A number of superhero names have complicated backstories. The Green Lantern, for example, was originally Alan Scott, and his ring worked against anything except for wood. Later the ring would pass to Hal Jordan, and be less magical but more science fiction, and work against anything except the color yellow. That weakness would be eliminated later on, but to start, you could stop the Green Lantern with either a stick or a primary color depending on which one it was.
That’s nothing compared to the Blue Beetle.
The first Blue Beetle, from the Golden Age of Comics, was policeman Dan Garret. He took special vitamins to make himself stronger and more agile.
In the Silver Age, he didn’t need the vitamins. He also was no longer a cop. Now he was an archeologist and he gained his powers from a mystical scarab. By shouting the standard comics nonsense words “Kji Dha!” he transformed into the Blue Beetle, a Superman-ish hero with Superman-ish powers.
When Dan was killed during a mission, he passed the name–but not the scarab!– onto his friend, acrobatic inventor Ted Kord.
Ted died rather ignominiously at the hands of his former Justice League boss Max Lord. After that, the scarab reappeared and attached itself to a young man named Jaime Reyes. This time the scarab was more science fiction, the product of advanced technology from a viscous alien race called The Reach, had a mind of its own, and tended to give Jaime more tech-based beetle-style powers.
But I think the best-known and remembered of the Beetles may be Ted Kord. Kord as a character wasn’t much on his own, and indeed, his post-Crisis DC series was about as by-the-numbers as it got back then. But Ted was put on the nascent Justice League, where he befriended future man Booster Gold, became a merry prankster, and even was allowed to gain weight. How many fat superheroes are there? Besides Watchmen‘s Nite-Owl, who was based off the Blue Beetle anyway.
Perhaps this is why Ted’s death by simple gunshot to the head was so shocking.
I actually remember not minding Ted’s death so much at the time. Ted went out like a hero, defiant to the end. Yes, he was being used as a springboard for a big second Crisis, this one Infinite, but he was being used in a way he hadn’t been for a long time: as the acrobatic inventor/detective who wasn’t just the laughing fat guy on the Justice League. His former status suggested other heroes didn’t take him seriously, but the writers of that issue did, and he went out as a hero and not a clown. And unlike many others, he’s stayed dead.
One has to wonder, if Reyes ever dies, what the next Blue Beetle will be like.