81 Years in the Making: The Blue Beetle

by Matt Tuck

Blue-Beetle-generations 81 Years in the Making: The Blue BeetleBlue Beetle is about to become mainstream thanks to HBO Max, but Jaime Reyes isn’t the only Beetle with keys worth collecting.

It’s easy to forget that Blue Beetle has been in comics for 81 years. The overshadowed Golden Age superhero has gone through three different publishers and three changes in alter egos over the decades. After all this time, he is finally getting his first live-action series, and that will push his popularity to new heights. 

Before that happens, let’s take a brief look at the history of the Blue Beetle.

Mystery-Men-Comics-1-215x300 81 Years in the Making: The Blue BeetleDan Garrett

Like most of the DC staples, Blue Beetle came from the Golden Age. Of course, he wasn’t originally a DC property. When he debuted in 1939, Mystery Men Comics #1 was published by Fox Comics. In those early issues, Dan Garrett wore a high-tech suit that gave him added abilities, like super strength. Later, he was given the mystical scarab after Charlton Comics re-imagined the character. 

The series never quite caught on, and the rights would eventually be picked up by the legendary Charlton Comics, the characters of which inspired Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ revolutionary graphic novel, The Watchmen

If you’re looking to add Mystery Men Comics #1 to your collection, be prepared to take out a loan. The last graded issue sold was a 3.5 that brought $7,800 in 2018.

Another option is Blue Beetle #1 (1939), which was the first self-titled series for the character. It is a cheaper alternative, certainly, but it’s not exactly cheap. Last March, a 1.5 sold for $1,350. 

Captain-Atom-83-197x300 81 Years in the Making: The Blue BeetleTed Kord

Under the Charlton banner, Garrett handed the Blue Beetle title to his successor, Ted Kord, who first appeared in a backup feature in Captain Atom #83 in 1966. It is easy to see the similarities drawn between Kord’s Blue Beetle and Watchmen’s Nite Owl. Both were inventors who forged their suits and crime-fighting equipment, including their own cartoonish airships. 

In 1983, DC bought the rights to the Charlton characters. Kord, along with the other newly-acquired properties, was incorporated into the Earth One timeline. Kord would meet his demise at the hands of Maxwell Lord in 2005’s Countdown to Infinite Crisis in what is a superbly executed story.

As far as collecting, Captain Atom #83 is a much more budget-friendly option compared to its Golden Age counterpart. An 8.0 sold for $397 earlier this month, and a 5.0 brought $130 in December. 

Infinite-Crisis-5-Jim-Lee-194x300 81 Years in the Making: The Blue BeetleJaime Reyes

HBO Max announced that this will be the version of the character featured in the Blue Beetle series in development for the upcoming streaming service. That will propel sales for Jaime’s key issues in short fashion. For more on that, check out “Maxing Out the Blue Beetle.”

How did Jaime become the Beetle? After Kord’s death in Countdown, the scarab was awakened by Shazam’s magic lightning and bonded with teenager Jaime Reyes. He debuted in Infinite Crisis #3, but he didn’t assume the title of Blue Beetle until Infinite Crisis #5. In the 15 years since Reyes took over the role, Blue Beetle has transitioned into more space adventures than a street-level crime fighter. Considering the character’s storied past, that is quite the transition for the Beetle. 

As I wrote before, both Crisis #3 and #5 are going to heat up quickly, but they are low-risk investments at the moment. A 9.8 standard cover Crisis #3 has a 90-day average of just $61, while a standard Crisis #5 in the same grade has a 90-day fair market value of $67. 

 

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