|A NEW FEATURE on this page: The page designer has added sound samples from the Blue Beetle radio serial, to accompany the image samples from the Blue Beetle comic book. Click on the BLUE MICROPHONE ICONS scattered throughout the text to hear about the Blue Beetle Legend as presented to the radio audience of 1940.|
|After his father was killed by a gangster's
bullet, young Dan Garret joined the New York Police Department, but soon
tired of the slow pace and red tape of police work.
With the help of his friend and mentor, pharmacist and drug-store proprietor Dr. Franz, Dan acquired a costume of bullet-proof chain-mail-like cellulose material, and began a second life, fighting crime as The Blue Beetle.
His calling card was a small beetle-shaped marker that he left in conspicuous places to alert criminals to his presence, using their fear of his crime fighting reputation as a weapon against them. For this purpose he also used a "Beetle Signal" flashlight. The Blue Beetle's reputation was not his only weapon, however. He carried a revolver in a blue holster on his belt, and was sometimes shown wearing a multi-pouched belt after the style set by Batman. Also in the Batman vein, the Blue Beetle had a "BeetleMobile" car and a "BeetleBird" airplane. In at least one radio adventure he carries something called a "magic ray machine". The ray machine was a sort of super-scientific cutting device.
Dr. Franz administered a strange treatment. Dan was given the secret experimental vitamin 2X, a super drug that endows its recipient with super strength and healing abilities, increased speed, heightened senses, and enhanced intellectual capacity. Under the drug's influence, Dan Garrett rapidly recovered from his injuries, and returned to the street the next day.
The effects of vitamin 2X were temporary, however, and when serious crime called for super powers, Officer Dan Garrett had to rush to Dr. Franz's drug store, where, in a hidden room, he donned his costume and took a vitamin 2X pill. A super-powered Blue Beetle would then emerge to strike out against evil.
Oddly, and for no reason ever stated, Dan Garrett was never shown carrying a supply of vitamin 2X with him. Maybe it never occurred to him to do so, or maybe the strange drug rapidly broke down and had to be prepared fresh every time. Or maybe Dr. Franz was keeping his watchdog on a short leash.
There was little in the way of editorial consistency at Fox Comics. A survey of images on this site shows that there was nothing resembling a house style for Blue Beetle artists; and if you have the opportunity to read many Blue Beetle comics, you'll find that there were even inconsistencies in the powers that Blue Beetle possessed.
The Blue Beetle with the familiar bulletproof costume and vitamin-2X powers could probably be considered the definitive character; it was the basis for the 1940 radio series, making this version of that character the one that the largest audience was exposed to. This is the version of the character described on the DC Comics "Cosmic Cards" trading card, which may lend it some credence as editorial canon from the viewpoint of modern comic book fandom.
In later stories, however, these powers were forgotten or ignored by the writers. When Dan Garrett left the police force to do intelligence work in Europe, he abandoned vitamin 2X entirely, with no explanation to the reader. Some stories even abandoned the premise of the bulletproof suit, leaving the Blue Beetle an ordinary man in costume.
There was a brief period in the late nineteen-forties when Blue Beetle would often gain extraordinary powers at the whim of the writers. One story might show the character flying, then the next may show him growing to giant proportions, or shrinking to miniature size.
Fox Comics shift to lurid "true crime" style comics shifted Blue Beetle back to a more realistic premise; he became a non-powered crime fighter once more. His "realistic" period heralded his strangest transformation, from protagonist to storyteller; as evidenced by later covers advertising "A True Crime Story Narrated by Blue Beetle!"
|The Supporting Cast|
Dr. Franz, Pharmacist to the Super Heroes. Unheralded "creator" of the Blue Beetle, the good doctor formulated Vitamin 2X, from which Dan Garrett obtains his powers. According to the radio series, he also provided the Blue Beetle with his distinctive bullet-proof costume. Some comics describe Franz as Garrett's "scientist friend", and the doctor often acts a forensic scientist, helping Dan in his investigations.
|Dan Garrett's girlfriend, Joan Mason, the beautiful newspaper reporter for The Bulletin. A Lois-Lane-Inspired character, Joan shares her inspiration's talent for finding trouble. The Blue Beetle frequently comes to her rescue. In some of the later "true crime" style Blue Beetle comic books, Joan had solo adventures as a crime reporter. Some later stories had her working at a familiar major metropolitan newspaper, The Daily Planet. Joan's father is Admiral Mason, commander of the U. S. S. Audubon.|
On the radio series Dan's girlfriend is named Mary Donnelly, and is the police commissioner's daughter. Mary Donnelly also appeared in some early comics. According to the radio series, Mary is also a licensed pilot.
|Commissioner Donnelly, Dan Garrett's Boss. Head of a large metropolitan police department. He acts as as mentor to rookie officer Dan Garrett, who's father also served in the department.|
Officer Mike Mannigan, Ever Vigilant Public Protector. Mannigan was once partnered with Dan Garret's father. After the senior Garrett was killed by a gangster's bullet, Mannigan helped Dan Garret get a job on the force. Dan Garret took his father's place as Mannigan's partner. Officer Mannigan constantly on the trail of the Blue Beetle, oblivious that his quarry stands by his side.
The Occasional Loyal Boy Sidekick. Sparkington J. Northrup became Blue Beetle's boy sidekick in August of 1942. He wore a simplified version of Beetle's costume and called himself Sparky. In November 1942 Sparky vanished from the strip.
Sparky did return. While thousands of children were being evacuated from England to the United States to protect them from threats from Europe, Sparky would make the opposite journey. He faced the front lines of the war alongside Dan Garrett who was then working as a special intelligence operative.
During this period, Sparky abandoned his costumed identity, and became one of the most unique boy sidekick in comics, working in civilian clothes alongside his costumed mentor.
|The Legacy Lives!|