I love comics. I love superheroes. I have loved both for more than 30 years and have amassed a fair sized collection of comic books and collectibles over the years. Yes, I’m a grown man, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a fan, collector, or aficionado of both the medium and its most popular format. It used to irk me when people made fun of me for being a collector – as if being into comics and toys stunted my growth or made me less of a man. Well, as the years went on I’m still a fan of comics and superheroes and toys; I still have the items I grew up with and I still appreciate them with much fondness. I can’t say the same for all of those naysayers. They are a fading memory.
As the years passed, and as my reading habits matured, many different characters became favorites of mine. I like many comic book characters, superheroes or not, but in this posting I would like to discuss my favorite characters — I’ll describe a little bit about their history and origins, appearances in other mediums, and pinpoint the defining moment in the character’s rich history that made me their…Super-Fan!
BLUE BEETLE (TED KORD)
As I stated in my previous post about Guy Gardner, I always equated the ’80s trio of Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, and Blue Beetle as the modern comic book equivalent of the Three Stooges. Their appearances together were always quite comical. Eventually, it became more of a duo as Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle were always partnered up together and getting into hijinks. Unfortunately, the clownish characterization of the Blue Beetle became how everyone identified him and it heavily diminished his potential to be a premiere character in the DC Universe.
Created by the legendary Steve Ditko in Captain Atom Comics #83 in 1966 for rival publisher Charlton Comics, Ted Kord
was the second person to bare the name of The Blue Beetle. The first was Dan Garrett, a character that originated out of the 1940’s — crossed ownership with various different publishers over 25 years — and eventually ended up at Charlton. Rather than re-introducing the Dan Garrett Beetle, the publisher opted to use the superhero name only and gave the character a new shtick. The Ted Kord Blue Beetle has always been the more popular of all the Blue Beetle iterations and lasted almost 40 years.
A student of Dan Garret’s (the original mystically powered Blue Beetle), billionaire inventor Ted Kord took up the mantle of his predecessor when Garrett was killed in an explosion. The source of Garrett’s mystical powers, a magic imbued blue scarab, was lost when he was killed. Ted Kord used his martial arts and fighting skills acquired from years of training in different disciplines, and built an impressive display of vehicles and weaponry with his wealth, to become the second Blue Beetle and honor his mentor’s legacy by becoming his legacy. Ted created a giant floating vessel he called ‘the bug’ which he used to fly over and patrol Hub City. Where crime and evil lurked, the Beetle would propel down a line and attack the criminals.
“Ladies and Gentlemen…THE BEETLE!”
The Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) was one of the characters highly showcased in the Maxi-Series Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, and given that he was being folded into the DC Universe proper (having been acquired from Charlton Comics in 1983) the powers that be (especially Dick Giordano who had been the E-I-C at Charlton for years and had a familiarity with the character) were really pushing for his inclusion. He was given his own title, starred in the next DC Event Mini-Series Legends in 1986, and was a founding member of the Justice League International in 1987. Unfortunately, after a couple of years the enthusiasm for the Azure Avenger waned. He continued to be a long-standing member of the JLI but relegated to second stringer. An interesting cross between Batman and Spider-Man, the second Blue Beetle had incredible story potential but was left in the hands of short-sighted creators and editors that found it best to either have him perpetually partner with Booster Gold, or continue to play in the background. That sadly, would eventually lead to the character’s demise.
DEFINING MOMENT – TED KORD’S FINAL FATE
In 2004, with the 20th Anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths approaching in a few months time, the brass at DC Comics really wanted to build up the event. A book simply advanced solicited as Countdown, was released. On the cover (seen above) it had numerous heroes staring shockingly at Batman who is carrying a body in his arms. The advanced solicitations to retailers had the character blacked out and obscured -which led to rampant speculation as to who may die in this book. Eventually the book and final cover (now entitled Countdown to Infinite Crisis) were released to market and lo and behold it is the Blue Beetle that is being carried by the Dark Knight. The story within centered entirely on Ted Kord investigating several mysteries that all culminate to the same inevitable destination. As the other heroes consider him a joke, they dismiss his evidence and claims and basically shoo him away. The Beetle is at first accompanied by Booster Gold who soon is incapacitated by an explosion and hospitalized. Ted continues on alone and his investigation leads him to a castle in Belgium where he sneaks in and soon comes across a computer with detailed dossiers on all of his hero peers — including their secret identities and weaknesses. Ted is horrified to discover that his long time friend and ally Maxwell Lord is behind everything. After scoffing Max’s invitation to join his organization, the Blue Beetle makes a stand — which results in being his last. See the full confrontation on the images below.
Ted Kord had a fitting, albeit brutal, send off in this story. Sadly, his best portrayal in 20 years happened to be his last. Perhaps if he was written as well as he was in Countdown to Infinite Crisis, there may have been no need to permanently retire the character. The Blue Beetle was eventually replaced. I don’t care at all for that iteration, so I have nothing really to say about him. Hopefully, in the DC New 52 relaunch, Ted Kord gets reintroduced.