The Six Reasons Jaime Reyes Is Still With Us, or, Pebbles on Ted Kord's grave
I don't think this is as rare as it's made out to be, so you needn't offer medals, but I adore both Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle III) and Ted Kord (his adorkable dead predecessor). And having finally, months after everyone else, read the superbly provocative "Racial politics of regressive storytelling" at Comics Alliance, I want to ramble on and on about something: why, unlike the numerous legacy characters that essay discusses, hasn't Jaime been bumped off to bring Ted back? I mean, Jason Rusch is dead(ish) so Ronnie Raymond can come back? I've got to think there are more Ted-lovers out there than there were people clamouring for the return of Ronnie Raymond. So why's Jaime still going strong (except for, you know, his book getting shitcanned and his backup feature getting cancelled and not even being in bloody Teen Titans any more and yeah, the new JLI, that's not going to be a poisoned chalice) while Ted is lying unremembered in the dirt at Vanishing Point? What makes Jaime immune (or is it, what makes Ted unsaveable)?
Things I Don't Think Are Straightforwardly The Answer
1. The Argument From "Geoff Johns Didn't Care About Ted As A Child"
Well, the cynical solution, from the "writers want back the characters they loved as kids" premise, is that today's writers didn't have Ted Kord posters stuck to their teenage bedroom walls (though who knows why not, because Paris Cullins drew some damn cool ones.). Seventies kids who bit their nails to the quick every week about The Flash weren't necessarily equally agonised over The Decidedly Peripheral Adventures Of Some Ditkofied Guy From Charlton Comics.1 But, like I say, were they all really cosplaying as Ronnie flippin' Raymond when they were kids?2 I don't think so either.
2. The "Dan DiDio Just Wants To See You Cry" Thesis
Parts of fandom seem to believe it's simply that Dan DiDio wants the Ted fans to suffer. (This image of him choking Ted to death is actually oddly charming.) Or that there's no place in the SRS BZNS DCU for a superhero who is also
So... I don't think either of those is it. I think the real reasons come from a few smart things the writers have done in crafting Jaime, and from some circumstances of these particular characters that mean though Ted is gone, he's still verrrrry present. So I give you:
Six Ways Jaime's Bullet-Dodging Skills Exceed Ted's
1. Jaime Isn't Ted's Successor At All
Jaime isn't on Ted's turf. The two of them are really, really unalike, to the point where it's almost a stretch calling Jaime a legacy character. If anything, he's more the heir to the first Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, who shared the scarab-based powers that kinda skipped a generation in Ted. Ted Kord was a non-powered regular guy with a massive brain and a big pile o' family money behind him, who made himself into a superhero by building cool stuff because he wanted to do right by his friend Dan. Jaime Reyes has crazyawesome magic/tech alien powers that he got by accident, and is a middle class kid decades younger than Ted with a whole different mess of problems and interests. They even look completely different, right down to the costumes (as Gavril Ivanovich charmingly observes in JL:GL, Jaime looks "much more like an insect". Ted just looked like an adorably out-of-shape dude prepping to go channel swimming with a hairdryer on his belt). Their rogues' galleries are different, their bases of operations are different, their team affiliations were different (until Max Lord started getting his sticky reincarnated hands in on the act). Jaime's powering-up didn't even have anything to do with Ted's murder. A character who is new and so different in this way is, I think, less hard a sell than "Look! Some new dude living your old favourite's life!" Really, the only continuity between Ted and Jaime is the name - and their friends, about whom I shall now bang on at greater length:
2. Guy Gardner Wants You To Like Jaime, And To Be Honest I Wouldn't Bloody Mess
Jaime Reyes comes complete with his own (excellent) supporting cast of family and friends, but he's also embraced by Ted's old crew: Guy Gardner and Booster Gold are basically his superhero BFFs, and he's had the whole JLI pulling together to help him out. You've got continuity there as well as novelty. Because deep down that whole team are basically a bunch of badass woobies, it is kind of heartwarming to see them remembering Ted by pitching in for his successor. Justice League: Generation Lost's only intensifying the effect, now Jaime's part of that impromptu crew. He didn't choose the callup, but he has chosen to stay.
3. Jaime Is A Fanboy, Fanboy
Jaime's relationship to his predecessor is pitched perfectly to extract fan sympathy - in that he totally fanboys Ted. He has a "WWTKD?" (What Would Ted Kord Do?") wallsticker in his room. When Booster ropes him in on an ill-fated time-jaunt to try and save Ted's ass, Jaime practically squees with the honour of it all. When Guy Gardner bequeaths him a bunch of Ted's stuff, Jaime uses Ted's books to figure out how to defeat his Big Bad. Hell, his little sister 'ships Ted/Booster. When the new guy loves the old guy more than the average fanboy does, it's hard to hate him too much. The big woobie.
So... that's the character stuff. Different enough to not be on one another's turf, big efforts to respect the old guy's memory, the old guy's friends basically telling you to like the new guy. Do I think that's why Jaime's not been ditched in favour of resurrecting Ted? Well... slightly, but you could introduce these features to win sympathy for a lot of legacy characters. What's distinctive about the Blue Beetle case is that, well, the old guy's buddies have a time machine.
4. Previously-Not-Dead Ted
Consequently Ted, despite being deader than Mel Gibson's reputation, keeps being in new books. Tons of 'em. Because the person who cared about him most in the world is a time traveller. A time traveller who is so lonely without him that he spends his leisure hours essentially stalking Ted through time. You can dish up new Ted Kord every month without having to "bring him back". And fans will eat it up, because whatever nerdy/puerile thing Ted does is rendered INFINITELY POIGNANT by the look of "hhnnngh" on Booster's face while he's doing it. You could give me twelve panels of Ted eating a cheese sandwich and I, like Booster, would have tears in my eyes at the end because "...little does he know he SOON WON'T BE ABLE TO ENJOY CHEESE SANDWICHES ANY MOOOOORE, TEEEEED." If it sounds like I'm being sarcastic, know that I cried reading BG#35 when Ted, who spent the entire issue making sub-CollegeHumor.com scatological jokes and having a weirdly long nose, told Booster he knew he was a future version of his friend (and "not my Booster") and wanted to know if their future selves went on family vacations together. Hhnnngh!
5. Booster Gold Feels Your Pain
In fact, further to that, the fact of how close Ted and Booster were (the bestest of best friends in the DCU?), and that Booster has his own book, means that a lot of processing of Ted's death actually happens on-panel. Booster becomes a fan surrogate in reacting to Ted's death. There have been, what, eight arcs in the Booster solo series? And four of them have been explicitly about Ted. Even when he's not directly engaged in trying to save Ted in the past/teaming up with him to retrospectively turn up shit on Max/trying to stop his decomposing corpse from ripping his heart out, Booster namedrops Ted more or less every issue (even if it's just telling past!Babs Gordon, at the start of her career, "We have a mutual friend! Or, we will").3 And yeah, that ripping-the-heart-out thing, right there. Black Lantern Ted was kind of a neat codification of the way that Ted's been metaphorically doing that to Booster ever since he died. In a sense, Ted's become one of Booster's main character traits. Fans are getting a lot of opportunity to see Ted Kord acknowledged and appreciated, even though he's gone.
6. Keith Giffen Feels Your Pain
This same expedient - time-travelling buddy - has given other DC writers the chance to resolve fan rage about Ted's death, in some measure. The gratuitousness of the murder, for example, is offset by the Booster Gold arc in which Booster, having nicked Rip Hunter's timesphere, actually rescues Ted moments before his death. When it turns out that avoiding that terminal showdown basically allows Max to destroy the future (and despite the fact that Booster is basically fine with that), Ted resolves that he can't let this happen, and goes back, knowingly and voluntarily, to his death. Because he chooses it, Ted's death transcends "this is a SRS BZNS comics event!" shock value and becomes much more meaningful. It wasn't a great death, the first time around, but storylines like this have redeemed it.4
Now, I think a lot of this comes about because certain writers were unhappy about Ted's killing-off in the first place (and Max's evilification, for that matter, and the semiretconning of vast chunks of JLI). When Keith Giffen (in BG #33) has Booster interrupt Cyborg to give him a damn good telling off for implying that Ted (or anyone else on the JLI of Booster's era) was anything less than a total mensch, Vic has this great look on his face like "...Dude, have you mistaken me for Dan Didio?" Ha.
One way and another, the writers have spent a lot of time and creative energy "fixing" Ted's death - making it meaningful, having him mourned and avenged and remembered. Booster Gold has basically been working through the stages of grief over Ted for five years now; as fans, we've vicariously been working through them too.
Some other possibilities
1. The diehard Ted Kord fans mostly sprang into existence after his death.
Did people love Ted so much before Countdown to Infinite Crisis? Did awesome girls dress up as him at conventions? Or did he get a big bounce out of being offed in a book that lots of people disliked and want to undo? (I've been quite impressed that GiffDeMattz, on their current BG run, are dodging the temptation to beatify the dead guy by continuing to write Ted as the same nebbish he always was.) Per the theory on Comics Alliance, we therefore need to wait til today's crop of rage-filled fanboyandgirls become writers; they'll then punt Jaime's skinny ass to the curb.
I buy the first part of this to some extent - I think dying was the best PR move Ted ever made - but as I said at the beginning, I think there are plenty of fans who like both dudes and I'm not seeing that oppositional One True Version Of The Character discourse much among BB fans. Maybe I run with the wrong crowd. If the three other people I know who give the slightest toss about Blue Beetle can be said to constitute a "crowd".
2. DC sees Jaime as a hook into a different market and isn't prepared to discard him (even though they've binned his book).
I think this one is probably a bit true, but I don't think they've worked out a way to leverage the character to access that market. Which is why I follow the mooted BB live-action show with interest. Again, this would be an explanation for why Jaime is still with us but not necessarily for why Ted is not.
3. No one at DC really wants to write Ted.
Though I've gone on at length about the logic of Ted's staying dead, logic doesn't really come into it in a universe where death is as intractable and eternal as Lady Gaga's hairstyle. Managing to be dead for FIVE YEARS and counting is actually a pretty remarkable achievement. Bruce is a total part-timer next to Ted. So, you've got to think that if the will was there in the company, and they thought it would sell books, Ted would be back with us like a shot (you'll pardon the expression).
So, is it just that no one's got a Ted story they want to tell? Well - if they don't, they've all got a funny way of showing it. Apart from the aforementioned telltale Ted-being-in-every-bloody-arc-of-Booster-Gold detail, there's the evident fact that Ted totally didn't die the second time, right? After he went back to let Max shoot him because failing to do so let the OMACs take over the world? I mean, no on-screen corpse. The warehouse that could only have been opened by Ted or Booster and that Booster didn't open. The silhouetted bwa-ha-haing figure at Kord Industries at the end of BG #1,000,000 that Geoff Johns has said outright was Ted Kord? I mean, that detail's clearly been Jossed to buggery (or who on earth was that Black Lantern bent on ripping out Booster's aorta?) but it seems to evidence an abiding interest in the character among writers at DC.
The Max Lord cover of Brightest Day. The faces on the throne. You've got ersatz!JLI members Nate Adam, Fire and Ice, and Rocket Red. One more face is hidden by Max's knee. And in the bottom left? Who's the guy in the goggles?
So... hit me up. What'd I miss?
Related external links
- A bunch of reasons why Ted's death was stupid, from Comics Should Be Good
- Aaaand as a counterpoint, a beatdown of Ted explaining why Jaime better deserves to live. Heh. From Mindless Ones.
1Part of me wants to explore whether Ted's less-than-fame back in the day relates to his rather poor fit to the whitebread archetype: he may have been a white guy but he wasn't quite the ubermensch ideal. (He didn't have a square jaw. The Blue Beetle Companion reckons he didn't even clear six foot in his stocking feet. Fanon has him, like his Watchmen knockoff Dan Dreiberg, as Ambiguously Jewish. In any case, I can't read this nebbishy, adorable, hyperintelligent if not flawlessly competent dork as a textbook WASP.) (But then, Ray Palmer is Much Less Ambiguously Jewish, so.) Anyway... a bigger part of me kind of doesn't want to get into it.)
2I mean intellectually, I understand that people like Ronnie Raymond, it's just that emotionally I can't process why.
3Yeah, he might have meant Bats, but I'm going to tell myself that when Booster says "friend" he's likely thinking Ted ahead of Bruce.
4Though er see above about whether they really meant for him to be dead that second time.