Three people have called themselves the Blue Beetle. The only one I ever followed was the middle guy, Ted Kord. He was in the Justice League when I first started reading comics, but he faded into the background of DC’s ensemble shortly thereafter, occasionally popping up for guest appearances (he showed up in Birds of Prey a bit).
He was just an athletic rich scientist with gadgets, a poor man’s Batman with a personality more like Spider-Man’s. He knew full well he was second-string, if not altogether redundant around other superheroes.
His final story was his best. DC kicked off multiple crossovers with Countdown to Infinite Crisis, a 100-page comic that sold for a dollar (I approve of such marketing techniques).
This prologue functions as a strong story in its own right. Someone’s been messing with Ted’s company, and his investigation leads him to uncover something far bigger. As he pieces this puzzle together, he gradually exhausts the patience of the superhero community, who want to humor the nice guy but have larger problems to deal with. But this second-stringer learns something they’ve all overlooked…and, being a second-stringer, he never gets the chance to tell them.
The Blue Beetle doesn’t die saving the world or any individual person within. But he gets to die with integrity. Given the sincere offer to join a plot against metahumans, and with a gun to his head, Ted declines. No threat to his life will compel him to turn on his friends, no matter how little they think of him sometimes. And he dies as he lived—underestimated.
If you’re going to kill a character to raise the stakes, you have to remember that the character is a character, not cannon fodder. The Blue Beetle’s own agency and motivation lead him to his death, so we care when it happens. It’s not just “The Death of the Blue Beetle!”—it’s a great underdog story.
Writers: Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Judd Winick
Artists: Rags Morales, Jesus Saiz, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Ed Benes
Cover: Jim Lee and Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology
Appropriate For: ages 12 and up