The original Blue Beetle first appeared in August 1939, a scant three months after the debut of the character he’s since been most accused of ripping off (Batman). Slightly over a decade later, his publisher, Fox Comics, filed for bankruptcy and things got worse from there: the introduction of the Comics Code Authority in 1954 led to Fox Comics selling the rights to competitor Charlton Comics which, facing its own financial ruin, sold the character to DC Comics in 1983.
Beetle and his Charlton compatriots were introduced during 1985’s landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, around the same time Alan Moore was writing the Charlton characters into another series you may have heard of: Watchmen. Similar to the Hollis Mason/Dan Drieberg relationship in Moore’s series, the original Blue Beetle, Dan Garret, had passed the torch to a young protege (Ted Kord), who would go on to build a flying machine modelled after his heroic namesake.
Subsequent to Crisis, Kord headlined his own monthly title for two years (from 1986-1988), simultaneous to becoming part of the legendary “Blue and Gold” after he and time-traveling janitor Booster Gold joined Keith Giffen’s 1987 reboot of the Justice League. Kord appeared in a number of Justice League-related titles for two decades before 2005’s Countdown to Infinite Crisis special, giving him a richly-deserved showcase that would be his finest moment…and his last.
Whoops – spoiler alert if you haven’t been following DC for the past decade: Countdown to Infinite Crisis ends with Kord getting shot in the head by his old boss at the Justice League, Maxwell Lord. And while Kord’s late-’80s series was dumb action-y fun (similar to a number of also-awesome titles being published around the same time: Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, Starman, Blue Devil, and more) and he was one of the more memorable Justice Leaguers in the team’s history, he never really had a chance to shine until Countdown to Infinite Crisis.
Though I don’t have my copy in front of me, the trade of Crisis on Infinite Earths has an outro essay in which one of the creators of the book writes about how fans often mentioned that Supergirl’s death in issue #7 was the best Supergirl story they’d ever read. Similarly, Countdown to Infinite Crisis finally gives Blue Beetle the story of his career.
After millions of dollars go missing from his bank accounts, Kord embarks on an investigation that has him edging closer toward unraveling the mystery of Max Lord’s O.M.A.C. project, winding up in Checkmate’s castle stronghold and discovering somebody’s learned the secrets of the world’s heroes:
Which leads him to crossing paths with the Big Three, who each get a couple of pages to let Kord explain their appeal before exiting:
There’s also a subplot about a broke Booster Gold abandoning his career as a superhero for a career as an actor, which results in a heartwarming old-buddies team up:
And while Kord’s successor, teenager Jaime Reyes, is a decent character (pre-New 52, at least – I’m not really sure how he’s fared post-New 52), he hasn’t come anywhere near approaching the lovability of his predecessor. DC has brought Kord back in a number of ways since Countdown to Infinite Crisis – as a zombie in Blackest Night, as himself in a number of Booster Gold’s adventures through time – his death appears to be one of those comic book demises that’ll actually stick, if not permanently, then at least for a while (see also: Barry Allen).
The various talents involved in Countdown to Infinite Crisis (Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Ed Benes, Phil Jiminez) do a stellar job, and while it’s sad that the tale is Kord’s swansong, it’s good in a way, since it led to moments like this one at the end of the 52 miniseries: