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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Golden Age Blue Beetle Key Issues



During the Golden Age, the character of Blue Beetle was pretty popular. They even had a Blue Beetle Day at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

The Golden Age Blue Beetle is the original version of the character, and while both the Silver Age Dan Garrett and Ted Kord are quite different and revamped, the Golden Age version obviously had an influence in the later incarnations, despite DC using or acknowledging the original in canon or mainstream continuity.

I will not be covering the horde of Blue Beetle villains that the hero faced since he seemed to face a new foe almost every story. His closest supporting cast I will feature and it won't be much.

Many of these comics are no easy finds online, so I'm just going to link them to an over-all search where you might possibly find them pop up sometime in the future if interested.





MYSTERY MEN COMICS #1
1st appearance of Blue Beetle
1st appearance of Mike Mannigan



Here we are with the debut of the character that started it all. The Blue Beetle was Dan Garret and originally spelled with one t which would later change during the Silver Age.

Blue Beetle was created by Charles Nicholas and was one of the more popular characters from the Fox Feature Syndicate also known simply as Fox Comics. His initial early appearances had Dan Garret as the Blue Beetle fighting crime without superpowers.

His initial first look was similar to the Green Hornet. Here is how he looks in his debut appearance.



This look would be changed very soon, and the character ended up looking more like the Phantom. He was also given superhuman strength and dexterity early after his debut appearance also.

A chemical or drug known as Vitamin 2X would be the culprit that would enhance his strength in later adventures. None of this would be incorporated into the Blue Beetle mythos when DC Comics eventually bought the character.

Mike Mannigan is the very first recurring supporting character for Blue Beetle. He is Dan Garret's police partner and has a desire to bring in the Blue Beetle.

So police officer Dan Garret by trade and vigilante crime fighter Blue Beetle by hobby. Mystery Men Comics #1 is not an easy find on the secondary market at the time of this writing.

CGC Census is extremely low currently with only 25 submitted copies. Highest is a 9.2 Universal so far and at the time of this writing. There are 9 total restored copies so far as well.

Definitely not a light-weight comic. Overstreet has only a  raw VG at around $2,200 buck-a-roos. Most recent 2016 sale in August for that single CGC 9.2 sold at Heritage for $39,435!

This comic also features the first known published comic  book work of legend George Tuska who worked on the Wing Turner and Zanibar stories in this issue. August, 1939 is the cover date for Mystery Men Comics #1.







MYSTERY MEN COMICS #2
2nd appearance of Blue Beetle
2nd appearance of Mike Mannigan
1st Blue Beetle costume



By the 2nd issue and Dan Garret's 2nd appearance in Mystery Men Comics #2, he is finally given a costume or the Blue Beetle duds that was made of special bulletproof material. 

It's not complete, though. He doesn't don the mask that makes him look quite like the Phantom just yet.



Once again, this comic has a very low CGC Census currently. There's only 15 registered at the time of this writing.

Highest recorded CGC grade is a Universal 8.5 and second highest is a 7.5 Universal. No Restored copies at this time.

Either a lot of copies aren't being sent in or there aren't a whole lot of copies out there in the market. From 2003 to present or time of this writing, there's only been about 10 copies sold at Heritage Auctions.

Mystery Men Comics #2 has the cover date of September, 1939.







MYSTERY MEN COMICS #3
3rd appearance of Blue Beetle
1st time dons mask
3rd appearance of Mike Mannigan



In his 3rd appearance, Blue Beetle is finally seen with his trademark mask. I think it's funny that in issue #2 he didn't wear one, yet he was able to keep his secret identity hidden?

Might be an over-sight there, but Dan Garret doesn't forget his mask in this issue.




Golden Age Blue Beetle supporting character, Mike Mannigan shows up for the 3rd time in this issue. In issue #2, it was spelled "Mannigin".

CGC Census has this issue pegged at 26 registered copies. Highest so far is a 9.4 Universal and only one of them. Second highest is a 9.0 and it is a Restored copy, but there are two 8.0 Universals recorded.

Mystery Men Comics #3 is cover dated October, 1939.







MYSTERY MEN COMICS #5
1st appearance of Dr. Franz


For the Golden Age Blue Beetle, Dr. Franz is the neighborhood pharmacist that is also a scientist as well. Although Blue Beetle is seen wearing his costume prior to the debut of Dr. Franz, he is the one who created Blue Beetle's chain mail type costume and the Vitamin 2-X thing that would give Dan super-strength, heightened senses, faster speed, invulnerability and increased intelligence.

Dr. Franz is a recurring ally of Blue Beetle and would aid the hero in many of his investigations. Despite being a pretty important character, Franz is a character that stayed in the Golden Age of comics, meaning he did not cross-over when the character of Dan Garrett was revamped after he went over to Charlton Comics.

This ally of Dan Garret with one t is known to exist on Earth-Fox according to DC wikia, but Dr. Franz, the Golden Age Blue Beetle, and his supporting cast are not considered part of DC canon or continuity.

Despite that fact, the character of the Blue Beetle does start in the Golden Age and many of these Blue Beetle key comics or issues from that era are not easy finds, especially in high grades.

Very low CGC Census for this comic and only 18 total submissions at the time of this writing. Highest grade is a single 9.2 copy so far. Mystery Men Comics #5 has the cover date of December, 1939.







MYSTERY MEN COMICS #7
1st G.A. Blue Beetle cover 

Blue Beetle finally gets a cover spotlight. I know I noted it 1st Golden Age Blue Beetle cover, but it's obviously the first Blue Beetle cover in comics ever. 

That's not all to this comic, though. This issue marks when Blue Beetle becomes the headlining feature in Mystery Men Comics. In issues #1 through #6, it was the Green Mask who kicked off every issue.

Green Mask also makes his first appearance in issue #1 of Mystery Men Comics. Like most of these really early Blue Beetle keys from the good ole Golden Age, they aren't easy finds online currently.

Most I've seen are low grade so far. They might not even be easy finds out there at cons and locals, depending how many locals and cons you got in your area. 

I've seen one high grade 8.0 CGC sell on Heritage but it is restored. Actually, in the CGC Census, it is the highest grade currently and there are only 6 registered copies at the time of this writing. Most are in low grades and I wonder if that will change or even how much.

So these could be scarce or they just could be over-looked comics for a long, long time. Would make sense if they're over-looked. This Blue Beetle nor any of his mythos carried over into DC Comics, and it was the Silver Age Dan Garrett created by Ditko that did.

Maybe a hunt for a high grade raw copy, but a hunt that could be well worth it if it don't come back Restored and depending what you snagged it for. With a pretty cool 1st cover appearance, February, 1940 is the cover date for Mystery Men Comics #7 and this issue was on sale around December, 1939.








THE BLUE BEETLE #1
Origin of Blue Beetle
1st self-titled comic series


Not surprising that the character of Blue Beetle became popular enough to gain his own self-titled series. This issue would be the first ever, and it was still published by Fox Comics.

The first issue to the Blue Beetle comic series also saw the origin of Blue Beetle by legend Will Eisner. This sees young Dan Garett and how he loses his mother at an early age and grows up defending the neighborhood kids from bullies.

After his father is killed, Dan becomes the Blue Beetle to solve the murder and a hero is born. Dr. Franz is also seen in this issue and apparently knew Dan when he was but a wee lad.

There are only 26 registered copies in the CGC census for this issue so far with the highest being two Restored 9.0s. Highest Universal is a single 8.0.

Blue Beetle #1 is definitely an important Golden Age Blue Beetle key with a cover done by Lou Fine and dated Winter, 1940. This issues copyright date is January, 2nd.








MYSTERY MEN COMICS #8
Classic Lou Fine bondage cover


The Golden Age bondage covers seem to be pretty popular collector's items nowadays. Wonder Woman bondage covers are pretty sought-after also.

Not quite sure why some collectors like depictions of women being tied-up, but whatever floats your boat. However, there's more than just that concerning this cover.

It was done by Lou Fine, and his work for Fox Feature Syndicate are highly acclaimed. This cover is one of the more valuable issues in the comic series.

Only 9 in the CGC Census currently with the highest a Universal 7.5 copy. Cover date for this issue is March, 1940 and Mystery Men Comics #8 was most likely on sale January 18th.










MYSTERY MEN COMICS #10
1st Joe Simon Blue Beetle cover?


This isn't Joe Simon's first comic book work nor superhero work either, and even though Joe Simon isn't remembered all that well for his Blue Beetle covers, there is a sense of history when it comes to the writer/artist and the character. Simon at the time was freelancing for Fox Comics and other publications when he would be fated to meet Jack Kirby.

Both artists would end up working for Fox Comics, and Jack Kirby would write and illustrate The Blue Beetle daily strip for the The Boston Evening Transcript. That strip is now considered Kirby's 1st work in the superhero genre and it debuted January 8, 1940.

Joe Simon would even become editor at the publication. Don't think he drew too many Blue Beetle covers, but it is an early work of his and considered a classic bondage cover. It also might be his first Blue Beetle cover that he was credited for.

Also, both legends worked on this character before their first comic collaboration on Blue Bolt Comics and later Captain America. Good comic history stuff to know for sure, and Jack Kirby would do the pencils for the Wing Turner story in this very comic.

Once again, very low CGC Census in which only 9 copies are so far registered. Highest grade is a Restored 7.0 currently. Not sure how many know the connection of Golden Age Blue Beetle with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, so this gem just might be highly over-looked. 


May, 1940 is the cover date of Mystery Men Comics #10 and has the copyright date of March 15, 1940.








MYSTERY MEN COMICS #15
1st appearance of Joan Mason?

Blue Beetle is no exception when it comes to needing a love interest or leading lady in his life. Supes has Lois and Golden Age Dan Garret had Joan Mason.

Speaking of Lois Lane, Joan Mason was also an investigative reporter and seemingly has trouble discovering the Blue Beetle's secret identity. Too funny when it comes to that, and she is always wearing a red outfit in her early appearances in comics. Her outfit would change colors in later.

Joan Mason also appeared in Blue Beetle #4, and some note that as the 1st appearance of Joan Mason. Comic Vine has her first appearance in Blue Beetle #2, but that may not be correct.

While the lady in that issue is blonde like Joan Mason and has blonde hair like Joan, her name is given as Ms. Rae and the only witness to the bombing done by the baddies. They were, of course, going to cut her up and burn the body but Blue Beetle came in and saved the day.

There is an unnamed brunette lady in red in one of the stories in that issue.  Seems like all the ladies are wearing red in early Blue Beetle stories.

However, Joan Mason is mostly seen as blonde but color mistakes do happen in the world of comics. So unsure about whether it's an unnamed appearance of Joan in Blue Beetle #2, and I'm just going to assume it's a random character. You never know, though, and that unnamed brunette in red could Joan

When it comes to Joan Mason appearing in both Mystery Men Comics and Blue Beetle, she is just thrown in there and suddenly pops up. There is no formal meeting of sorts when it comes to Joan and Dan Garret, and it appears she already knows Dan and his partner Mike in Mystery Men Comics #15 and in Blue Beetle #4. Here's her debut panels in issue #15 of Mystery Men Comics.


The cover dates for both Mystery Men Comics #15 and Blue Beetle #4 is October, 1940, but Mystery Men Comics #15 has the copyright date of August 15th as opposed to August 20th for Blue Beetle #4.

So, since there isn't any indication of a formal first meeting to establish canon or continuity, I'm going to go by copyright date here and note her first appearance in Mystery Men Comics #15.







BLUE BEETLE #4
2nd appearance of Joan Mason
1st cover appearance?


Like in Mystery Men Comics #15, Joan Mason is identified by name and her profession. I'm noting this comic issue her 2nd appearance due to the copyright date coming after issue #15 of Mystery Men Comics.

Overstreet doesn't note Joan Mason's debut in either the Blue Beetle or Mystery Men listings, nor does CGC yet. Overstreet does note this issue as mentioning the drug marijuana. Ooooooo!

Blue Beetle #4 just might have her 1st cover appearance if that is indeed her on the cover and it's dated October, 1940.






MYSTERY MEN COMICS #31
Last issue to comic series
Last Blue Beetle in comic series


Blue Beetle's last appearance is in this issue as the title was cancelled. Blue Beetle would still be featured in his own head lining comic series. At the time, Blue Beetle also had stories in Big 3 Comics, which starred Fox Comic's most popular characters such as Samson, The Flame, and Blue Beetle. Other characters from Fox also had stories in Big 3 Comics.

Near when this comic came out, Fox Comics was not doing all that great. Victor Fox would lose the character of Blue Beetle, and some sources say that it was because of debts unpaid.

Fox would eventually regain the rights to Blue Beetle back, but him temporarily losing the rights to the character would only happen a few months after this comic. Mystery Men Comics #31 has the cover date of February, 1942.







THE BLUE BEETLE #12
Holoyke begins publishing


Printer Sherman Bowles was able to wrestle away the character of Blue Beetle from Victor Fox's Fox Comics.. Prior to that, he was able to acquire Catman Comics and Captain Aero Comics from Frank Z. Temerson's Helnit Publishing Company.

This would begin the 1st Blue Beetle comic series to be published by Holyoke. Fox would later regain control of Blue Beetle starting with issue #31.

Cover dated June, 1942, Blue Beetle #12 has a cover by Joe Simon as well.







THE BLUE BEETLE #14
Intro of Sparky
1st cover appearance


Back in the day, sidekicks were pretty common. Batman had Robin, Cap had Bucky, even the Golden Age Human Torch had Toro. Blue Beetle had Sparky who didn't really show up all that often in his adventures. 

Sparky was an American orphan who was adopted and raised by Lord Wellington of Suppleshire, England. He wore a costume similar to Blue Beetle, and his real name was Sparkington J. Northrup.

I'm not exactly sure if Sparky was in any actual sequential art story in this issue. Overstreet says "cover/text only", so the character debuts in a text only story. Anyway, pretty minor character so I ain't gonna worry about it.

When Fox regained the rights, I don't think they carried Sparky or Spunky over. He actually changed his name to Spunky during the Holyoke run.

Not a very well known comic, so it's no surprise that it has a low CGC Census of only 2 copies. 8.5 VF+ is registered the highest so far. 

The Blue Beetle #14 is still probably a scarce find in higher grades and has the cover date of August/September, 1942. 







THE BLUE BEETLE #32
Classic Hitler cover

Who says that Captain America is only superhero to give ole Hitler a sock on the jaw? Well, Blue Beetle also does on this cover as well.

Bondage covers aren't the only desired comic covers from the Golden Age era. The World War II period of comics that feature Hitler on the cover are pretty popular as well nowadays. Maybe even some stories that have Hitler in them are desired by a few collectors as well.

I think shortly after Fox reacquired Blue Beetle they took a different direction several times with the character. Blue Beetle became even more super-powered with the ability to fly, become giant, super speed, etc. Basically the character was invulnerable and probably boring to the standards of today.

Along with his varied super powers, the stories also varied as well and he even had a short "Threat from Saturn" multi-part story line. Yes, it was pretty non-focused, but as we all know, the super hero genre was quickly losing favor after World War II.

This would not be the only directional change for the character during the Golden Age. CGC Census has 18 total submitted copies at the time this post was published. There are two non-Restored 9.4s that are the highest graded copies so far.

2nd highest is a single 9.2 low NM, and it's also a Universal, non-Restored copy. These Golden Age Blue Beetle comics aren't on high-alert in the current market, so it will be interesting to see how much more high grade copies pop up in the years to come.

I do not think they're exactly plentiful though, and this Blue Beetle #32 with the classic Hitler cover has the cover date of July, 1944.  







THE BLUE BEETLE #47
Jack Kamen & Matt Baker Blue Beetle art begins?


Jack Kamen and Matt Baker's work on the Blue Beetle during this time ushered in another change in direction for the character. The super powers were dropped and Blue Beetle's tales became more lurid crime stories.

This time also saw the "Good Girl Art" period for Blue Beetle, and Kamen and Matt Baker are noted for bringing this to Blue Beetle comics. Blue Beetle stories were also in All-Top Comics at the time as well.   

Despite the name, "Good Girl Art" blatantly depicted sexy Femme Fatales in more tight fitting clothes of the era and was meant to evoke erotic stimulation. The name also did not mean they were morally good and were often depicted as temptresses.

One of the few African American comic artists during the Golden Age of comics, Matt Baker is well-known for his "Good Girl Art" and they are quite sought after by collectors who know of them. He most noted for his redesign of Phantom Lady during this era, and his classic Good Girl Art rendition of the character debuted in Phantom Lady #13.

That comic is guided in the current Overstreet at $8,000 at 9.2 NM- grades. A CGC 7.0 sold in 2012 for $1,995 and a CGC 6.5 recently sold on eBay for $2,100 during the summer of 2016. Guide has a 6.0 raw currently at $1,296 for Phantom Lady #13.

By the way, Blue Beetle does show up in that issue as well and in the story "Blue Beetle and the Mummy Who Never Died!" As for Blue Beetle #47, it is one of the more desirable and valuable issues in the series tail-end. 9.2s are guided at $2,650, and it's cover-dated August, 1947 with only 8 registered copies in the CGC Census currently. 9.6 Universal is the highest to date.

Jack Kamen is well-known for his work at EC Comics. While Jack Kamen did do cover-art for this particular series prior to this issue, I am guessing that this issue has the first collaborative Blue Beetle artwork between Baker and Kamen? Dunno but Overstreet notes it as Kamen and Baker art begins.








THE BLUE BEETLE #54 
Classic Kamen cover
Used in SOTI


Hey, sex sells! The most valuable of Kamen's Good Girl Art covers in this comic series is issue #54. Just looking at the cover and you can see how GGA impacted the world of comics.

And, it's no surprise that it had an influence on conservative concerns at the time. This comic was used in SOTI, which is Seduction of the Innocent.

Under the illustration of this comic in the book, the caption read "Children call these 'headlights' comics." I'm pretty sure it just wasn't kids nicknaming them headlights.

I've talked about this concerning the development of the Comics Code a few times on here, but for those who are new, Seduction of the Innocent was a book by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham that condemned comic books as creating deviant behavior and corrupting the youth.  

This book ended up being used in the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings. Serious, even the Senate had hearings on the devious influence of how comic books influenced the young into becoming criminals and influencing gay behavior.

William Max Gaines was the only vocal comic publisher that stuck up for the 1st Amendment. Although the comic industry was almost crushed and the committee did not blame comics for any crime, it did recommend toning down the content in the pages of their comics.

Comic publishers then formed their own Comics Code Authority. Gaines, my personal hero, refused to subscribe to the Comics Code. With the cover date of March, 1948, Blue Beetle #54 is guided at $6,000 at 9.2 grades. 






BLUE BEETLE #18 CHARLTON
1st Charlton Blue Beetle comic


Fox finally went ka-put and Charlton Comics picked up the character of Blue Beetle. Although this is the first published Blue Beetle comic for Charlton, this issue contained reprints of the Fox stories. 

Actually, this 1st issue was formerly The Thing and the title of Blue Beetle on the cover only lasted to issue #21. It was titled Mr. Muscle starting with issue #22.

Golden Age Dan Garret's final appearance is in Nature Boy #3. Shortly after, Joe Gill and artist Tony Tallarico would revamp the character into the Silver Age Blue Beetle whose last name ended with an extra t. 

That version wasn't entirely a success either, so during the Silver Age period, a new Blue Beetle by the name of Ted Kord was created by Steve Ditko.






Although the Golden Age Blue Beetle has no ties or very, very little to the DC Universe yet, I still think the basis of a character that still influenced the later and more recognized versions should be mentioned at least. Yes, the character of Dan Garret was revamped heavily during the Silver Age, but the look of the character was still carried over.

No PCP-like drugs for the Silver Age version, and that later version of Dan Garrett is considered part of DC canon. Whether connected or not, the actual character does start here in the Golden Age, and there is some nice history to know about for comic collectors such as Matt Baker's Good Girl Art or Kamen's cover.


That did have an impact on comics getting sexier and pushing the boundaries back in the day. While I did not feature any of the Big 3 nor All-Top Comics, Blue Beetle did have stories in them

Big 3 really doesn't have much in the way of keys, and it only ran for 7 issues. Blue Beetle does appear in all of them.

The All-Top Comics with Blue Beetle stories in them that are pretty valuable are the Kamen Good Girl Art covers starting with issue #8. Issue #10 has a classic bondage cover. These do not have Blue Beetle featured on them though.





Golden Age Blue Beetle had a rotating door of many different foes, and they do not seem to recur often or at all. Seems like almost every issue, Garret faced a completely different adversary. I'm not even gonna bother with those since none of them became remotely iconic.

These early Blue Beetle comics aren't exactly easy finds currently. Next up are Silver Age Blue Beetle keys if you've yet to see that series yet.





GOLDEN AGE | SILVER AGE | COPPER AGE | MODERN AGE





4 comments:

  1. It would be nice to have at least one of those Kamen & Baker issues in the my personal collection. The art on those are just freakin' great.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey,

    it' s your pal Rebo here once again. Speakin' of highly impressive: just received my Saga of the Swamp Thing 21 signed by S. Bissette. Boy, this book immediately made my personal Top Ten List. Wonderful detailed art plus a story by Alan Moore that makes this comic a piece of modern literature. It really reminded me of a short story by Franz Kafka. All time classic!

    Max Rebo

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ho ho ho, ye all!

    Merry X-Mas from ole Ace, who wishes you a sock full of comics! I ordered a New Teen Titans 2 and a X-Men 101 from Santa...

    Ace

    ReplyDelete