Evan Dorkin (evandorkin) wrote,
Evan Dorkin
evandorkin

The Beetle




Here's another one of those Silver Age Marvel Comics villains I have a great fondness for. If I remember correctly, the name of the idiot wearing one of the more awkward super-villain suits of the era is one Abner Jenkins, a perfect schmuck name for a schmendrick character. I may be wrong, my Eltingville brain isn't as keen as it was once, and I dislike looking things up on Google and pretending I know what I'm talking about. It stifles conversation, don't you think? Sometimes it's nice to discuss something like people used to, without looking everything up and coming off like one of those crazy people in the trivia contests at SDCC. Anyway, back to the idiot in the bug outfit whose name, I believe, is Abner Jenkins. You'll notice he's flying in that bug suit, even though the bug suit appears to weigh a few hundred pounds, at the very least. It's a metal bugsuit with two steel plates for wings and a heavy breastplate and a helmet. And oh, that helmet. The bucket head of the beetle is one of the best dopey-ass designs from this era of comics, I mean, the whole ensemble is marvelous, a bug armor over a baggy union suit, it looks like a child's fridge drawing come to life. "It's Bug Man, ma!" "Very nice, dear". But I dig that helmet, a can, a bucket, with two holes and antenna. Can't see to the left, can't see to the right, gonna fly in the air and fight, fight,fight.

To make things a hundred thousand times better, Bug Man (designed by Kenny Edwards, age 5, from Rosedale Grade School, or, Steve Ditko, if you want to be all uptight and factual about it), has those great, great, great sucker tendrils for hands. They grab stuff, and stretch like crazy, they're pneumatic or something scientifical. I don't know. Just like I don't know how two steel doors from the Merrimac make for wings. Who cares? I sure as hell don't.  He's the Beetle, fer chrissakes, he needs all this bug shit to fight Spider-Man! Stop laughing! Tell me you wouldn't totally play with those gloves of his for hours on end. Yeah, I'm talking to you, don't tell me you haven't tried on those stupid Hulk or Thing hands and jerked around in the Toys R Us aisle hitting things for a short burst of happiness. You'd totally go crazy with Abner Jenkins' little glovey wonders, admit it! Right? Yeah! So, give it up for him! He flies, he has stretchy sucker-tipped fingers, a baggy suit and he can't see very well. Look out, world. Or at least a few places around the NYC/tri-state area. 

Yes, look out everybody. Because Mr. Jenkins is another one of those power/money-mad idiots who spends a ton of time and cash on some gimmick that will help him launch a crime career. To get power and money. And revenge, sure, always with the revenge with these people. He obviously needs the money because he spent all his savings on the goddamned bugsuit. Like many of the scientifically-inclined morons in the Marvel and DC Universes, he never once thinks maybe he can sell his inventions and prototypes (advanced suction tips that can suction-tip things, whatever technological process it is that makes a man in a heavy bugsuit fly, bucket head that inhibits sight worse than a Batman movie mask) to the government or one of them there fancy industrial combines, maybe Stark Industries, if you hafta be a friggin' geek about it. Nope, he's just another putz. He spends all this money, thousands at least, maybe tens of thousands, in the1960's, mind you, to sucker-tip steal bags of tens and twenties from the local Dime Bank. That isn't smart business thinking. That's stupid time. That's like, how a cartoonist thinks. I'll do all this stuff and sweat it and go broke but it'll be cool because I'M MY OWN MAN and I AM HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE and MY ART IS EVERYTHING and I AM IN!. Well, shit, okay, I can see it now, maybe that's where the Beetle's coming from, he's an individual, this man in the Beetle suit, he has some kind of perverse, self-destructive personal vision, so I should cut him some slack.  And rethink my career, while I'm at it.

Most folks don't cut the Beetle any slack, not even an inch or three of slack. Most people kind of think he looks like a bit of a jerkoff. I think he looks awesome, but I'll agree he isn't what you'd call intimidating. See The Juggernaut, I guess, for an arguably better approach to wearing intimidating scary armor (and helmets that you can't see much out of).  The Beetle didn't see too much action, I guess, and he was retooled in the 80's with a sleeker costume that was still pretty buggy and ridiculous. And really, kind of charmless. I dunno if he retained the sucker cups, I don't remember much from the era of my playing Champions and buying Marvel Universe handbook updates. Which is probably a good thing, a survival mechanism of some sort my brain has laid in during REM sleep. But I just love that there was a time when a guy would throw on his work clothes and a preposterous bug suit with suction gloves and go downtown to main event a Spider-Man comic. He could fly, somehow, and had fingers that went shplushk into walls and pulled them down ker-rumble on top of people and made wordy threats and vowed that no one could beat him and got beaten by hormonal teenage superheroes every ding-dong time. That's all he needed. That's all the readers needed. Do any of you older folks out there remember that Human Torch/Spider-Man team-up? That was what constituted a major event back then, I think it was all of 20 pages or so. Now you need thirty-five issues and seventy-two covers and five hundred of these idiots and four hundred and eight of them have to get their heads graphically ripped off so the other  decades-old kid's characters can cry, cry,cry. Oh, well. Progress and all. We've lost the readers but we've gained cannibalism and explicit sex talk. And kept The Beetle for copyright purposes, I bet! Whoopee! 

Please don't tell me if he has been updated as an actual mutated beetle man who eats people's heads or whatever.  I readily admit that I prefer the imbecile in the silly outfit to over-muscled guys eating Peter Parker''s eyeball in a Spider-Man book. Or spidey-spooge. Or Satan, Divorce Attorney At Law. To each, his own, as Nat King Cole sang.

But let's not kvetch any more. Why spoil things? Let's just soak in the marvelousness that is The Beetle. And remember a magical time when stupid overweight men named Abner Jenkins could fly. 

Tags: abner jenkins, geekanerd, marvel comics, silver age, the beetle
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