This week on Most Heroic, we’ll be doing something a bit different. There are a lot of heroes out there that still remain unexposed to the mainstream audiences, and there’s plenty that deserve to have their day in the sun. Every once in a while, I’ll choose one of these heroes and talk about why they are quite so good, and why they deserve to be known by the masses.
Since last week’s post about Young Justice was so popular, I decided to choose one of my favorite heroes from that team for the very first one on this list. He was only introduced in the second season but he ended up being a vital part of the story, especially since it was his villains that were eventually exposed as the major threat. Of course, I’m talking about Blue Beetle.
Jaime (by the way, it’s pronounced HI-may, not Jay-me) isn’t the first Blue Beetle in the DC Universe. In fact, he’s not even the second. He’s actually the third. This may confuse some of those out there who are unfamiliar with legacy heroes. Legacy heroes are people who actually inherit or receive the mantle and the heroic duties of another pre-existing hero. This is a particularly common device in DC. There have actually been multiple people to hold the mantles of heroes like Robin, Flash, or Green Lantern.
The two other Blue Beetles were vastly different from Jaime. The first incarnation of the character, Dan Garrett, was an archaeologist who used a “mystical” blue scarab to give himself superpowers by shouting the words, “Khaji Da.” The second, Ted Kord, didn’t have any powers, but he used his genius-level intellect to invent gadgets that helped him fight crime. He was a B-lister, but he was still a very well-liked and respected hero. Kord was killed in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis back in 2006, but the scarab he inherited from Dan Garrett (which Kord was unable to use) eventually came into the hands of Jaime Reyes, who became the new Blue Beetle.
Jaime Reyes is a sixteen-year-old teenager who lives in El Paso, Texas with his parents and younger sister. He found the blue scarab and decided to keep it. In the middle of the night, the scarab finally activates and it crawls over to his body and fuses itself to his spine.
Jaime eventually discovered that the scarab wasn’t even mystical as Garrett once thought, but actually damaged alien technology. The scarab is a kind of “seed” which implants itself into a suitable host, and grants the host a very high-tech suit of armor that can fly, and has a multitude of powerful weapons built into the suit, everything from swords and shields to sonic cannons, lighting blasts to some more serious WMD weaponry. Jaime can call upon any of them at will, but he prefers to use non-lethal weaponry.
The scarab also contains an artificial intelligence which is supposed to take control of the host body and force it to work for the scarab’s creators, an alien race called The Reach. The host would then become a covert agent for The Reach, who would put a very subtle plan in motion to conquer the planet. However, Jaime’s scarab is malfunctioning, so he maintains control of the scarab. The scarab isn’t silent, though, and Jaime constantly has to talk it down and make it do what he wants. This provides a few really good comedy bits where Jaime seems to be talking to himself, much to the confusion of anyone who’s around him.
WHY HE DESERVES TO BE KNOWN
Almost everything about the Jaime Reyes character is unique for superhero comics. First and foremost, I think he’s actually the first major hispanic super-hero. Let that sink in for a second. I’ve always thought it’s unfair that a vast majority of superheroes are portrayed as being caucasian. Heck, not counting Blade and Catwoman, there hasn’t been one minority superhero movie. I’m not going to get on a soapbox, but wouldn’t it be better to represent everybody?
His setting also makes him unique. Ninety-nine percent of the time, superheroes are placed in New York City, Los Angeles, or some fictional version of the larger metropolitan areas. There are very, very few heroes who actually base themselves in any of the fly-over states. As a lifelong resident of Texas, I appreciated that the new version of the Blue Bettle was from my home state, and he’s a great representative.
But for me, the best reason that people should know about Blue Beetle is just that he’s a damn good character. One of the first things that Jaime does when he gets his powers is reveal them to his friends and family. How many superheroes actually do that? It’s actually the more logical thing to do, since it actually offers them more protection and prevents any unnecessary secret-keeping drama that is such a boring recurring element of superheroes.
Jaime is a devoted son and caring friend, and genuinely cares about helping people. There’s a great moment in the first series where it’s revealed that Jaime wants to be a dentist more than he wants to be a superhero, because it would allow to take care of his family very easily. He’s a kind of a mix between Peter Parker and Harry Potter, but without the very tragic backstories.
Supporting casts are always important to me, and Jaime has a great one. His villains are unique, with some very different motivations than you’d expect. His family is great and supportive, and there’s plenty of very touching moments with them in the original series. Paco and Brenda serve as his Ron and Hermione respectively, and they’re both well-developed people that you love just as much as Jaime does. Paco particularly reminds me of one of my best friends.
The original series of Blue Beetle was written by Keith Giffen & John Rodgers and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, and it’s one of my favorite comic series. Both the writing and art was really, really good, and I’d recommend it to anybody. The comic book universes of DC and Marvel have been pretty dark and lately, so reading this book was a breath of fresh air. Especially the part with Jaime’s family and friends fighting The Reach.
Unfortunately, Blue Beetle was cancelled after thirty-six issues, but DC editors liked the book, and they allowed the creators to wrap up their story-lines, which allowed them to write one hell of a finale. When the DC universe was rebooted in 2011, a new Blue Beetle book started Jaime’s story over again, but it was cancelled again this past January.
Despite Blue Beetle’s mixed success in the books, DC management seems very invested in the character. Along with his part in Young Justice, Jaime appeared in several episodes of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, and he appeared in one of Smallville’s final episodes alongside Booster Gold. There was even a live action screen-test to see if he could be adapted into a TV series. I’m sure that it could work in the right hands. I’d like nothing more than to see it succeed.
Even though his latest book was cancelled, I’m happy that Jaime was created and I’m sure we’ll see him again in some form or another. If I ever get to work for DC comics, he’s one of the characters I’d most want to write for.
I’m Jesse Blume, and Blue Beetle is MOST HEROIC.by