Blue Beetle, like many DC characters, is a legacy identity passed on from one hero to another. Now that the Jaime Reyes version of the character has finally hit the big screen, it’s the perfect time to revisit the character’s history, starting with the very first Blue Beetle, Dan Garret. Strap in because we’re going all the way back to 1939.
The first incarnation of the Blue Beetle was not a DC creation but rather a character created by Fox Feature Syndicate. Dan Garret got his start in Mystery Men Comics #1—not to be confused with the ’90s superhero comedy Mystery Men, which was based on a comic called Flaming Carrot—and was quickly given his own self-titled series, The Blue Beetle.
Fun fact: The Blue Beetle followed Superman as the second comic book to use a hero’s name as the title. Batman, at the time, was still operating solely within the pages of Detective Comics but would get his own self-titled series soon after.
The first comic book superhero to carry the name Blue Beetle was Dan Garret, who premiered in 1939’s Mystery Men Comics #1.
Despite being largely forgotten today—the most famous Blue Beetle behind Jaime Reyes is easily Ted Kord—Dan Garret was a bit of a big deal back in the day. In addition to The Blue Beetle comic book, Garret was also featured in his own radio show and a newspaper comic strip. Fox Feature Syndicate even sponsored a “Blue Beetle Day” at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Dan Garret was a rookie police officer who donned a bulletproof pair of tights after hours to go out looking for crime to fight. To get an advantage over the criminals he pursued, Garret routinely took a mysterious drug called “Vitamin 2X” that gave him temporary super strength and stamina.
This incarnation of the Blue Beetle also made use of his scarab symbol to “bedevil” criminals by projecting the image on a wall with a flashlight. Call us crazy, but the shadow of a cartoon beetle doesn’t seem particularly bedeviling, but hey, if it worked, good for him.
Like many superheroes that weren’t Batman or Superman, the Blue Beetle fell into relative obscurity in the ’50s as sci-fi and horror comics became the hot new thing corrupting the youthful minds of America.
Dan Garret’s ’60s Rebirth
In 1964, the publisher Charlton Comics revitalized the character with a new comic—this time titled Blue Beetle without the “the”—that still starred Dan Garrett as the bug-themed superhero but now spelled Garrett with two Ts for some reason.
The character was changed to be an archaeologist who obtained a gaggle of superpowers—strength, x-ray vision, flight, and the ability to generate energy blasts—from a mystical scarab that he found in Egypt.
Changing Blue Beetle’s powerset so that it more closely mirrored Superman was a weird choice, considering the original Dan Garret was one of the few Golden Age heroes who wasn’t just a clone of Superman. Even weirder when you consider that the Charlton version of the character debuted during the heyday of Marvel when comics were finally sporting characters with more varied powers.
The Coming Of Ted Kord
Apparently, fans weren’t impressed with this new Superman clone, because Charlton abandoned Dan Garrett just two years later in favor of a new Blue Beetle, the unpowered genius athlete with a gadget fetish, and his own R&D company, Bruce Wa—sorry—Ted Kord.
Fans of Watchmen might be interested to know that Ted Kord was the inspiration for the second Nite Owl. In fact, Ted Kord was supposed to be in Watchmen.
All of the Charlton Comics characters were meant to be in Watchmen thanks to DC’s acquisition of Charlton’s assets in the early ’80s. Moore ultimately realized that DC wouldn’t let him kill off characters they just bought and instead created his own supergroup based on the characters instead.
Despite focusing mainly on the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle, DC has, on occasion, featured Dan Garrett, albeit mostly through flashbacks. Dan, for whatever reason, couldn’t pass on the magical scarab that gave him his powers to Ted Kord, resulting in Kord’s Batmanesque vigilante persona. The scarab does, however, become the basis of Jaime Reyes’s abilities but not until after it’s retconned to be alien in origin and not magic.
Thanks to the current Blue Beetle film, this generation and the next will probably think of the name Jaime Reyes whenever they hear the words “Blue Beetle,” and rightfully so. Dan Garret still deserves some respect for being the first person to ever use the title. Dan Garret walked so that Jaime Reyes could scuttle, or whatever Beetles do to get around.