The second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, has been a longstanding presence in the DC Comics universe, especially after his time with Justice League International in the 1980s. Partly due to his characterization in those comics, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold’s friendship has been a major component of their mythos for decades, establishing the two as DC’s answer to the buddy cop genre. But, as 2021’s DC Showcase: Blue Beetle has proven, there’s another character from Beetle’s comics history that may provide an even better foil for his adventures.
The 15-minute cartoon — painstakingly styled after ’60s-style Hanna-Barbera animation — was recently re-released with Constantine: House of Mystery, an animated short film. It may only have one hero’s name in the title, but The Question — that faceless, trenchcoat-wearing, paranoid detective that DC fans may recognize from Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold — ends up teaming up with Beetle and steals the show. Both characters were acquired by DC from Charlton Comics, a rival company, and both are the brainchildren of legendary comics artist Steve Ditko.
Blue Beetle Teams Up With The Question in a New DC Showcase Short
In the animated short, Blue Beetle is a plucky adventurer and inventor, introduced to the viewer as he scales the wall of a skyscraper, much like Adam West did as Batman. Soon enough, The Question drops in and doesn’t leave Beetle’s side until the end of the caper. Outside the intentional animation gaffes put in by the creators (again hearkening back to old-school cartoons), Blue Beetle finds a lot of humor in the back and forth between the clean-cut and optimistic Blue Beetle and the mysterious, aggravating Question.
Before Denny O’Neil’s comic book revamp in the ’80s, The Question, as thought up by Ditko, was imbued with traces of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism — a contentious philosophy found in many of her novels, especially Atlas Shrugged. The animators score plenty of points with die-hard fans, as Objectivist thought is a major aspect of this version of The Question. He drops convoluted platitudes and impenetrable wisdom every chance he gets without paying attention to (or even caring much about) Blue Beetle’s ever-increasing aggravation.
But as in any great buddy comedy, the two opposites make for a wonderfully effective team. Beetle’s tech and The Question’s weird but detail-oriented intelligence help the duo track down the story’s villain, Dr. Spectro (voiced by SpongeBob SquarePants himself, Tom Kenny). The fedora and trench coat emphasizes his gumshoe aesthetic, but it’s The Question’s curiosity and determination that make him, all jokes aside, a formidable and steadfast investigator. By the end of the short, two other characters — Captain Atom and Nightshade (co-created by Ditko) — also put in fourth-wall-breaking appearances.
As the team of Blue Beetle and The Question continues to make headway, Beetle warms up to his odd comrade. And as excellent as the writing is, credit must be given where it’s due: Matt Lanter’s Ted Kord and David Kaye’s The Question sound new (compared to their previous animated incarnations) yet entirely true to their personas and individual quirks.
Blue Beetle and The Question Make for a Great Buddy Comedy – DC Style
In just 15 minutes, Blue Beetle and The Question are given a new lease on life. Kord zooms around in his signature flying ship, the Bug (which, in this version, is anatomically very similar to a real bug). A straightforward and simple do-gooder, Beetle’s a pleasant baseline for the story — a story where The Question, in a full celebration of his eccentricity and devotion to Objectivism, has all the best lines, such as “You can avoid reality, but you can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding reality,” or the equally great “Facts don’t care about your feelings, and the fact is — I’m about to knock you out.” DC Showcase: Blue Beetle is an unabashed love letter to both classic animation and Steve Ditko’s undying impact on DC Comics.
And in the end, another in a long list of thought-out creative choices, the short presents a great springboard for more team-up adventures for Blue Beetle and The Question. Many better-known DC heroes have shown their ability to successfully partner up with a variety of characters and create entertaining stories — with Batman being a prime example, as well as, in recent years, anti-heroes like Harley Quinn and John Constantine. But now, as this DC Showcase short shows, it’s time for new spins on that classic superhero team-up concept — especially with heroes that deserve much more time in the spotlight than they’ve ever had before.