Spoiler Warning: This week’s column focuses on a major plot element in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. In fact, the supposed death of a superhero is revealed in the very next paragraph! Enter at your own risk of revelation!
Twenty years ago, DC brought Blue Beetle into their universe, reintroducing the former Charlton Comics superhero in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths #1. This week, DC has apparently killed the Beetle in Countdown to Infinite Crisis.
Blue Beetle is probably most famous to the modern comics audience as the comic relief in the immensely entertaining Justice League, which debuted in 1987, a series that is enjoying a comeback that started last year in Formerly Known as the Justice League and is continuing in the current JLA Classified: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League.” Beetle brought the cute, but sometimes annoying, catchphrase “Bwah-ha-ha!” to a generation of amused, satisfied, and sporadically annoyed comic book fans.
Poor guy ain’t bwah-ha-ha-ing now.
Overshadowed in one of comics most pivotal years, 1986 (what 1939 was to cinema, 1986 was to comics), by “Whatever Happened to…The Man of Tomorrow?”; the revamped Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman; Watchmen; Maus; and even The Question, who was also carried over from Charlton, Blue Beetle was awarded his own title after a revised origin in Secret Origins #2. The series lasted a respectable two years and was written by Len Wein and drawn by various artists including Paris Cullins and Ross Andru. Julius Schwartz edited the first few issues, one of the last books he oversaw in his long, legendary career. I reread the entire series this past week as my own personal lead-in to Countdown (having learned that Beetle was down for the, er, count). I enjoy Blue Beetle now more than I did then. In 1986, being hip and cool meant reading The Dark Knight Returns, The Man of Steel, “Batman: Year One,” Watchmen, and Maus. Not Blue Beetle. Okay, I read Blue Beetle then, but I wasn’t admitting to it, and I certainly wasn’t getting the kind of kick out of it that I was getting out of, say, Watchmen (or ‘Mazing Man, for that matter).
Nineteen years later, being hip and cool means reading Countdown to Infinite Crisis, which concludes with the violent shooting of Blue Beetle, so there you go, my own twisted irony. Still, every character in comics becomes hip and cool at one point, even if it’s fleeting, and even if it means he/she has gotta die (especially in comics — if you want to be popular in comics, either die, or be resurrected).
The Nite Owl substituted for Blue Beetle in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic, and rightfully so, Watchmen series. Originally, Blue Beetle was going to be used in Watchmen, along with other former Charlton stalwarts, but DC wanted to go with original characters, and the rest is comics history.
Blue Beetle has etched a little comics history of his own this week.
There’s also a big villain reveal in Countdown, but that’s another column in itself.
I wonder if a portion of the generation that read and enjoyed Crisis on Infinite Earths all those years ago are now tuned into Countdown to Infinite Crisis. I wonder what they think about the book. I wonder if they’re as enthusiastic about it as they were about Infinite Earths. Crisis on Infinite Earths was an amazing accomplishment. It turned off a lot of then longtime comics readers. But it was cheered by a lot more. The repercussions of Infinite Earths carry on to this day. Will Infinite Crisis hold the same power twenty years from now?
One thing I’m certain of…Blue Beetle will be around twenty years from now (maybe even in a forthcoming Justice League Unlimited). It’s guaranteed. But he’s dead, you say. Exactly. This is comics. Guaranteed.
Blue Beetle, R.I.P., thanks for twenty years worth of amusing memories, and we’ll see you soon. May you have the last bwah-ha-ha!