Armagideon Time

In the musty limbo of Nobody’s Favorites, look there is bad…

…and then there is the awfulness that can only be achieved by a lower-tier publisher trying to cash in upon a popular trend on the cheap.

Having scooped up the publishing rights for the long-fallow Blue Beetle franchise, Charlton Comics set about repurposing the two-fisted crimefighter of yesteryear (a knock off of a similarly named pulp character) into a Space Age superhero along the lines of their competitors’ successful offerings.  While Charlton’s mercenary logic may have been theoretically sound,  the execution — as manifested in 1964’s short-lived Blue Beetle series — was lacking on every front. 

Charlton was notorious for the poor production quality in its books (and especially when it came to lettering), but the 1964 Blue Beetle series represents the apotheosis of the publisher’s worst tendencies — terrible art, terrible writing, and a complete lack of anything suggesting even a basic level of editorial competence.

After seeking refuge from a vengeful warlord in a Egyptian tomb, archeologist Dan Garrett uncovered a mystical scarab which — in conjunction with the kicky catchphrase, “KAJI DA!” — could transform the wielder into an azure-clad (and slightly tubby) instrument of justice.

Though Dan possessed a stock set of superpowers — strength, flight, endurance, eye beams — as Blue Beetle, he wasn’t particularly skilled at using them, and spent the lion’s share of his superhero career either flat on his back or in the process of getting knocked there.  His victories (such as they were) over such fearsome adversaries as “The Giant Mummy Who Was Not Dead” (yes, that’s the creature’s actual name), “Mr. Thunderbolt,” and the “Unfrozen Communist Caveman” had less to do with Dan’s prowess than his foes’ matching levels of incompetence.

Dan’s real skill as Blue Beetle was his infallible knack for wooing the various ladies he encountered during his adventures, as the sight of his lumpy pro bowler’s physique was too much for any member of the fairer sex to resist.  (Also known as “the King of Queens Effect.”)  Dan had little time to enjoy the fruits of this rare power, however, for he was driven by a need for justice and there was no shortage of evil fiends waiting to lay Blue Beetle out before accidentally defeating themselves. 

Plus, y’know, tight-fitting chainmail chafes like a bastard.

Though Charlton pulled the plug on the series after a handful of issues, Dan Garrett was brought back a short while later during the publisher’s “Action Heroes” era.  It was revealed that Dan sacrificed his life so that his young protege could assume the mantle of Blue Beetle, thus paving the way for a Steve Ditko-fueled amalgam of reactionary politics and reworked Spider-Man panels.

Garrett has made a modest number of appearances since his timely demise, both in flashback sequences (including one in JLA: Year One where his arms were stolen by a talking French gorilla and a disembodied brain) and an obligatory resurrection/turned evil/second death story in the mid-eighties Blue Beetle series that left readers on the edge of their seats.

(I kid.  No one read the mid-eighties Blue Beetle series.)

Ill-conceived and poorly executed, the 1964 Blue Beetle series combined both ineptness on a galactic scale and the worst aspects of Silver Age superhero comics into one stinky package.  For this reason, the Dan Garrett Blue Beetle has been chosen as this week’s Nobody’s Favorite.

6 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Buggin’ out”

  1. Palette

    I read mid-80s Blue Beetle.

    I kinda liked it, too.

  2. Kris

    Yeah me too.At least until Del Barras started inking it.Man, that guy was worse than bad Milgrom.

  3. bitterandrew

    (Confession: I read it and enjoyed it up to the point where Cullins left, though I can’t argue with my brother’s assessment that it was “the most generic superhero comic ever.”)

  4. WizarDru

    Add me to the list of guys that read and like 80s Blue Beetle…even it really did nothing to stand out AT ALL. ‘Most generic superhero comic ever’ really is a fair label.

  5. Sallyp

    These examples ARE awfully egregious…and yet, I harbor a bit of softness in my heart towards Dan…mainly because through him, we got Ted Kord and eventually Jaime Reyes.

  6. Mister Bile

    When I was younger, I bought whatever comics were available, based on the covers alone.

    That’s how the only issue of Blue Beetle I ever read featured Evil Resurrected Dan Garret telling how he came to be, hitting our hero, and getting killed.

    Heck, it was the only comic that had the Blue Beetle in it that I ended up reading for at least a decade. Leading me to wonder why anyone cared that Maxwell Lords shot him in the head. “Who? That guy who fought his… magic undead brother? Or something?”

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