READ MY LIBRARY ENTRY 5: The Death of Dan Garret! Plus the Ruthlessness of the Question!

Max continues to contend with the massive Action Heroes Archives Vol. 2!  This time out, he reads the story telling the fate of Dan Garret, the original Blue Beetle.  Not only that, there’s a Question story featuring behavior that arguably helped inspire Watchmen’s Rorschach!

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Entry Written 1/12/12

I launched right into Blue Beetle #2 this evening which finally reveals Ted Kord’s connection to Dan Garret, which I don’t really feel like recounting in full here.  It involves Ted having an evil uncle who he helped in building super robots and Dan Garret dying as Blue Beetle stopping them and it all happens on Pago Island.  Ted promises to carry on as Blue Beetle but doesn’t have the super scarab, so over time, he built the bug and took a “crash physical course” (some course!).  Ted also reveals his dual identity to his snoopy assistant Tracey after he finds her on Pago Island trying to clear Ted Kord’s name because she loves him.  Cute, but later when she escapes to the Bug ship, he’s afraid to control it remotely because he fears she might accidentally hit a button by bumping into it and ruin everything.  Evil Uncle Kord’s super robots conveniently come to life at that time and Ted battles for his life unmasked.  What a great story, and it’s one that has been adapted and retold by DC many times over, most recently in the Batman Brave and the Bold cartoon.

Dan Garret dies while Ted Kord pledges to keep the Blue Beetle alive!

Ted Kord makes a pledge to the dying Dan Garret, and the Blue Beetle legacy is passed!

Ted’s whole “fighting without the mask” moment reminds me once again of Ditko’s other creation, Spider-Man, fighting unmasked against his arch-nemesis the Green Goblin.  Unfortunately, Ditko didn’t create a memorable rogues gallery for Beetle, other than the Squids and the Madmen, the latter who pop up a little later in Action Heroes Archives Vol. 2.  Then again, Blue Beetle certainly didn’t have the lengthy run that Amazing Spider-Man has enjoyed, so it’s understandable why not.

Maskless Ted Kord fights his evil uncle's robots on Pago Island

Without his Blue Beetle mask, Ted Kord fights his evil uncle's robots on Pago Island

The Question tale is next and it is incredibly cool.  The green gliding figure seen in the final panel last issue turns out to be a fellow called the Banshee, a villain backed by a hokey premise of a flying cape, which makes for a criminal put out by both Vic Sage and Question in this short tale.  Question indirectly causes the apparent death of Banshee, and he could care less.  Rorschach fans take note, this is the original brutal faceless vigilante in vintage material!  In fact, the more I read these Action Hero Archives, Vol. 2 especially, the more I think Watchmen fans would get a big kick out of these books.  With all the hubbub about DC actually moving on doing Watchmen sequels and/or prequels, the Action Heroes Archives are the actual source material, by one of comics’ greatest artists of the Silver Age.  I think that’d be worth checking out to some hardcore Watchmen aficionados.

The Question is ruthless and cares not for the loss of criminal life

Similar to Rorschach, the Question just doesn't give a care about crooks dying!

The next Captain Atom issue is pretty neat and compared to Firey Icer last issue, it’s a fricking masterpiece!  There’s some cool sci-fi concepts, such as a rocket ship that Captain Atom must energize with his powers to travel through space and time with; a race of rampaging giant insects; and an abandoned planet that became so technologically advanced its inhabitants became super lazy because they could do everything they needed by pushing buttons (there’s a panel showing a lazy guy watching a TV like monitor—nice).  One of the best things about this story is that it’s not inked by Mastroserio, with Frank McLaughlin doing a more subtle job.  It’s still not as good as Ditko inking himself, but not bad.  Worth noting is that there is no attempt to make Atom’s USAF associate Gunner look even the slightest bit distinct anymore.  Whereas Gunner was distinguishable before by his trademark hat with an upturned bill, he now seems pretty generic.  Of course, previous Gunner appearances had him in and out of the hat, but the character seems less detailed overall in these later stories.

On that random observation, I’m out for now.  I’m closing in on finishing this book; it’s crazy that Vol. 1 only took me a day to read and write about, looking at the pace I’m going now!

NOTES FROM NOW (7/15/12): It’s crazy because when I was reading the material for this entry, Before Watchmen hadn’t been confirmed yet, though the rumors and evidence of it were out there.  While it’s one thing for DC to pursue the Watchmen characters, it seems odd they have not shown as much concern for the Charlton characters.  True, there were Blue Beetle and Captain Atom titles for the New 52 launch last year, though no one has really taken the Charlton characters and utilized them in a Watchmen style follow up…Except for Grant Morrison.  Morrison, who is planning on doing an issue of his upcoming Multiversity epic about one of the many Earths which house the Charlton characters done up as if they were in a gritty Watchmen-like world of their own—a look at the characters in a way that has not been done yet.  The issue is supposedly set to be drawn by Morrison’s longtime collaborator Frank Quitely.  Of course, Multiversity is a project that has been in the works for ages now (or so it seems) and there still isn’t any concrete indication of when it’s coming out (unless I missed some San Diego Comic Con news, which is likely).  At any rate, if nothing else, more of these classic Charlton tales should be reprinted, as it is as close to Watchmen source material as you’re going to get.  Even despite the fact that David Gibbons and Alan Moore have stressed that the Charlton characters were only inspiration, and did not base their Watchmen characters fully on them.

I also wanted to mention that I have given Rocke Mastroserio a lot of grief the last couple entries, but feel kind of bad about it, as he died not long after working on Captain Atom, in 1968 at the age of 41. So although I was glad to see Frank McLaughlin doing inks, Mastroserio certainly wasn’t the worst artist I’ve seen; I’m probably more grumpy at anything that Ditko didn’t ink a majority of his Charlton stuff.

Oh, and there’s only one more entry of Action Heroes Archives Vol. 2 after this.  I apologize for taking forever.  It is a BIG book though!

Past entries of the Read My Library Blog

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