When you hear the word “scarab,” there’s a good chance you think of scary little buggers. Perhaps you grew up watching the Brendan Fraser masterpiece The Mummy and can only think about the grotesque ways they can eat people. Thankfully, when it comes to Blue Beetle, this scarab is not one of those terrifying creatures. We all know that the Scarab is vital to Jamie Reyes’ live-action origin story in Blue Beetle; however, those who aren’t comic fans may not fully understand the details about it.
What makes Blue Beetle’s particular Scarab different? How is the Scarab connected to this hero? Put on your fandom cap and gown; it’s time for an exploration into the realm of comic book lore!
Where Did Blue Beetle’s Scarab Come From and Who Created it in the DC Comics?
Unlike the aforementioned Mummy flick, the Scarab is actually a piece of alien technology. It is used by an alien race known as The Reach, and their name certainly matches with their tradition of conquering planets for the sake of profit. First appearing in 2007’s Blue Beetle #7, The Reach are kind of like the Borg in Star Trek, having conquered around 10,000 planets.
They’re a hive-mind with technology far surpassing anything of Earth or most other planets, and all of their ships have warp-drive capabilities. The Reach have Negotiators, who make the decisions on whichever planets they have conquer, and commanders who lead sieges. In the comics, the legendary Green Lantern Corps—a group of green, will-powered lads dedicated to protecting the universe—were able to halt The Reach from, excuse the pun, expanding their reach. This came after a massive war nearly 40,000 years ago, and eventually resulted in a peace treaty that barred The Reach from invading planets.
Instead of direct takeovers, The Reach created Scarabs as weapons to send to other planets.
Blue Beetle’s Scarab Khaji Da and Other Scarabs’ Powers, Explained
The Reach’s Scarabs are genetically modified living weapons used as parasitic technology. The scarabs would find a host, and control them as part of a hive-mind. Basically, The Reach developed their own way of ensuring a sort of Manchurian Candidate situation to sneakily aid their conquering efforts. After a civilization achieved a certain level or technological advancement, the Scarab’s programming takeover the host fully and then, in effect, the planet.
Blue Beetle’s particular Scarab is Khaji Da. (We will touch on their history in a moment.) It gives its user an array of special abilities to handle nearly any situation. The user essentially has a weapon wheel, like in a video game, and can use different tools/enhancements to become superpowered. Khaji Da allows Blue Beetle to increase his strength and speed to superhuman levels. This Scarab can create many materials like swords, wings for flying/shielding, energy blasts, and pyrotechnic weapons. It can also generally shifting into objects that the user projects.
A Scarab acts as an assistive artificial intelligence for the user to handle nearly any scenario, including interpreting different languages, tracking systems, and uh … other things. It can even resist some level of telepathic manipulation, which was shown at the early stages in 2007’s Blue Beetle #2. It is, in a word, quite powerful.
The History of the Khaji Da Scarab and Its Hosts in the Comics
Jamie Reyes will become Blue Beetle in the Blue Beetle film. However, he was not the Scarab’s first host in the comics. Thousands of years ago, Pharaoh Kha-Ef-Re—who first appeared in Secret Origins #2 (1986)—used the Scarab’s power to rule his kingdom and protect it from enemy nations. After the Pharaoh’s death, the Scarab remained buried with him for many years. Eventually, archaeologist Dan Garrett (who debuted at the same time as the Pharaoh) discovered it and became the second host. He is known as the first Blue Beetle.
Interestingly, some magical energies affected the Scarab during that long burial, preventing the new user (Dan) from The Reach’s corruption. Dan went on to use its power to fight villains and monsters, as one does. Despite his good intentions, Dan Garrett died just a year later in Blue Beetle #18.
As a result, the Khaji Da Scarab was passed to his student, Ted Kord, who actually got his first introduction in Captain Atom #33 (1966). He made a resurgence in the DC canon around the same time as Dan Garrett became the Scarab’s host. Ted Kord took over the mantle in his own solo Blue Beetle series from 1986 to 1988.
Ted wanted to continue Dan’s legacy, but found that he lacked the same chemistry with the Scarab. He had to find his own ways to be a superhero. Instead of the Scarab giving him powers, Ted replicated some of its gadgets thanks to his scientific background. Ted eventually hung up his cape (rather, blue costume) but it seemed that the Scarab couldn’t be passed on. Instead it would have to choose its next host.
The Scarab went missing for a time due to the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, until eventually landing with its next and most recent host, Jaime Reyes. (He made his first official debut in Infinite Crisis #3.) Unlike the Pharaoh or Dan, Jaime was a high school kid who discovered the scarab in an abandoned lot. It permanently grafted itself onto his spine, officially making his debut as the Blue Beetle in Infinite Crisis #5.
Gross? Certainly. Undeniably cool in a comic-booky way? Absolutely.
The Scarab on TV, Blue Beetle, and the DCU Future
Blue Beetle prominently appeared in the animated series Young Justice and the Injustice video game series (with the latter having a few semi-viral lines). Much of his origin remained in tact except Jaime discovers the Scarab after an explosion at Kord Industries. This event is what causes Ted’s death. In both incarnations, he appears alongside the Teen Titans.
On top of that, Jaime’s big-screen debut will mark the first time there has been a Hispanic superhero lead for a live-action (winks at Spider-Verse) film. It was originally set to be a straight-to-streamer project for Max. So there’s reason to believe the character will play a significant role going forward.
James Gunn, the newly-anointed architect of the DCU, has stated that Blue Beetle will be part of this new plan as the first character. Interestingly, however, Gunn said that the upcoming Superman movie— Superman: Legacy, which he is set to direct himself—is the first film, which is an interesting distinction.
We’ll have to see if Blue Beetle makes any sort of nods/set-up for the future of the DCU, if any at all. Could we be in store for a prequel to the new universe? Is there some sort of timeline-reset planned for the film we aren’t aware of? Will there be a good ole-fashioned post-credits teaser? Most importantly, how will Jamie Reyes and the Scarab cross paths in the Blue Beetle movie?
We’ll just have to wait and see when the film blasts its way into theaters on August 18th.