Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Character Assassination: Ted Kord

Spoiler Alert: This Character Assassination is going to be heavy on spoilers for Watchmen and Countdown to Infinite Crisis. It will also be a bit lighter on the funny. Death is a largely sad, horrible thing (understatement), and is inherently hard to make light and humorous. If you want some of that, see the Ted Kord Character Study.

 THE BUILDUP (Behind the Scenes)
I don’t know when Greg Rucka (the writer of The OMAC Project) decided that Blue Beetle would die, but I do know that choosing the villain behind it gave the writers some problems. Apparently, the death of Ted was decided early on in plotting. The cynic in me can’t help but think that was because C-List heroes are considered “expendable” or “cannon-fodder,” but looking back on the story, I have to say that if any hero had to go out in this blaze of glory, it would be Ted Kord.

THE BUILDUP (In the Comics)

Ted Kord, as I’ve noted, was pretty much the king of the second-banana Super Heroes. He was that guy that everybody liked, but no one really took seriously. After Captain Atom smashed a giant half-Superman, half-Batman robot into a Kryptonite meteor (why does everything always seem to come back to that?), a cache of recovered Kryptonite led Ted down a path of twists, and turns, where he uncovered someone embezzling his company’s funds, manipulating magic, and murdering heroes around the globe. The only person to believe his conspiracy theory was his bestie, Booster. When Booster took a bomb that was meant for him, Blue Beetle figured he was on the right track, but yet, no one else would believe him. Undaunted, Ted tracked down the culprit to the headquarters of Checkmate, a shadowy, formerly-government organization. Using his l33t haxxor skillz, Ted hacked into the Checkmate mainframe, discovering that they had tabs on every hero in the world and their secret identities.  Hearing a sarcastic slow-clap, he turned around to find Maxwell Lord, a psychically-persuasive millionaire who funded Justice League International.  Turns out, he’s evil for some reason, and he forces Ted on the ground and gives his ultimatum: Join up or die.

When you’re held at gunpoint without any of your gear by a man who can control minds, you don’t have a lot of options. Now, if you read the Character Study, you’ll remember that Steve Ditko was a fervent Objectivist, and that writers like to make Ted one as well. Objectivism is a complicated philosophy, but if I may approximate a summary: There is good. There is bad. there is no grey.

Ted Kord’s response to being held at gunpoint? okay, Ted?
With his own death, Ted Kord rallied the heroes into fighting back against Max Lord and the evil satellite, Brother I, he had in orbit. With Superman mind controlled and the world in peril, Wonder Woman threw her magic lasso around Max Lord’s neck and commanded him to tell her how to release Superman.

"You got it, Max!"
And so, the day was saved.  At a price. Ted Kord falls into the category of characters whose deaths mean more than their lives. And when it comes to those characters, Ted’s right at the top. Any weaker willed person would have given in to Max’s mind control, but not Ted.

I’m reminded of that bit in Watchmen at the end where Rorschach plans to tell the world the truth, despite the damage to world peace that may do. What does Rorschach say? “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.” That’s the same sentiment with Ted. Never compromise. There is good, and there is evil, and as long as Ted could still draw breath, he would never cross that line.

For many people, this death was more heartbreaking than the death of Jason Todd, Aunt May, Superman, or anyone. (Although, that may just be because all those people came back from the dead.) For the longest time, there were hints that Ted would come back, even though Greg Rucka famously stated "There was a breeze blowing through his brain, and he was incinerated. How much clearer can it be?" Ooooh, dark, dude.

(For the rest of the aftermath of Ted’s death, see the last part of Ted Kord's Character History.)

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