Who is DC’s Blue Beetle? His appearances in the comics, explained

Blue Beetle
Image via DC Comics

The Blue Beetle movie is coming to the DCEU, and it’s been a long time coming for a character with 83 years of comic book history.

The recent Blue Beetle set photos have energized the comic book fan base and captured the attention of mainstream audiences. The focus is on the costume, which appears to be very accurate to his comic book origins, to the delight of Blue Beetle fans everywhere.

Image via Just Jared

There have been a lot of beetles in comics. Besides The Beatles, who have had their share of comic book appearances, there has been Beetle in Marvel Comics, while DC had both the Gold Beetle and Black Beetle. The original Blue Beetle remains the best.

As corny as his name might sound, the Blue Beetle is one of the more unique characters in the DC Universe. After 80-plus years of history, he will finally arrive on the big screen.

DC Animated Universe fans have come to know the Blue Beetle quite well. Over the past dozen years, Jaime Reyes (the latest to take on the mantle of the Blue Beetle) featured in the live-action Smallville, but he rose to fame when the tongue-in-cheek Batman: the Brave and the Bold introduced kids to the current Blue Beetle. Afterwards, he would appear in Young Justice: Invasion, which helped endear him further to younger viewers.

The Blue Beetle will finally crossover into the DCEU with a feature film scheduled for August 2023. Like Shazam!, Blue Beetle will likely be a lighthearted action-comedy aimed at the family-friendly crowd that Marvel Studios has in a stranglehold. Considering the massive success of Shazam!, it is a formula that works for DC. That means audiences should get inundated with Blue Beetle merchandise and tie-ins galore. 

While we know the movie will bring the Blue Beetle to life, we don’t know how the film will handle the character’s lengthy history. So let’s delve into the characters who held the rank straight from the comics.

The original Blue Beetle

Image via Creative Commons

It would not be a stretch for DC to link Blue Beetle to John Cena’s Peacemaker. Thanks to their original publisher, Charlton Comics, these two will forever be connected. Blue Beetle, however, predates Peacemaker by more than two decades with a different company, Fox Comics. The Blue Beetle was one of their first heroes when the company steered its attention toward the developing world of costumed superheroes. 

Created in 1939, Charlton Comics published the original Blue Beetle’s first adventure only a year after Superman made his historic debut in 1938’s Action Comics #1. In this incarnation, the man calling himself Blue Beetle was Dan Garrett, who first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1. It spurred on an age of color-based names: Beetle debuted alongside the Green Mask, and green was the favorite color of comic creators everywhere. Around this time, there also was Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Green Hornet, Green Lama, and Green Falcon. 

Garrett’s powers came from a special vitamin, but that was later retconned with his abilities sourced from a magic scarab (itself a form of Beetle). Although the Blue Beetle’s early exploits are often overshadowed by the likes of Superman, Batman, and the first Captain Marvel aka Shazam, the character was a hit with fans. The Blue Beetle generated enough of a following to warrant his own radio serial adventures, a big deal for the time.

A new decade, a new Beetle

Image via Fandom

Despite Blue Beetle’s success in both print and radio, he couldn’t help Fox Comics stay in business. After the publisher closed its doors for good in the mid-1950s, Charlton Comics bought the rights to many of its characters, most notably the Blue Beetle. They would publish some comics featuring Dan Garrett, but the character was given a makeover and a new alter ego in the 1960s. Thus in 1966’s Captain Atom #83, scientist Ted Kord was introduced as the successor for the Blue Beetle moniker after Garrett was killed in a fight with his uncle involving androids taking over the world. Yeah, the ’60s were weird.

The biggest difference between the characters was that Kord had no superpowers. This was explained in-story by Kord not being able to access the magic inside the scarab. Instead, Kord went the Iron Man route and invented Beetle-themed tech to fight crime. Years later, Kord’s Beetle would inspire Alan Moore’s Nite Owl in 1986’s masterpiece, Watchmen. Actually, Moore wanted to write the story using the Charlton characters, but when DC said no, he created his own versions.

Beetle’s DC era

Charlton’s golden years were in the 1960s and ’70s, and the Blue Beetle had many adventures under the company’s banner. By the early 1980s, things were winding down. Sales were declining, and Charlton sold many of its character rights to DC Comics in 1983. That led to the seminal comics event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which the DC writers and editors used as a launching pad to introduce the newly acquired Charlton characters into DC’s official Earth-One universe.

For the next two decades, Kord’s Blue Beetle would be a B-list hero in the world of DC Comics. Blue Beetle would join the publisher’s premier team, the Justice League of America, and the JLA off-shoot, Extreme Justice, and Justice League International. He also would be paired with another low-level DC hero, Booster Gold, and their friendship ultimately defined both characters as comedy acts.

Along came Jaime

Image via DC Comics

By the 2000s, it was time for a change for Blue Beetle, and Kord would meet his shocking end in the prelude to Infinite Crisis. DCEU fans will remember Pedro Pascal’s selfish and misguided Maxwell Lord from Wonder Woman 1984. Unfortunately, the comics presented him with far less redeemable qualities. In Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1, Kord and Booster Gold had unearthed a conspiracy. Following classic detective tropes, they sidestepped danger at every turn. Ultimately, the trail led Kord to Maxwell Lord’s doorstep. There in Lord’s posh office, he murdered Kord with a single gunshot to the head.

Kord’s unexpected death was the catalyst for introducing an all-new Blue Beetle created by writer Geoff Johns. Teenager Jaime Reyes would first appear in Infinite Crisis #3, but he would rise to stardom as the third Blue Beetle two issues later. 

With the changing of the Blue Beetle guard from Kord to Reyes came a new direction for the character. Instead of following Kord’s self-made superhero routine, the intergalactic scarab that had been dormant since 1966 would come to life. It bonded with Jaime, giving the Blue Beetle newfound powers like never before. In this version, the scarab created a suit that can basically do anything. Whether flying into space or forming space-age weapons, the new Blue Beetle was a major upgrade from the previous incarnations.

The kid appeal

The teenage Blue Beetle was an instant hit with fans. By 2006, he starred in his first self-titled series since 1986. From Batman: the Brave and the Bold to Young Justice: Invasion, younger audiences began to discover the all-new Beetle. 16 years later, and the Blue Bettle will finally get his own DCEU movie. Odds are, he will be embraced by moviegoers around the world, and he could be a household name by the fall. 

After 83 years, it’s about time Blue Beetle got his chance at being a movie star.