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Blue Beetle 2
"The End Is a Beginning!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND August 1967; Charlton Comics; Dick Giordano, editor. The cover blurb is, "REVEALED AT LAST! The Secrets and Mystery That Surrounds the ORIGIN of the New BLUE BEETLE, the fate of the old BLUE BEETLE". After reviewing CAPTAIN ATOM #84 in which it was first indicated in the BB backup tale that a mystery lay behind the new Beetle's origin, I promised to review the issue in which all is revealed.... nobody indicated they were waiting with bated breath, but I guess I should keep my promise. The cover scene itself is divided into two panels, one showing the new Beetle lifting a big orange android over his head, the other devoted to the blurb and vignettes of the old and new Beetle and a villainous-looking face (which turns out to belong to Ted Kord's Uncle Jarvis.

The lead BB tale is "The End Is A Beginning!", credited to Steve Ditko, plot and art, and "D.C. Glanzman," script, with lettering by that Charlton stalwart, "A. Machine". (The true identity of "D.C. Glanzman" is a minor mystery...apparently there really was a Charlton staffer by that name, a relative of artist Sam Glanzman, but though he allowed his name to be used on these Blue Beetle and Question stories he didn't script them. The consensus seems to be that Ditko did his own scripting with perhaps some polishing by other unknown hands.)

The Beetle story in CA #84 established that there was a mystery involved with the disappearance of Dan Garret, aka the previous Charlton version of the Blue Beetle, on "Pago Island" and that Police Inspector Fisher and new Beetle Ted Kord's assistant Tracey both suspected Kord of possible foul play. The mystery was carried through two more BB backups in CAPT. ATOM and the first issue of the new BB title before coming to a climax here. As the tale begins, Fisher is still badgering Kord for an admission, thoguh he still has no hard evidence. Once Fisher leaves Kord's lab, a harassed Ted decides to work off his frusrations by suiting up as the Blue Beetle and looking for action. Finding no crime brewing, BB takes a "joy ride" past Pago Island (which apparently is located not too far from BB's base city) and mutters, "If only that barren rock would sink into the sea before the secrets (on) it would leak out!" Then he is startled to see a light on the uninhabited island. Landing to investigate, BB is startled to find the visitor is Tracey. "Blue Beetle! Please, I'm desperate! You must help me!" What does she need? A tearful Tracey confesses, "Ted Kord, the man I love, is under suspicion of killing a man here! I don't believe it and I'm trying to find evidence that will help prove he is innocent! Even before this, he was under some great strain...he wouldn't tell me what!" "And I thought my silence would spare her unnecessary worry!" Touched by her loyalty and concern, BB unmasks as Ted Kord and embraces Tracey. "I couldn't keep it a secret from you any longer, not after what you just said and tried to do for me! I'll tell you everything, Tracey, if you really want to know!"

It started when young scientist Ted Kord volunteered to assist his Uncle Jarvis with a mysterious project. Ted knew that his own father (apparently missing on a scientific expedition of some sort) "never quite trusted" his own brother, Jarvis, but nonetheless saw nothing wrong with aiding him...until an explosion rips Jarvis's lab. The lab is destroyed and a burned body is found which is assumed to be Jarvis. Then Ted finds fragmentary notes, a map referring to Pago Island and a roll of film. Viewing the film, Ted is horrified to discover the real nature of the project he helped Jarvis complete. "Good Lord! What is Uncle Jarvis is still alive...I gave him the solution to all his operational problems! There'd be no stopping him if...WHAT HAVE I DONE?" Not knowing where else to turn, Ted asks the advice of an old college friend named Dan Garret. He shows Dan the film, which depicts a robot built by Jarvis. The robot in the film is strong and indestructible but slow and clumsy. But Ted himself gave Jarvis the clues needed to make a truly unstoppable robot. And he suspects that, far from dead, Jarvis is now on Pago Island actually building his horde of new model robots.

Dan Garret offers to travel to Pago Island alone-- intending to assume his super-powered identity of Blue Beetle when he gets there-- but Ted insists on going along. When they arrive, they are captured by Jarvis' advanced robots, already in operation. Jarvis boasts of how he completed his scheme with the help of "some associates that I have since disposed of" and of Ted himself. Now he is prepared to use the power of the "super androids" to take over the world. "It will be like dying by your own hand!" Jarvis cackles as he orders the androids to crush Ted and Dan Garret. Dan manages to use his magic scarab to become Blue Beetle, and takes on the android horde, as a startled Ted urges him, "Don't worry about me! Get my uncle at all costs!" Determined to destroy the Bettle even at the cost of his current crop of robots, Jarvis directs an electrical feedback through the robots' bodies. But the effect is more than Jarvis planned on; an explosion destroys the island lab, killing Jarvis-- this time for real-- and mortally injuring Dan Garret. Garret has a last request for Ted Kord; "Ted, you must keep my secret...promise me you'll carry on... for the Blue Beetle! You can do it...PROMISE ME!" Ted feels bound to agree; "I'm as much to blame as my uncle for this! I promise!" Then a final explosion collapses the lab; Ted escapes, but is blocked from Garret's body (and, presumably, his magic scarab). Back in the present, Tracey urges Ted not to keep blaming himself for Garret's death. "I don't, anymore! I know now, like Dan did, the risks of being the Blue Beetle!" Ted continues his story of how he was rescued from Pago Island only to face police suspicion over the disappearance of Dan Garret and the mysterious explosions on the island; he fears to tell the whole story lest Dan Garret's secret and that of the super-androids both be revealed. Moreover, he is baffled at first how to go about keeping his promise to take over as the Blue Beetle...until he realizes the use that can be made of some experiments his father left behind. Constructing the Bug-ship out of his father's experimental parts, creating a costume, and going on "a crash physical training course," some months later Ted Kord is prepared to launch his own career as the Blue Beetle. (Page 12 is a full page panel of the new Beetle, signed by Steve Ditko, with cutaway shots of the Beetle's equipment in the background.)

As Ted finishes his story, he and Tracey are shocked to discover two of the orange androids of Jarvis' creation emerging, "alive" and functioning, from a crevice in the island. "They're programmed to destroy! I had the feeling I hadn't seen the last of Uncle's androids!" Ted manages to get Tracey to relative safety inside the Bug, but is left to battle the androids singlehanded. In a desperate fight, he manages to lure one of the androids to fall into a bottomless crevice, but is left battling the other, which at length he picks up over his head and hurls into the abyss...but he loses his balance and falls himself,barely managing to grab a handhold and save himself. much to Tracey's relief. Back in the Bug, BB uses its grappling legs to fill in "all the crevices and holes that the androids came out of!" And what of the future, now that Tracey knows the Blue Beetle's secrets? "To me you were a hero long before you put on that costume, Ted! I can't fight beside the Blue Beetle, but whatever happens from now on, I want to face it with you!" But "in the caves under Pago Island, all is not still! From time to time a light flashes...a switch clicks...the super android's hand twitches...and the process becomes ever more regular!" (Boy, Jarvis must really have run his secret lab on Energizer batteries.) No one can say when, but sometime in the future the menace of Pago Island shall rise again!" However, the Charlton "action-hero" line folded before they got their chance. (I think the androids of Pago Island did return at some point during DC's revival run of BLUE BEETLE in the 1980's, but, like the rest of that run, the story was pretty forgettable. Blue Beetle, like most of the Charlton "action-heroes", was rather ill-served after DC got hold of him... he had a run in his own title that was mediocre at best, and then got turned into part of a clown act in the Giffen Justice League. He's most recently been seen suffering a heart attack and two-timing Tracey with Black Canary in BIRDS OF PREY-- the comic, not the TV show. He also got transmogrified into Night Owl in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' WATCHMEN.)

Also in the issue, a seven-page backup starring The Question, also by Ditko and "Glanzman" A cloaked, winged figure takes flight...."The cape works perfectly! After a lifetime of experimenting, I can fly...I CAN FLY!" The creator, "The Great Dundo," plans not to swoop down on crime but to "startle the circus world" with his helium-filled cape that enables him to glide on wind currents. His assistant, Max, wants to try out the new cape, but "Like all pupils, Max, you want what you are not ready for! First you must master your lessons on that simple glide cape!" But Max is not content to wait...nor is he content to use the cape merely as a circus performer. "That cape is a golden opportunity for me! I must have it...I WILL HAVE IT!" That night, Max murders Dundo and takes the flying cape to launch a series of flying small-town robberies, during the course of which the press labels him The Banshee. No longer content with small pickings, Banshee decides to take on the big city, and flies into "an exclusive jewel exhibit" where crusading journalist Vic Sage happens to be in attendance. A hero in both his guises, Sage doesn't stop to put on his faceless mask before smashing into the Banshee; "I'm going to make the Banshee's first Crown City appearance his last!" After Vic has softened up the Banshee, a couple of other bystanders grab and hold him; "You can lay off the rough stuff now, Sage..we got him!" "Yeah, no need for violence...he knows he's through!" But the Banshee is really just waiting for his chance, and he finds it, releasing gas into his cape and escaping through a window. Redhead temptress Celia, who has her sights on Vic Sage, tries to congratulate him, but he rebuffs her contemptuously; "I can't help you, Celia! I'm not a three ring circus for your moods!" As Celia schemes how to steal Vic from his coworker Nora and the Banshee schemes how to make a criminal comeback, Vic tracks down the Banshee's origin and identity and makes plans to catch him; "You want him very bad, don't you, Vic?" "Yes, for murdering a man better than he was, for destroying a rare inventive mind, for stealing and corrupting a work of art! I want him very badly!" Over the next few days, the Banshee has mixed success with his robbery attempts, but Vic in his guise as the Question has no success in catching up to him. Then on a night when lowering clouds promise a storm, Vic standing on a rooftop spots the Banshee in flight; "This job is too big for me to be scared off! I can handle the bad weather!" Also not deterred by the weather, Vic dons his blank-faced mask and releases the gas that changes the color of his street clothes and cements the mask to his face. As the Banshee swoops into a skyscraper window to rob a group fo gem collectors (you'd think with the Banshee on the loose they'd start conducting their transactions in locked basements) the Question catches up to him and attacks, knocking both of them back out the window. The Banshee loses control of his cape, but the weight of the Question hanging on to him stabilizes them. As the two land on a rooftop, Banshee punches the Question and starts to make his escape...but then the storm winds seize his cape and blow him helplessly out to sea. "He got just what he deserved!", the Question reflects, gazing after him through his eyeless mask. (Like most Ditko-created heroes, the original Question doesn't go in for sentimental concern for bad guys.) Back at the TV station, the scheming Celia tries to warn Nora away from Vic Sage; "An ordinary girl like you doesn't have a chance with Vic Sage!" "Then...you don't have a thing to worry about! Except...Vic makes up his own mind!" And it's Nora that Vic leaves the office with; "We have the rest of the evening to ourselves!" "The perfect end to a working day!"

The "Beetle's Nest" lettercol conducted by Dick Giordano fielded comments about BB #1 (because of Charlton's in-house printing operation Giordano was able to comments about one issue in the next bi-monthly issue, rather than three or four issues later as with the Marvel and DC lettercols). Joe Sulak of Rockford, Illinois declared that "I was pleased with it [despite being] a little bit prejudiced against comics other than the Marvel group" and instead of sneering at the competition as other editors might have done Giordano thanked him; "We are always especially pleased to receive words of praise from confirmed Marvelites". There were also letters of praise from Joe Jenkins of Toledo, Ohio-- was he a big-name comics fan at some point, the name sounds familiar?-- and Carl Gafford of New Milford, Conn., whom I know was a fan and then worked for DC for years before passing away. Finally there was a house ad for "Charlton Action-Heroes On Sale Now"-- Thunderbolt, Judomaster, Peacemaker, Captain Atom "and introducing the all-new Blue Beetle". Alas, they weren't to be on sale much longer... this was the August '67 issue of BB, and all of the action-hero titles ceased publication with the issues dated Nov. and Dec. '67. Except that Charlton published the all-Question MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE #1 dated Oct. 1968 and BLUE BEETLE #5 Nov. '68. Both of those books were heavy on the neo-Ayn Rand Ditko philosophy that is just hinted at in this issue's Question story... I wonder if Charlton got them into print just in order to keep one of their most prolific contributors happy?

And by the way, here's a Charlton trivia question... which of the "action-hero" titles did Dick Giordano state in a lettercol was the best seller of the line (albeit apparently not enough of a best seller to keep it from being cancelled with the rest)?