Jaime Reyes

keeps doing the impossible!"

These are the words uttered by an exasperated alien adversary in a recent issue of "Blue Beetle" and they could apply to Reyes, the title character, in many ways.

First, the young Hispanic character's series has continued despite not even cracking the Top 100 sales charts for months and a backlash from those upset that Reyes replaced the previous Blue Beetle, Ted Kord. Many saw Reyes taking up the mantle as political correctness run amok.

But "Blue Beetle" has been able to overcome these obstacles thanks to strong support from DC Executive Editor Dan Didio and a fanbase, however small, that is rabid.

This is primarily because Jaime Reyes comes across as well-crafted, likable and relatable. In fact, he may be the best portrayal of a teen with "Great Power" since Peter Parker's first adventures as Spider-Man four decades ago.

Reyes is 16, lives with his parents and has the scarab - the alien technology that gives him his powers - welded to his spine. Though he likes helping those in need and knowing "when I give somebody an ass-kicking they've got it coming," his true strength comes from his family, friends and his girlfriend, Traci Thirteen.

For example, in issue No. 21, Blue Beetle finds himself up against the Spectre - a retributive avatar of God's vengeance - who is determined to kill those with murder in their hearts and on their hands, including Luis, who Jaime holds responsible for an injury to his father. But Jaime's father preaches a message of forgiveness that leads to Blue Beetle thwarting the Spectre.

In the next story arc, Reyes finds out that the Reach, an alien race, are behind a century-long conspiracy to contaminate earth's water supply, destroy the planet and enslave humanity. Prepared to end the threat by himself - he eventually is assisted by other heroes - he gets a touching pep talk from his younger sister and a message from his mother to "Kick their ass."

It is these close ties with his family - emphasized even more strongly in issue No. 26, the "Spanish issue" - that make the book a joy to read.

How 'Spanish' got spun

Writer Jai Nitz remebers the day DC editor Jann Jones called to inform him they were doing an issue of "Blue Beetle" in Spanish and asked him if he was interested in writing it.

Writer remebers the day DC editor called to inform him they were doing an issue of "Blue Beetle" in Spanish and asked him if he was interested in writing it.

"It took me about half a second to say yes," Nitz said.

At a meeting with Dan Didio, "Blue Beetle" editor Rachel Gluckstein and Jones, Nitz said it was decided the story should be set in El Paso - Blue Beetle's hometown - instead of Mexico because setting it in Mexico would be "lazy storytelling."

It was also decided there would be no Spanglish ("It was all or nothing") and that Blue Beetle's girlfriend should be included in the story as an "English-speaking looking glass."

"Other than that, I was free to do what I wanted," Nitz said. "The whole oeuvre of 'Blue Beetle' is family, fun and friction so the characters really influenced the way the story came out."

Nitz said what attracted him to the unique project is simple.

"It's a logical, achievable way to bring attention to 'Blue Beetle.' Jaime Reyes, the alter ego of Blue Beetle, is Hispanic so it makes sense to have a regular series issue in Spanish. The allure is trying to reach a huge audience that I identify with. The allure is trying to reach non-comic readers instead of the crowd that already reads comics."

"I think the limited number of Latino characters is due to the fractured nature of Latino culture," he added. "Zorro, probably the most famous Hispanic in costume, doesn't speak to Puerto Ricans or Cubans. I think 'Blue Beetle' No. 26 can draw in Hispanic readers by showing the elements of Latino culture that are pervasive across national borders - family, honor, loyalty."

Nitz said he wanted to have the book stand alone so it wouldn't overwhelm new readers, but he also wanted to whet new readers' appetites for more.

For the story's villain, Nitz decided to forego using an overtly Latino villain and instead chose an A-list villain who would logically be able to speak Spanish.

"I thought the Parasite could speak any language if he drained a native speaker," he said. "The story really took off from there." *

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