“Batman is a fascist!”
This cutting joke from the upcoming Blue Beetle movie, spoken by George Lopez as Uncle Rudy Reyes, has been dividing fans since the film’s first trailer dropped.
Whether it’s meant as actual criticism of Batman’s crime fighting methods or simply a semi-shocking, tongue-in-cheek laugh-getter, the line has sparked conversation about what it means, what the intent may actually be, and whether the statement has any merit.
While it’s a little outside of our scope to dig into whether Uncle Rudy Reyes’ now signature line has any validity as a criticism of the Caped Crusader, there’s a deeper connection between Batman’s occasionally controversial methods and the legacy of the Blue Beetle.
In fact, Batman once made such a massive blunder while trying to spy on other heroes that it led directly to the death of Ted Kord, Jaime Reyes’ predecessor as the Blue Beetle, and one of Batman’s own Justice League allies.
In the 2005 one-shot Countdown to Infinite Crisis, a lead-in to the Infinite Crisis event which restored DC’s once destroyed Multiverse, Ted Kord uncovers a conspiracy to steal the secrets of all of Earth’s superheroes, including their secret identities and weaknesses.
Ted tries to get the help of his allies in the Justice League, but everyone – including Batman – blows him off, downplaying the seriousness of Ted’s discovery, and in some cases even fully disbelieving him.
But Ted is undeterred, and tracks the source of the data to a secret stronghold, which he infiltrates alone. Just as Ted is about to delete the secrets of the other heroes, he’s shocked to discover that Maxwell Lord, the billionaire entrepreneur that once funded the Justice League, is the person who’s been stealing all the information. And what’s more, he’s planning to use it to take down every superhero on Earth.
Even after Lord’s ambush, Ted manages to delete all records of the heroes’ secret identities. Impressed, Lord offers Ted a chance to join his organization and help take down the other heroes. But Ted refuses – and Lord straight up shoots him in the face in a scene that is almost shockingly violent for mainstream superhero comics.
So what does Ted’s death have to do with Batman?
Well, as it turns out, Batman’s the one who gathered all the data in one place, with the intent of being able to use it against his fellow heroes should the need ever arise. He did it all using a massive AI satellite named Brother Eye which is capable of spying on the entire world – a totalitarian security apparatus.
But Lord gains access to the satellite, stealing all of Batman’s carefully gathered intelligence on the rest of the Justice League, and using Brother Eye to create an army of AI-powered super agents to conquer the world.
So if Batman hadn’t built a spy satellite to steal the other heroes’ secrets, and if he hadn’t lied to Ted about it – or at least taken his concerns seriously – Ted Kord would not have died.
So is Batman a fascist? We’re gonna land on the side of laughing at the obvious shock humor of the moment in the Blue Beetle.
But we’ve also got to acknowledge the huge mistake Batman made through his occasionally totalitarian methods that adds some deeper context to the joke in relation to the complicated history between Batman and Blue Beetle in comics.
Infinite Crisis is among the best DC event stories of all time.