Under the carapace on Blue Beetle

By Gen Terblanche1 July 2024

Under the carapace on Blue Beetle

In DC Comics superhero action film Blue Beetle, recent college graduate Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) returns home from university in Gotham City determined to become a lawyer. When family and financial struggles pull the rug out from under him, though, he’s at a loose end until he is given an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. The Scarab, in turn, chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host and equips him with a carapace-like super suit of armour with extraordinary abilities. Together, Jaime and the Scarab become superhero Blue Beetle (who first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1 in 1939) … not to be confused with The Tick, or the Mothman. It’s a transformation that happens for the first time in front of his family, so there are no secret identities in the Reyes house! “Good luck trying to hide a secret from your mom in a Latino household, they always know!” jokes screenwriter Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer.

Blue Beetle is on Showmax

Like Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his one-time alien symbiote Venom, Jaime Reyes has a battle of wills ahead with the Scarab, which exists as a voice in his head. Director Ángel Manuel Soto explains, “At first, the Scarab’s mission is kill, kill, kill, and Jaime’s not that kind of kid. So every time that the Scarab wants to do something of this nature, Jaime’s reaction and his good-heartedness step in the way of the Scarab’s mission, and creates this banter between them that sometimes is funny but at the same time is enlightening. Because, as the story progresses and certain events happen in Jaime’s life, the Scarab also learns from Jaime and the Scarab starts to become more and more compassionate, eventually being a voice of reason to Jaime towards the end, as opposed to the way it started, where Jaime was the voice of reason to the Scarab.”

Blue Beetle on Showmax

Where’s my super suit?

Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo spent over nine months working on the Blue Beetle suit and created over 500 designs before settling on the look. To create the physical costume, Mayes worked with Ironhead Studios in Los Angeles to lock in the concept and digital designs and create the 3D printed elements to fit in with the fabrics like hand-painted latex (using up to six layers of paint in some areas) and printed material made out of four-way spandex, along with physical armour pieces. It was all custom fitted to Xolo Maridueña’s body.

Producer John Rickard reveals, “Can he fly? Yes. Is he strong? For sure. Are there big action sequences? Absolutely. But it’s the special abilities of the suit, which are unlike anything else in the DCU, that make it so ridiculously cool, because it allows Blue Beetle endless superpowers. He’s literally a 20-something who has a suit that can create anything he can imagine. And so, what does this young kid do with these powers? He pulls from what he knows: pop culture. Things he knows in his everyday life. Our action sequences in Blue Beetle are definitely inspired by a lot of gamer combos, which makes it feel like a video game come to life. Those who know, will know.”

The previous Blue Beetle

Jaime is not the first human to wear the Blue Beetle suit. In a nod to the comics, we find out that its former wearer, Ted Kord, disappeared in the mid-2000s. And when Jaime sees his lab, “the Bug Lair”, it was clearly built in 1970s and 1980s. Production designer John Billington notes, “Every inch of this set was touched and aged. Drawings and collections were peppered around the room, along with bookcases filled to the brim. The resulting overall vibe is a touch of the 80s with a dash of Memphis flare, with a colour palette in turquoise blues and pinks. Because Ted was a boxer in the comics, a workout area was built as well as an Easter egg for fans.”

John adds, “The Bug Lair has a robotic tech area, a place where he was building models, and a drafting table. Additional items include extra electronics and TVs that he would have put to use in the Bug Ship.” Yes, like Batman with his Batmobile, Ted has a Bug Ship, which we get to see both in flight and “crawling” using the legs on its sides.

Welcome to Palmera City

While the comic book version of Jaime Reyes lives in El Paso, Texas, the Blue Beetle film team wanted to create a comic book city for him that had as much of its own identity as Batman’s Gotham City, Flash and The Arrow’s Central City, or Superman’s Metropolis. Enter Palmera City, a futuristic version of Miami that ties the city’s neon-soaked art deco architecture and Latin culture to high tech elements like in-home holograms of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

“We loved this idea. It suddenly got brighter; it suddenly got more colourful. It suddenly got the idea of water and how it combines with this place. The idea of the different sides of a place like Miami, in terms of the people that live there, the wealth that’s there, other things. It provided so many awesome opportunities to create a really unique environment in a superhero genre,” says producer Zev Foreman.

“It felt like we had this sort of Palmera City-Miami-synth wave vibe, it was driven by music, it was driven by colour, it was driven by this 80s nostalgia in terms of design, in terms of sound, and in terms of light. And all of those things have created this unique look and feel to the film.”

It’s about family

Blue Beetle is on Showmax

“You see the superheroes and they are the perfect human beings,” muses Xolo Maridueña. But before he becomes Blue Beetle, Jaime is far from perfect. “I think a lot of the charm of Jaime is that he doesn’t necessarily always know what to do, and very similar to myself, sometimes you’re going through life making decisions, and the surety of knowing what you’re doing is the right thing isn’t always there,” explains Xolo.

But in his family, Jaime has a moral compass far superior to anything the Blue Beetle suit can offer him. “I relate to that so much – my family is so integral in my growing up and everything, they feel a little inseparable at some times, and Jaime definitely feels that way as well,” says Xolo. “This family, really, for better or for worse, is the driving force of everything that Jaime does … They really provided a support system for Jaime to excel in everything that he wanted to do, and maybe now that he has the Scarab the plans are a little bit different, but they’re ride-or-dies, they see him for who is he and they’re gonna support him, and that really is such an important part of the story.”

More from DC Comics on Showmax

Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice is on Showmax
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  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Superhero animation. Miles Morales/Spider-Man (voiced by Shameik Moore) meets a team of Spider-People charged with protecting the universe itself.
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