DC Studios is in the midst of a rough transitional phase as it prepares to leave behind the DC Extended Universe and launch the new DC Universe. As cochairs and co-CEOs James Gunn and Peter Safran construct their upcoming reboot of the superhero cinematic universe, the studio is stuck releasing films left over from the previous regime. And so far, the results have been even worse than expected.
Two of the four DCEU films scheduled to hit theaters this year have been released so far: Shazam! Fury of the Gods and The Flash. Both were met with very mixed reviews and spectacularly flopped at the box office. Fury of the Gods earned $133 million worldwide (against a reported $125 million budget), while The Flash finished its theatrical run with a $268 million global total against a reported $220 million budget. (If you factor in the latter film’s massive marketing budget, The Flash is one of the biggest box office bombs of all time.) In addition to these movies just not being good, the latest DC films may be struggling to reach audiences due to a collective lack of interest in projects with no attachment to the forthcoming cinematic universe. “It’s a perhaps unavoidable but terrible case of timing,” an anonymous source from a rival studio speculated to Variety. “Audiences don’t feel like they have to invest two hours of their life because it’s not going to matter going forward.”
With the odds stacked against it, the next DCEU leftover film comes out later this week: Blue Beetle.
Given how poorly the past three DCEU films (including 2022’s Black Adam) have been received, Blue Beetle has a challenging road ahead of it at the box office. Not only has the latest trio of projects seemed to dampen interest in superhero blockbusters as Marvel Studios’ multiversal slump continues simultaneously, but Blue Beetle is one of the lesser-known characters to headline a DCEU film, and both the cast and writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer are unable to promote the project due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. The latest estimates for the movie predict a $30 million domestic opening, which is low for a superhero film but wouldn’t be disastrous considering the circumstances and Blue Beetle’s comparatively lower budget (reportedly $120 million). And the film still has several factors working in its favor.
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto, Blue Beetle is the first DC film to feature a Latino superhero in the leading role. Xolo Maridueña (Cobra Kai) stars as the titular hero, a recent college grad named Jaime Reyes who gains powers after coming into contact with an alien Scarab. Maridueña leads a predominantly Latino cast that also includes Damián Alcázar (Narcos), Harvey Guillén (What We Do in the Shadows), Elpidia Carrillo (Predator), Belissa Escobedo (Hocus Pocus 2), Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza (Babel), and the legendary George Lopez. Twenty-seven Latino Hollywood organizations have banded together to pick up the promotional mantle and support Blue Beetle amid the strikes.
And unlike Fury of the Gods and The Flash, Blue Beetle will also have ties to the future of the DCU. The upcoming movie was originally slated for a direct-to-streaming release on HBO Max as part of former DC Films president Walter Hamada’s DCEU designs, but Blue Beetle will now open in theaters and has retroactively been included in the plans for where Gunn and Safran are taking the DCU.
“We are part of the universe, we are part of the world, we are part of the plans that they have been creating for the future installments of the DCU,” Soto recently told Total Film. “But we are not tied to all the films from the past. Yes, our movie lives in the world where superheroes exist. But that doesn’t mean that a certain event, or certain alliance, or certain things from the past dictate where our film is going.”
Ahead of the release of Blue Beetle on Friday, here’s everything you need to know about the history of Blue Beetle in the comics and beyond, and what’s in store for the superhero.
The History of Blue Beetle
Although Blue Beetle will be the last superhero to be introduced in the DCEU era, his character has a long, complicated history in the comics that dates back to the late 1930s. In addition to Jaime Reyes, two other heroes have assumed the mantle of Blue Beetle, and DC Comics has been just one of several publishers to own the rights to the character during that time.
Blue Beetle made his first appearance as one of the many featured superheroes in Fox Comics’ Mystery Men Comics no. 1 in 1939. Created by writer-artist Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski, the original Blue Beetle couldn’t be more different from the iteration of the character that will appear on-screen in the upcoming film. In those early appearances, Blue Beetle was secretly a rookie police officer named Dan Garret, who switches into his alter ego by wearing a bulletproof costume and consuming the so-called Vitamin 2X drug to gain superpowers.
Even though the character grew to be popular enough to have his own comic series and a radio serial, Fox Comics went out of business in the 1950s, and Blue Beetle subsequently found a new publishing home at Charlton Comics. Perhaps realizing that an off-duty cop popping vitamins to beat up criminals didn’t quite have the makings of a great superhero, Charlton made a major overhaul of the character as it rebooted Blue Beetle for a new ongoing series in 1964.
In the revised origin story, Dan (whose last name was respelled as “Garrett”) was reimagined as an archaeology professor who discovers a magical blue Scarab in an ancient Egyptian tomb and gains mystical powers that transform him into a crime-fighting, insect-themed superhero. (For those who’ve watched Moon Knight, some of this probably sounds a little familiar. Marvel’s Scarlet Scarab was cocreated by Roy Thomas as an homage to Garrett after Thomas wrote Blue Beetle comics for Charlton in the 1960s.) While we’re still a long way from the birth of Jaime Reyes, these changes are the canonized foundations for the modern version of Blue Beetle.
Not long after Garrett’s drastic makeover, Blue Beetle was recreated again in 1966 under the direction of the great Steve Ditko, who made even more alterations to the character. Garrett was replaced by one of his students, Ted Kord, who succeeded his professor as the Blue Beetle following Garrett’s death. Unlike his predecessor, Kord didn’t receive any powers from the Scarab. Like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark before him, Kord fought crime using the fancy gadgets he designed, including a massive beetle-shaped aircraft. (In other words, his greatest superpower was being rich.) In 1983, DC Comics acquired the rights to Charlton’s roster of “Action Hero” superheroes, including Blue Beetle and Peacemaker, and Kord eventually got his own solo series that existed within the same universe as the likes of Batman and Superman.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Jaime Reyes arrived, becoming the third—and most powerful—iteration of Blue Beetle. In Infinite Crisis, the teenager stumbles on the Scarab after Kord dies in the lead-up to the crossover event, and it didn’t take long for him to be thrust into the life of a superhero alongside the Justice League. In the modern retelling of the Blue Beetle story, the Scarab isn’t a magical artifact of Egyptian origins, but a piece of extraterrestrial technology created by a race of alien conquerors. When Jaime comes into contact with the Scarab, the ancient device bonds with his body, becoming a suit of armor that can reconfigure itself into weapons, shields, and other tools.
Aside from the extraterrestrial trappings, the most significant change to the new Blue Beetle lore is the Scarab’s reimagining as a semiautonomous technological parasite that communicates with its organic host. In Jaime’s first solo series in 2006, many of the early stories involve him learning how to use the Scarab, where the device came from, and how to navigate his life with his family and as a high schooler with this deadly weapon now attached to his spine at all times. Before Jaime, Garrett would summon the abilities of the Scarab by speaking the magic words “Khaji Da.” But in this modern take on the character, Khaji Da is the name of the Scarab, which begins to adapt to the morals of its host as Jaime adapts to the alien parasite inside him.
Jaime has made many other appearances across media, including a prominent role during the second and third seasons of the animated series Young Justice and a guest spot on an episode of Smallville. (The CGI used to visualize the Scarab in the CW series is truly something to behold.) For Blue Beetle, Soto has cited a wide range of influences that pull from the comics, including the 2011 Blue Beetle run that revisited the character’s origins again during the universe-wide reboot called the New 52.
“The New 52 was a big inspiration, as far as the suit goes and other aspects of the story, but we took a lot from bits and pieces,” Soto said during a recent Q&A with media outlets. “There are [sic] a lot of great stuff in all the different runs, and we were like, ‘Man, how do you choose one?’ We were like, ‘Do we have to choose one? No, let’s do whatever the fuck we want with it.’ Just have fun and create something awesome, create something really interesting that takes the greatest hits—even from the Injustice 2 game.”
Although the main focus of the upcoming origin film will be on Jaime and his family, Kord’s legacy as the former Blue Beetle appears to play a significant role. Oscar-winning actor Susan Sarandon plays Victoria Kord, Ted’s sister and the story’s primary antagonist. An original character created for the film, Victoria covets the Scarab and its power after she takes over her brother’s business following his disappearance. There’s also Ted’s daughter, Jenny Kord, portrayed by Brazilian actor Bruna Marquezine. It’s through Jenny that Jaime is able to acquire the Scarab, setting the film’s events in motion.
Entering the DCU
Details about the future of the DCU are slowly starting to trickle in. Crucial casting decisions have been made for Gunn’s Superman: Legacy, and the first project of the forthcoming interconnected story—Chapter 1: Gods and Monsters—will lead off in 2024 with Creature Commandos, an animated series also written by Gunn. But the statuses of existing DCEU characters have been more up in the air.
While lately there have been conflicting accounts of the future of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the DCU, Maridueña’s Blue Beetle has already been confirmed as part of Gunn and Safran’s new era. Gunn recently indicated as much while responding to a fan’s question on Threads, saying, “Blue Beetle (played by the wonderful [Xolo Maridueña]) and a handful of other characters will continue on in the DCU, even though the first DC Studios movie is Superman: Legacy.”
Maridueña, for his part, has been more circumspect in how he’s discussed the fate of his superhero in the DCU. In an interview with Fandango recorded prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Maridueña mentioned that he had spoken to Gunn, but that any future Blue Beetle films would be dependent on the box office success of this origin movie. “At the end of the day, we have to cross this first hill and introduce Jaime to the world,” Maridueña said. “It’s up to the audience to watch the movie, for everyone to show up to the movie. … If it does well, we’ll be able to open the doors for more Blue Beetles, and not even for just the people up here. We have a whole thing set up. So many Beetles to choose from, so many comics to choose from.”
Whether Blue Beetle will receive a direct sequel will likely hinge on how well it’s received by audiences, but there’s always the chance that the superhero could appear in other upcoming DCU projects before then. Given Blue Beetle’s connections to Peacemaker in the comics, it’s possible—though perhaps unlikely—that he could cross over for a guest appearance in the second season of John Cena’s The Suicide Squad spinoff series. The same could be said for the upcoming DCU series Booster Gold, whose titular hero was closely tied to Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle in the comics and even had a hand in introducing Jaime Reyes during Infinite Crisis.
Blue Beetle may have a tough road ahead of it at the box office, but this film will soon have the opportunity to both snap DC Studios out of its slump and catapult its titular character into a future beyond the dying DCEU.