Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)


Blue Beetle is Theodore (or Edward) “Ted” Kord, a fictional superhero in the DC Universe. This version of the character was created by Steve Ditko, and first appeared as a back-up feature in Captain Atom #83 (Nov. 1966), with Gary Friedrich scripting from Ditko’s conception and plot.

Publication history

Ted Kord is the second Blue Beetle, who was originally published by Charlton Comics and later picked up by DC Comics.

In many stories and character entries, it is noted that “Ted” is an abbreviated form of “Theodore”. However, in Chuck Dixon’s Birds of Prey, Barbara Gordon stated that “Ted” is actually short for Edward. A similar truncation exists for Senator Edward Kennedy, known as Ted Kennedy. However, in Countdown to Infinite Crisis, the wizard Shazam repeatedly addresses Ted as “Theodore Kord” and Checkmate’s profile of Blue Beetle also lists him as such.

 

Fictional character biography

 

Charlton Comics

Ted Kord was a genius-level inventor and a gifted athlete, sharing much more in common with the Fox original than did Charlton’s earlier reimagining of the character.

Kord’s signature equipment was his bug-shaped personal aircraft, which he entered and exited typically with a cable suspended from the cockpit. He also generally eschewed personal weaponry except for a pistol that made a blinding flash of light and, additionally, a strong airblast to gain the advantage when he closed in for hand-to-hand combat.

Ditko is best known as the co-creator (with Stan Lee) and original artist of Spider-Man at Marvel Comics. While Blue Beetle and Spider-Man have some similar characteristics, such as being wise-cracking, acrobatic, arthropod-themed urban heroes, they evolved into very different characters. Both characters are accomplished inventors (Ted Kord is considered one of the premier minds of the DC Universe), great athletes, and skilled acrobats. Both characters also have strong, if sometimes ill-timed, senses of humor that they use to mask their insecurities — more so in the case of the Beetle, who has no powers of his own (and in later years has to deal with occasional weight gain). On the other hand, the Beetle has none of the angst associated with brooding vigilantes like Batman. Unlike Spider-Man, Blue Beetle usually operates in a group rather than alone, but like Spidey, he is a loyal friend. In fact, Beetle has been the best friend of the slightly selfish superhero Booster Gold when the two were paired in the Justice League, and they would continue to feature as a double act until the end of said superhero team.

The Ted Kord Blue Beetle ran as a backup feature in Captain Atom #83-86 (Nov. 1966 – June 1967) before getting his own title, which ran from #1-5 (June 1967 – Nov. 1968). A sixth issue was produced, but published in the Charlton Portfolio by CPL/Gang. The Question ran as a backup series, with the fifth issue featuring a quasi-team-up in which the Blue Beetle story continues in part in the Question tale.

An origin was given in #2, linking Ted Kord to the previous Blue Beetle. Ted was revealed as a former student of Dan Garrett, and when they were investigating Ted’s Uncle Jarvis, they learned Jarvis was working to create an army of androids to take over Earth. Garrett changed into Blue Beetle, but was killed in the battle. As he died, he passed on the responsibility of being Blue Beetle to Ted, but wasn’t able to pass on the mystical scarab, a convenient means for Ditko to explain his preferred power-free character. There was a hint that one android was still left in stasis, but this would remain unresolved until the DC series of the late 1980s.

In the early 1980s, the first issue of Charlton’s anthology comic Charlton Bullseye, featured a team-up of the Blue Beetle and the Question. Later, AC Comics would publish a story intended for Charlton Bullseye in Americomics #3, and a one-shot of a team-up of all the Charlton “Action Heroes”, as the company called its lineup.

 

DC Comics

 

Crisis on Infinite Earths

DC acquired the Charlton heroes in the mid-1980s, and used the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event to integrate them all into the DC Universe. During this period Blue Beetle had his own series, written by Len Wein. Also published during this time was Secret Origins #2 (cover illustrated by Gil Kane), which explained the origins and careers of the Ted Kord and Dan Garrett Blue Beetles in the post-Crisis continuity. They would also follow up on the hinted android in stasis from the Charlton series, which would eventually become ‘Carapax, the Indestructible Man’.

Ted Kord was sometimes shown as an industrialist, the owner of Kord Industries; more often he was short on money, leading to his entering “get-rich-quick” schemes with Booster Gold.

A brief appearance in JLA: Year One showed the young Ted working in Kord Industries R&D, where he designed the JLA HQ security system. Upon meeting the heroes he thought, “Screw the family business. I want to be one of those guys”, possibly explaining the company’s fluctuating status since he took over. In recent comics, it has been implied that Kord Industries has become a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, headed by Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman.

The Justice League

Justice League International

Blue Beetle is probably best known as the wisecracking member of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis‘s lighthearted, five-year run on various Justice League of America titles (notably Justice League International), where he was memorably partnered with fellow third-string hero Booster Gold, and the two quickly became best friends. Among fans, they were known collectively as the “Blue and Gold” team. For a while, Beetle grappled with a weight problem, but with sheer determination and coaching from the hero General Glory, he defeated it. After Giffen and DeMatteis left, Justice League America continued to run until #113. Dan Jurgens tied the “Death of Superman” storyline into JLA, in which Doomsday left Blue Beetle in a coma during his murderous rampage and a six-inch scar on the back of his skull. Beetle and Booster both subsequently joined the short-lived Justice League offshoot known as Extreme Justice.

Blue Beetle then entered a period of relative obscurity. The miniseries The LAW (Living Assault Weapons) reunited Blue Beetle and the other heroes acquired from Charlton, but the series met with critical disfavor.

 

Super Buddies

Super Buddies

In July 2003, Giffen, DeMatteis, and original JLI artist Kevin Maguire reunited for the six-issue miniseries Formerly Known As The Justice League, where many of the original JLI characters re-teamed with a storefront office. Beetle, who had grown in maturity, was an important member of this new team, the “Super Buddies”. A sequel story arc, I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, was initially slated as a second miniseries but instead ran, delayed, in JLA: Classified #4-9.

Ted made several appearances in Birds of Prey, at first as Oracle’s internet friend and later in person. It was hinted in several issues that Ted had a crush on Oracle. Ted had gone back to his company, but still had many, many problems with it, problems Oracle tried to help resolve. During this time, it was revealed he had a heart condition, but this did not stop him from assisting when it was needed. After his death (see below) the Birds Of Prey visited a statue in Valhalla Cemetery (built in his honour, Birds of Prey #96). Black Canary revealed that being in the JLA was only fun when Blue Beetle was there. Oracle revealed that she had had a cyber crush on him.

Infinite Crisis

Death

In the 80-page special Countdown to Infinite Crisis, published on March 30, 2005, Blue Beetle discovers a revived Checkmate organization led by Maxwell Lord, former bankroller of the JLA, headquartered in a Belgian castle fortress, where Beetle is captured. Lord reveals to Blue Beetle that his intent is to use the organization to ensure that metahumans, including superheroes, will be kept under surveillance and controlled by humans. Lord then gives Beetle an ultimatum to join his organization. When Kord refuses, Lord murders him with a bullet to the head.

That same story had earlier reiterated that Ted Kord had thought the scarab destroyed back in Blue Beetle vol.6 #18 (1987); however, it had been rediscovered, untouched, in a temple in Egypt, and handed over to Kord. It is unclear as to whether or not this is the same scarab created from a piece of future technology magically infused by Nabu the Wizard in the Time Masters mini-series featuring Rip Hunter. Shazam took the scarab upon encountering Kord, fueling speculation about the possibility of the character’s return during DC’s Infinite Crisis series. This possibility was dashed when it was asked in the Wizard World convention if Kord would ever return. Writer Greg Rucka stated, “There was a breeze blowing through his brain, and he was incinerated. How much clearer can it be?”[1]

Fallout

The death of Ted Kord precipitated the events of Infinite Crisis.

  • The reorganization of Brother Eye and the OMAC project.
  • Max Lord is revealed as a villain and takes telepathic control of Superman, which led to Wonder Woman being forced to kill Lord.
  • Shazam warns Ted about Lex Luthor, who supposedly straddled the worlds of magic and science. Events in Infinite Crisis #3 revealed this to be Alexander Luthor, Jr. in disguise.
  • Booster Gold returns to the 25th century. He later returns to the present with Skeets to help find Brother Eye. The success of the mission puts Booster back into the spotlight and sets in motion the events of 52.

One Year Later

The young teenager Jaime Reyes later discovers the scarab and becomes the new Blue Beetle. J’onn J’onzz has a statue of Ted Kord in his memorial to fallen Justice League members. When recruiting members for the new Justice League, Superman suggests Booster Gold, and Batman responds “There are better ways to honor Ted.”

An individual that looks like Ted as Blue Beetle has shown up in Manhunter vol. 3 #27 (January 2007), before Wonder Woman’s trial for the death of Max Lord. Claiming to be amnesiac, and to have forgotten all about his trip in Switzerland, he manages to gain Manhunter’s trust. Fooling Wonder Woman’s lasso with evasive remarks as answers, he is finally revealed by Batman’s DNA test as Everyman, the cannibalistic shapeshifter of Infinity, Inc. and is subdued by Manhunter herself.

In Geoff Johns’ 2007-08 ongoing Booster Gold series, Booster agrees to help Rip Hunter set right the timeline, but at a cost: Rip must help Booster go back and save Ted.[2] Rip Hunter, however, tries to shock Booster Gold into acknowledging his inability to change past “solidified” events, tricking him into witnessing Barbara Gordon’s crippling assault over and over again.[3] [4] As Booster Gold prepares accept his fate, a futuristic Blue Beetle appears with Dan Garrett and Jaime Reyes in tow to show him how to turn the time around Ted’s death into “malleable time.” Booster Gold betrays Rip Hunter, and with the other Beetles’ help, rescues Ted Kord from death at the hands of Maxwell Lord.[5] The four Beetles escape together in time, the technology used to save Blue Beetle preserving the future events the way they were meant to unfold (thus enabling Jaime to keep his powers and his role as the “new” Beetle), with the world at large still believing Ted Kord to be deceased. The story arc, “Blue and Gold” reveals that this act has altered the present, creating a timeline where Max and his OMAC’s have turned the world into a police state. The future Blue Beetle is also revealed to actually be Black Beetle, a super-villain allied with the Ultra-Humanite, Despero, Per Degaton, and Booster Gold’s father (under the control of Mister Mind) as the Time Stealers, a time-traveling super-villain group. Facing the defeat of his former teammates of the Justice League International, the only free heroes in the new timeline, Ted Kord realizes that the only way to restore the timeline is die the way he was supposed to do. As Black Beetle tries to stop him, he grapples the villain, and both of them are brought to the past in a Time Sphere [6]

As the timeline is restored, it’s implied, and strongly believed by Booster Gold and Rip Hunter, that Ted Kord died and the story was reset the way it was meant to be. However a shadowy figure holding something resembling the scarab is seen prowling a Kord Industries Safehouse, and find a picture of Blue Beetle’s enemy Overthrow, a Bug and other Beetle paraphenalia. The shadowy figure than laughs in the maniacal and jolly way associated with Ted Kord, hinting that Ted Kord somehow cheated death again. [7]

After Ted Kord’s demise, Shockwave, the enforcer of the 100 is send to destroy building of interest to the still active Kord Industries. Even if Red Devil and the new Blue Beetle manage to stop him, it’s revealed that due to the property value plummeting, the 100 were able to take over Kord Industries. [8]

Hardcover collection

Nearly all of Ted Kord’s Charlton Comics appearances as the Blue Beetle have been collected as part of the DC Archive Editions series:

Title Material collected
The Action Heroes Archives Vol. 2 HC (2007) Captain Atom (1965 series) #83-86
Blue Beetle (1967 series) #1-5
Charlton Portfolio #9-10 (written for and presented as Blue Beetle #6)

The Charlton Portfolio material is in black and white as originally presented, while the rest is in color. The collection includes nearly all the Charlton appearances of The Question as well as a brief appearance by Captain Atom. Volume 1 of the archive contained nearly all of Captain Atom’s Charlton stories and a brief appearance by Nightshade.

 

Powers and abilities

  • Ted Kord had no superpowers; however, he did possess a genius-level intellect, with an IQ of 192. Despero once claimed that Ted’s mind was second only to that of J’onn J’onzz.[9] Former Justice League teammate Guy Gardner claims that Ted was smarter than Batman, “although nobody ever noticed.”[10] Kord was an Olympic-level acrobat, and skilled hand-to-hand combatant, having studied in the martial arts of Karate and Aikido.[11] He was also highly skilled at espionage (DCU source, Ted Kord).

Equipment

  • Kord created numerous gadgets, including suction pads, sight-enhancing lenses and a protective costume. To prevent being forcibly unmasked, especially if rendered unconscious, Kord’s cowl had a lock mechanism that only opened when he touches with a chip in his gloves, which would at least force an enemy to perform the more troublesome task of cutting through the material to unmask him.
  • He also created a power armor suit for his friend Booster Gold; the suit contained a fully functioning artificial arm, and also provided life-support for Booster as he recovered from potentially fatal injuries. He later converted a suit of alien armor for Booster to use.
  • His BB gun was a handheld weapon that could blind villains with a flash of light, or knock them out with a compressed air blast capable of felling a charging rhino. The original BB gun was designed with a security feature, so that it would function only when the Blue Beetle held it, becoming inactive without contact with special circuitry in the Beetle costume’s gloves.
  • Blue Beetle’s airship, the Bug, contained high tech equipment, could electrify or magnetize its hull, fire electrical energy and could fly at 600 mph. All models had booster jets hidden under the shell of the Bug. The boosters on the first two models could speed the Bug up to the speed of sound for a short period of time, no time limit was ever given for how long the burst lasted. Later models the boosters where used for intercontinental travel at supersonic speed. It was also 90% solar powered. Later models also had energy weapons of various types from lasers to plasma. The last two models were capable of being able to reach orbit (L.A.W #6, Infinite Crisis #5). All models were remote controllable from controls built into Kord’s gloves.
  • He also built flight pads similar to Mr Miracle’s flight discs (Extreme Justice), and claimed to Barbara Gordon that he could keep the Birds of Prey jet flying 24-7 with technology based on the New Gods’ Mother Boxes (Countdown to Infinite Crisis).

Other versions

  • Blue Beetle has appeared in the Justice League Unlimited spin-off comic book. His appearances are in issues #5 and 8.
  • Appeared in Kingdom Come, as one of Batman’s three generals.

Musical references

  • Jazz composer Kelly Fenton has a big band tune entitled “Elegy for Ted Kord” insprired by Kord’s death as part of a suite of music about Infinite Crisis.

References

  1. ^WWC: Day 2 – DC Crisis Counseling Panel“. Newsarama (2005-08-07). Retrieved on 2007-06-22.
  2. ^ 52 Pick-Up: Booster Gold #1
  3. ^ 52 Pick-Up: Booster Gold #4
  4. ^ 52 Pick-Up: Booster Gold #3
  5. ^ 52 Pick-Up: Booster Gold #6
  6. ^ 52 Pick-Up: Booster Gold #10
  7. ^ 52 Pick-Up: Booster Gold #1000000
  8. ^ Teen Titans #61 (2008)
  9. ^ Justice League America vol2 #39
  10. ^ Blue Beetle vol. 7 #14, June 2007,
  11. ^ Extreme Justice #18



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