ingratiate themselves into civilizations over a period of a hundred years, altering the food supply so that a species will become more docile and open to subjugation, and eventually manufacture a disaster that forces the entire race to willingly join them as a subservient society. They usually have a primary agent that acts on their behalf, powered by the blue scarab that Jaime now possesses.
Linkara: Huh, this is actually starting to sound more like the backstory to "Neutro".
(Cut to a montage of DC comics that all feature Blue Beetle in some way or another)
Linkara (v/o): In this case, something went wrong with the scarab, and it has now gained free will, willingly wanting to help Jaime fight the Reach. During this, there are a lot of standalone issues that seem like they don't contribute to the overall plot, but actually all contribute in some fashion. The "End Game" storyline is one of the best stories I've ever read, and I can't recommend it enough!
Linkara: So, of course, after 36 issues, defeating aliens and supervillains, and saving countless people, WHAT'S NEXT?!?
(Cut to a shot of the Blue Beetle comic "The End?"; to a buzzer, the word "CANCELED" flashes over it)
Linkara (v/o): Why was the series canceled? Low sales. But actually, it had low sales for a good chunk of its life, but DC Editorial liked the book, so they were willing to let it run its course as best that they could. So why weren't people buying it? Well, a couple of reasons. Some say there wasn't enough marketing, but actually, when the book first came out, it was promoted in ads, and Jaime appeared in several other books, including "Brave and the Bold", "Booster Gold", and "Teen Titans". His book was the only non-Green Lantern book to have a tie-in to the excellent book "Sinestro Corps War" event, and it actually acted like a proper tie in a book. No, the big reason people weren't reading it was because it wasn't Ted Kord. People were really pissed that Ted had died the way he did and weren't willing to give him a chance.
Linkara: (angrily) YOU PEOPLE SUCK!! (audience boos, and he holds up his hands) Sorry, sorry, let me just say something.
Linkara (v/o): At the end of the story arc of the most recent Booster Gold series, Booster travels back in time and actually manages to save Ted Kord's life, with the assistance of both Jaime Reyes and a time-traveling Dan Garrett. And you know what? Ted actually tells Jaime he's proud to have him as his successor. Plus, in the series, they're constantly using Ted's notes on strategy and tactics.
Linkara: How do you like that, huh? They actually respect Ted Kord's legacy and history in the Blue Beetle series! How do you like that, huh? Am I right?
(Audience boos again, so Linkara becomes annoyed and takes out his magic gun, which he fires left and right, silencing the booing audience; he then puts the gun down, scowling)
Linkara (v/o): Look, the book deserves another look-through, if only because it was just good. Now, I know it seems hypocritical of me to ask people to ask people to get over it, considering my own thing with "One More Day"...
(Deals with the devil =/= Wrongful Character Death)
Linkara (v/o): ...but I understand the cyclical nature of comics. Someday, "One More Day" will be undone. I complain because I'd like that day sooner rather than later. Plus, it's just funny to make fun of it. Blue Beetle was a great book, and it deserves more readers than it had. What really bugs me about the whole thing is that a lighthearted book like "Blue Beetle" died in today's market, but other books survived. (mockingly) Oh, we can't have a book about a teenager having fun fighting crime...
(Cut to a shot of a cover for a comic called "The Boys")
Linkara (v/o): ...but we can have a book...
(34,000 readers to Blue Beetle's 10,000?! That's messed up.)
Linkara (v/o): ...that featured a superhero who couldn't stop himself from having sex with anything and everything!
(Cut to a shot of an Avengers comic, where Tony Stark places his Iron Man mask next to the seemingly dead body of Captain America)
Linkara (v/o): We can have a book where Iron Man shoves civil liberties up the asses of good people...
(Cut to another Blue Beetle panel involving his friend Paco, battling aliens with a stick)
Linkara (v/o): ...but a book that had Paco fighting off aliens with a big stick? Oh, that's not "topical" or "extreme" enough! It's like the '90s all over again!
(Cut to 90s Kid)
90s Kid: Dude, who needs that kids stuff like "hope" and "joy"? No, I want (holds up video game console) guns and lines all over people's faces! That's the extreme way of doing things, my most bodacious compatriots! (sighs) Rob Liefeld, you will never not be popular.
Linkara: "Blue Beetle" continues in the pages of "Teen Titans" and will be joining "Booster Gold" as a backup story, so start getting ready. In the meantime, I encourage you all to purchase the back issues. (holds up index finger) And maybe someday, a kid from El Paso will once again have his own series to battle aliens and living hurricanes. (becomes annoyed) Or maybe you won't listen and he'll die in another crossover event, and I'll have one more thing to rant about besides "One More Day"!
(Stinger: 90s Kid is seen again)
90s Kid: Dude, I bought, like, four issues of "Superman #75", the issue where he died, man. All with the polybag cover and everything. It's got, like, a wristband, an obituary... Superman was never hardcore; he'll never last like characters like Bloodsport and Bloodaxe and other characters with "blood" in their name. But I know it's a collector's edition, so I know that those four issues of "Superman #75" will put me through college. Ah, college, I look forward to it. Getting high all the time, getting drunk... That's what college is all about. Not stuff like getting ready for the real world; that's just stupid. Hey, I'm 90s Kid, (shucks his jacket to reveal his shirt underneath reading "WYSIWYG") and what you see is what you get!