Although teenage Jaime Reyes is the current Blue Beetle in both comics and film, the new Blue Beetle explains he was not the first to wear the mantle. In one scene, two Blue Beetle costumes are seen on mannequins, inside a secret bunker under the mansion of Ted Kord. And they are very comics-accurate. This suggests that in the film, just as in the comics, there were two previous Beetles before Jaimie, and he’s a legacy hero. But who are the first two costumed adventurers who used that name? They have a long comics history, with the first Blue Beetle going all the way back to the 1930s.
Blue Beetle I (Dan Garret)
The original Blue Beetle debuted in 1939 from Fox Comics, a mere few months after Batman debuted at DC. And just a year after Superman. The original Beetle was Dan Garret, and there was shockingly little that was unique about Dan. He was a vigilante with no powers, who fought criminals at night. Garret was avenging the murder of his father, a police officer murdered by criminals. Yes, it’s all very Batman.
He eventually got a bulletproof suit, and took special vitamins that give him super strength ( much like DC’s Hourman) to give him something more interesting. His girlfriend was a feisty reporter in the Lois Lane tradition. He even worked with a kid sidekick named Sparky, a clear Robin knock-off. At least he had a “Beetle Light,” which he flashed at his enemies using his emblem, something which later inspired Spider-Man. So for once, Beetle inspired another superhero, instead of the other way around.
Dan Garret might not have been original or very interesting, but he was popular. At least for a short time. His comic series ran for 11 years and had 60 issues total, and he had a brief comic strip and a serialized radio show. Back in the Golden Age, the latter two things meant you were a big break-out comic book star. But post World War II, superhero popularity sank, and they canceled Blue Beetle. Eventually, comics publisher Fox went out of business, and for a long time, that was the end of the Dan Garret Blue Beetle.
Blue Beetle I (Take Two) Dan Garrett
In the mid-sixties, Blue Beetle came back, now published by Charlton Comics. But they almost entirely revamped the character. His last name was now spelled Garrett, and he was an archeologist, not a police officer. He discovered an ancient scarab in an old Egyptian tomb, in an origin similar to DC Comics’ Doctor Fate. The scarab gave him super powers, and he fought crime for a few years. But Dan Garrett with two T’s was not as successful as his previous incarnation. So Charlton found a new hero to take up the mantle not long after.
Blue Beetle II Ted Kord
In 1966, the dream team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who had made The Amazing Spider-Man a smash hit for Marvel Comics, parted ways. Ditko went off to Charlton Comics, where he got to revamp several characters. Among the first was Blue Beetle. Under Ditko’s watch, Beetle got a new secret identity and costume, as well as a new origin story. This Blue Beetle was Ted Kord, a student of Dan Garrett’s. He was a genius inventor and athlete, and when he discovered his uncle was a criminal planning on taking over the world, he teamed up with Dan Garrett to stop him. Garrett died and passed on the scarab to Ted Kord, who became the second Blue Beetle.
Interestingly, the scarab never worked for Ted. But he was still the Blue Beetle, and used his gadgets and training (and eventually, his vast wealth from his company) to fight crime. Ditko designed his new costume, and his favorite mode of transport, the hovering Bug ship. A lot of the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle would inspire Nite Owl II in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. His solo series only ran for five issues in 1967, but in the ‘80s, DC Comics bought publisher Chartlon Comics’ characters, and Ted had a whole new life.
Blue Beetle Becomes a DC Hero
Following the multiversal event Crisis on Infinite Earths, Ted Kord became part of the main DC Universe. He got his own ongoing series, which lasted two years. But his real popularity happened when he became a member of the Justice League International. The writers of that book teamed him up with Booster Gold, another hero with a recently canceled series. The two became best buds, a pair of lovable losers who went on many an adventure together. When Ted died in 2005’s Infinite Crisis, he left the scarab for Jaime Reyes. And the rest is history. Ted did eventually get better from the whole “being dead” thing though. Thanks to a multiversal reboot or two.
How Blue Beetle Handles Ted Kord and Dan Garrett
In the film, we learn that billionaire tech genius Ted Kord had access to the alien Scarab. But the Scarab never bonded with him, giving him powers like it did for Jaime Reyes. But he spent years studying it, and used what he learned from it to create all kinds of gadgets and vehicles, like his flying Bug ship, to become the crimefighter Blue Beetle in Palmera City. We learn that his mentor, Professor Dan Garrett, who presumably discovered the Scarab, was the Blue Beetle before him.
However, the Scarab did bond with Garrett, and only detached from him once he died. This is in keeping with the DC comics lore, as Ted Kord had no powers, but Dan Garrett did. Given that the costume we see in Kord’s secret HQ once belonged to Garrett, it suggests that he never fully bonded with the Scarab either, at least not to the point where it became his costume. Hopefully, future DCU projects will explain what became of the previous two heroes named Blue Beetle.