THE BLUE BEETLEMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1967
Creator: Steve Ditko
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Charlton Comics. But the name goes all the way back to a character that first appeared in 1939.
The recent Blue Beetle is Ted Kord, an electronics genius and millionaire industrialist along the lines of Marvel Comics' Iron Man — a guy able to design all kinds of nifty techno-gadgets that a superhero would find handy, who also has enough money to build them. In his case, the main gadget is a beetle-shaped airship, in which he regularly sallies forth in his never-ending battle against evil.
This version of The Blue Beetle was created by Steve Ditko, whose other credits include Doctor Strange, The Creeper and Spider-Man. Scripter Gary Friedrich did dialog for his early appearances, but the plot and concept were pure Ditko. This Beetle first appeared as a series of very short back-up stories in Ditko's Captain Atom, starting in the 83rd issue (November, 1966). Early on, Ditko dropped intriguing hints that this Ted Kord character had a connection to another Blue Beetle Charlton had published, whose series had been discontinued several months earlier. Reader interest was piqued, and The Blue Beetle moved out into his own comic with a first-issue cover date of June, 1967.
It didn't last long, however, as Charlton cancelled its entire superhero line less than a year later. Only five issues came out — and the last was several months late, finally hitting the stands with a November, 1968 cover date. Between then and DC's acquisition of the Charlton characters, The Blue Beetle was seen only in occasional reprints, usually with fairly bad printing.
DC used the Charlton superheroes as the basis for the main characters in the graphic novel, Watchmen, by Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, The Ballad of Halo Jones) all very recognizable despite their names being changed. The Blue Beetle became Nite Owl, complete with super-technological airship, who also had an earlier counterpart with the same name.
DC also uses some of the Charlton characters in their original forms, and with their original names. The Blue Beetle's first DC appearance was in the 1985 crossover series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. He had a DC comic of his own from 1986-88, and has held down membership in the Justice League (where he and Booster Gold, also a DC character of the '80s, became pals) as well as doing the usual guest appearances, specials, back-up stories, etc.
Eventually, he mostly retired from superheroing, but was still seen for a long time, flitting around in his big, blue, beetle-shaped airship, until the company needed a superhero death to provide impact for a major storyline. The axe fell in 2005. Not surprisingly, there's now yet another Blue Beetle.