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Bumblebee

Alias: Karen Beecher

Titans Member
Joined:
Teen Titans [first series] #48
Related Links: Mal DuncanDoom Patrol

Bumblebee Quick Bio: Super-smart Karen Beecher created a high-tech Bumblebee suit as part of a ruse to bolster her boyfriend Mal’s reputation on the team. As a result, Bumblebee not only eventually joined the Teen Titans, she later married Mal as well. When exposure to a strange energy shrank her to insect height, Bumblebee joined other freakish heroes as a member of the Doom Patrol.

Recent File Photo:


Archived File Photos (in chronological order):

Hero History


The Latest Buzz

A brainy and beautiful New York librarian, Karen Beecher met Mal Duncan after the first group of Teen Titans broke up. During his time on the team, Mal struggled with feelings of inadequacy next to his more powerful pals. As a science student, Karen helped Mal develop the Gabriel Horn, a spacial-distortion device that would enable Mal to confidently rejoin his super-powered colleagues. Working closely on this project, the two teens feel head over heels in love.

Mal doubts his place on the team – but Karen has
a plan – as seen in TEEN TITANS #45 [1977].

Soon after, Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy and Mal Duncan were lured to Titans Lair by a false distress signal engineered by the deranged Dr. Light. Seizing this opportunity, Mal made his debut as the Herald, utilizing the dimension-opening Gabriel Horn to dispatch with Dr. Light and rescue his teammates.

Karen still felt the Titans did not appreciate Mal, so she decided to change that with a high-tech super-suit of her own design. Donning a winged costume equipped with bee-themed gadgets, Karen broke into the Titan’s Lair as the Bumblebee and feigned a surprise attack. Her plan was meant to give Mal a chance to flex his powers and look good in front of his teammates. But Bumblebee recognized the folly of her scheme when Mal’s friends quickly rallied to his defense. With that, Bumblebee fled, realizing she has miscalculated the entire situation.

From TEEN TITANS #48 [1977], Bumblebee bugs the Titans
with her bee-themed gadgets, including a honey gun and hypnotic buzz.


Later on, Karen revealed her identity to Mal and the Titans and apologized for her actions. Eventually, the Bumblebee joined the Teen Titans, as the team set up a new headquarters at Gabriel’s Horn, a discotheque in Farmingdale, Long Island. The disco was actually a cover for their secret underground headquarters. Through Gabriel’s Horn, Mal was afforded an opportunity to have a steady gig in Roy Harper’s rock group, Great Frog, in which he played the trumpet.

Ultimately, this incarnation of the Teen Titans didn’t last long. Soon after an adventure with the Titans West team, the Titans disbanded once more.

Karen Beecher revealed as Bumblebee  in TEEN TITANS #48 [1977].

Go West, Young Titans

When the Titans split up, Karen and Mal married and retired from super-heroics. The couple relocated to the San Francisco where Karen pursued her college degree in engineering and later accepted a position at S.T.A.R. Labs as a research assistant for non-lethal weapons development. Karen also dabbled in freelance writing, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. Meanwhile, Mal became a novelist as well as the owner of a West Coast version of Gabriel’s Horn, a nightclub located on trendy Lombardi Street. Occasionally, Mal would entertain his patrons by playing the trumpet.

Mal and Karen were reunited with their old friends when Donna Troy married Terry Long in a lavish ceremony in Long Island. Beside their most colorful colleagues, the couple still seemed content with their more mundane civilian lives.

Semi-retired, Mal and Karen attend Donna’s wedding in
TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #50 [1984].

But as any former Titan can attest, things never remain mundane for long. Mal later discovered the drawback to his Gabriel Horn, as the Gargoyle’s long-term plan came to fruition. Years ago, the Gargoyle had corrupted the Herald’s computer-programmed device, so that each time Mal used it, the fabric of limbo would be slightly torn. The cumulative effect would break the barrier between limbo and earth and free Gargoyle and his evil ally, the Antithesis. The Titans discovered the ruse, prompting Mal to destroy his Gabriel Horn and thwart the evil pair for good.

A short time later, Titans West was briefly reassembled when S.T.A.R. Labs’ San Francisco branch discovered a mysterious portal that bridged life and death. Hawk, Dove, Flamebird, Bumblebee, Mal, Lilith, Golden Eagle and Chris King braved the portal and prevented a group of super-villains from returning to the land of the living.

Karen donned her Bumblebee identity again to aid the Titans in a case involving the wily Wildebeest, who had hacked into Cyborg’s circuitry to turn him against his own teammates. Bumblebee and the Titans rescued Cyborg, although the Wildebeest escaped their grasp once again. Mal and Karen were later abducted by the Wildebeest Society, which had been commandeered by a demonically-possessed Jericho. The couple was liberated by their Titans allies and resumed their normal lives.

Bumblebee aids the Titans in NEW TITANS #58 [1989].

Mal and Karen were again called into action when an alien threat loomed – one that reunited the Titans of past and present. Having collected a planet-size assortment of technological debris, Victor Stone journeyed to Earth to turn its moon into a new Technis world and populate it with his Titans allies. The JLA and the Titans first clashed, then united, eventually freeing Cyborg from alien influence. During the battle, Victor recreated a virtual version of Mal’s Gabriel Horn, which enabled him to become the Herald once again.

As Gabriel’s  Horn closed its doors, Mal opened up a small restaurant and coffee house called The Buzz. Both Mal and Karen turned down a request to join the newly reorganized Titans on the East Coast, but were coaxed into attending a makeshift membership drive for a new Titans West. Prompted by his obnoxious cousin Matt, Beast Boy revived the California-based team, now christened Titans L.A. Its members included Beast Boy, Flamebird, Herald, Bumblebee, Terra, Hero Cruz, Captain Marvel Jr. and Bushido. But Titans L.A. was over before it even began, as disinterest quickly led to the group’s unceremonious dissolution.

Titans L.A. Together! [from left to right]; Matt Logan, Bumblebee, Flamebird,
Captain Marvel Jr., Beast Boy, Hero Cruz, Terra and Herald [Bushido not pictured].
From TITANS SECRET FILES #2 [2000]

Sour Notes

When Donna Troy gathered together a team of heroes for a space mission during the Infinite Crisis, she recruited Herald and Bumblebee. But during their mission, Karen and Mal became irrevocably transformed. Herald’s sub-sonic weapons blew up in his face, which required his vocal chords and lungs to be replaced with circuitry. Unable to speak, Mal assumed the codename Vox and found his dimension-opening Gabriel Horn was now a part of him. Meanwhile, Bumblebee was irradiated with a strange kind of energy which caused her to shrink down to six-inch height. Trapped at this size, the diminutive heroine must take special meds to keep her tiny heart from going into cardiac arrest.

Bumblebee’s transformation is explained in
TEEN TITANS (third series) #36 [2006].

Bumblebee and Vox may not have survived their transformations without the intervention of the Chief, the mysterious genius who founded the bizarre super-team known as the Doom Patrol. Rescued from near-death, Bumblebee and Vox elected to join the Doom Patrol and stay at Dayton Manor in Prague.

The team eventually relocated to Oolong Island, which had become a haven for mad scientists and unorthodox thinkers. But both Mal and Karen had trouble adjusting to their new mutations. It eventually drove a wedge between the two lovers, who agreed to a trial separation. But after a short time apart, Karen called Mal just to hear his voice – perhaps taking the first tentative steps toward reconciliation

Powers & Abilities


Bumblebee created an exoskeleton costume that enables her to fly, cause sonic disruptions, and project powerful force blasts. Her solar-powered antennae inside her helmet allows her to emit electrical ‘stings’ through quartz prism eyepieces. Bumblebee’s exoskeletal wings enable her to fly and cause sonic disruptions.

Bumblebee was later irradiated with a strange kind of energy which caused her to shrink down to six-inch height. Trapped at this size, the diminutive heroine must take special meds to keep her tiny heart from going into cardiac arrest. Karen still uses her scientific acumen to augment her powers and abilities.

 

Essential Reading


Teen Titans #45 [1976]: First appearance of Karen Beecher, Mal’s girlfriend.
Teen Titans #48 [1977]: Robin and the Joker’s Daughter escape from Two-Face and warn the other Titans of his plan to blow up both New York and Gotham City. They are delayed by an altercation with the Bumblebee, actually Mal’s girlfriend Karen Beecher in a new costumed identity; She first battled the Titans in an attempt to prove Mal’s worth to the other team members, whom she believed underrated him, but then joined them as a member until the group. First appearance of Karen Beecher as Bumblebee.
Tales of the Teen Titans #50 [1985]: Donna Troy and Terry Long wed this issue. Appearances by just about every Titan, past and present.
Secret Origins Annual #3 [1989]: Dick Grayson’s dream are invaded by the Antithesis, who seeks to break Dick’s spirit so that he will remain in Limbo; Dick survives with the help of old and new Titans alike. The Special gives a post-Crisis history of the Titans, including some revamps and revisions. Includes: First Appearance of Flame-Bird (Post-Crisis ret-con of Bat-Girl); First Appearance of Herald (Post Crisis Ret-con of Hornblower and Guardian); First Appearance of Golden Eagle’s new costume; Includes Who’s Who entries for Flamebird, Golden Eagle, Bumblebee, The Herald, Antithesis, and Gargoyle.
New Titans #57-59 [1989]: Bumblebee aids the Titans on the Wildebeest case.
Hawk & Dove Annual (second series) # 1 [1990]: featured a brief reunion of Titans West. A mysterious note to Dawn Granger leads to Hawk and Dove teaming up with the old Titans West crew, with Hawk, Dove, Flamebird, Bumblebee, Mal, Golden Eagle and Chris “Dial H” King forming a rag-tag Titans West team.
The Titans Secret Files #2 [2000]: It’s the debut of Titans LA in an astonishing all-new Special. Whether he wants it or not, Beast Boy finds himself saddled with a new West Coast branch of the Titans. But it may be the new team’s final appearance as well if Fear and Loathing and the madcap Harlequin have their say. First Titans L.A. Titans LA members include Beast Boy, Flamebird, Herald, Bumblebee, Terra, Hero Cruz, and Captain Marvel Jr.
Teen Titans (third series) #34-37 [2006]: One Year Later, it’s “The New Teen Titans!” A new year of exciting adventures begins with the “new” Teen Titans and the bizarre Doom Patrol. Bumblebee and Vox first seen as members of the Doom Patrol in issue #35. Their transformations are explained in issue #36.
Doom Patrol #2 [2009]: Bumblebee reveals she and Mal have separated.

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A 2005 Bumblebee commission
by 1970’s Teen Titans artist, Rich Buckler.

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Creating Bumblebee


From an exclusive interview titanstower.com interview with Bob Rozakis:

titanstower: How did you decide on the team line-up?

Bob: It was pretty much decided based on the previous incarnation of the book. I added Karen Beecher (the Bumblebee) so that Mal would have a love interest.

titanstower: How did you come up with the idea for Bumblebee?

Bob: As I said, I had wanted to introduce a love interest for Mal and added Karen. Then we decided to make her into a superhero. And I had been planning to play with the concept that she got more and more into the idea of being a hero as Mal moved further and further away from it.

titanstower: So would Mal eventually give up super-heroing all together?

Bob: Yes, that was my plan… though at some point the Bumblebee would have gotten into some sort of situation that would have required Mal to be a hero once more.

Bob Rozakis on Bumblebee [from The Titans Companion, 2005]

TTC: Let’s talk about those characters. What brought about Bumblebee?

BR: I wanted another girl, and I had introduced Karen Beecher as Mal’s girlfriend, [so I] said, “Why not make her a super-hero?” Certainly, if there were any other black female super-heroes at the time, I can’t recall who they were.

TTC: Did you always intend for her to be Bumblebee, or was she originally just going to be a girlfriend?

BR: I think from the time we introduced her, the plan was that eventually she would become a super-hero, and that would also play off the whole idea that he didn’t really want to be [a super-hero], and here comes his girlfriend, and all of a sudden, she does want to be [a super-hero].

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A 2011 Bumblebee and Mal Duncan commission by Tim Fish.

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 Titans In Love: Mal Duncan & Karen Beecher


A brainy and beautiful New York librarian, Karen Beecher met Mal Duncan after the first group of Teen Titans broke up. In Karen’s first appearance in Teen Titans #45 [1977], she tries to counter her boyfriend Mal’s feeling of inferiority. In an effort to bolster his reputation on the team, Karen became the Bumblebee to make Mal look good in front of his teammates, attacking them before being revealed as Karen Beecher (Teen Titans #48).

The newly engaged Mal and Karen discuss their future
in SUPERMAN FAMILY #191 [1978].

Both Karen and Mal remained members of the Teen Titans until the book’s end with issue #53. In that same issue, Speedy remarks, “And if you don’t invite us to the wedding, it won’t be cupid’s arrows you’ll see flying!”, indicating the pair was already engaged. The letter column of that same issue confirmed this: “The Guardian/Hornblower/Mal will continue to run Gabriel’s Horn with the aid of his fiancee, Karen (the Bumblebee) Beecher.” The actual wedding was an affair that occurred off-panel, as the now-married couple attended Donna Troy’s wedding in Tales of the Teen Titans #50 [1984]. Living in semi-retirement, Mal and Karen relocated to the West Coast.

Karen and Mal touch base in New Titans #59 [1989].

The happy couple returned to aid the Titans on various occasions (Secret Origins Annual #3 [1989], New Titans #56-59 [1989],Hawk & Dove Annual (second series) # 1 [1990], JLA/Titans #1-3 [1998] and The Titans Secret Files & Origins #2 [2000]), but remained content with their more mundane lifestyle. The pair ran a West Coast version of Gabriel’s Horn for a time, and later opened up a small restaurant and coffee house called The Buzz. Through it all, Mal and Karen remained the strongest, happiest couple it Titans history.

Thing began to unravel when Donna Troy led a space mission during the Infinite Crisis, recruiting both Herald and Bumblebee. Transformed by strange energies, Bumblebee became trapped at insect size while Mal’s Gabriel Horn was fused to his chest (Teen Titans #35-37 [2006]). The couple found refuge with the bizarre Doom Patrol, but these new mutations eventually drove a wedge between the two lovers. In Doom Patrol #2 [2009], Bumblebee revealed she and Mal had separated. But after a short time apart, Karen called Mal just to hear his voice – perhaps taking the first tentative steps toward reconciliation (Doom Patrol #13 [2010]).

Romantic Reads:
Teen Titans [1976] #45-53
Superman Family [1978] #191-192
Tales of the Teen Titans [1984] #50
Secret Origins Annual [1989] #3
New Titans [1989] #56-59
JLA/Titans #1-3 [1998]
Titans Secret Files [2000] #2
Teen Titans [2006] #34-37
Doom Patrol [2009] #2, 13

A 2010 Bumblebee and Mal Duncan commission by Caanan Grall.

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Those 70s Titans


From Amazing Heroes #2, 1981
“Teen Titans History” by Tom Burkert

 

A 1976 house ad for the Teen Titans’ new direction.

The First Revival

Though gone, the series was not forgotten. The issues ofDC SuperStars and Super-Team Family reprinting Teen Titans stories sold so well that Managing Editor Joe Orlando convinced DC’s new publisher, Jeanette Kahn, that, the team deserved a second chance. In late 1976, the series resumed with #44 (November) featuring a story by Paul Levitz and Bob Rozakis.

The team consisted of Robin, Speedy, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Mal (as The Guardian) and, with #45, Aqualad. In the revival issue, it was revealed that the group had broken up when Mr. Jupiter “closed up shop.” (This was the new series’ only mention of him.)

As Robin stated, “those of us with individual careers had to pursue them.” The boy wonder had remained in college, Wonder Girl still lived with Sharon Tracy, Speedy had recovered from his addiction to heroin (Green Lantern #85-86), and the others had continued life as usual. The whereabouts of Lilith, Gnarrk, and The Hawk and The Dove were said to be unknown.

During the period the group was disbanded, Mal had checked weekly on the equipment that had been donated to the Titans by Mr. Jupiter. It was during one of those checks that the Titans’ emergency signal was activated and so brought the group together once again. The signal, it turned out, had been part of a trap laid by Dr. Light so that he could capture the Titans and use them as bait in a scheme to destroy the Justice League.

The Teen Titans, as depicted in DC’s 1977 calendar.

Mal Gets Super

‘With an exo-skeleton (first seen in Batman #192) and the original Guardian’s costume (both from the Titans’ souvenir collection), Mal became The Guardian. In his new super-heroic identity, Mal easily defeated Dr. Light and rescued his fellow Titans. This was a highly effective story. It reintroduced the characters and simultaneously rekindled interest in the series. By having the Titans battle a mainstream DC villain, Levitz and Rozakis gave the story a more realistic feeling as well.

With the next issue, Julius Schwartz took over as editor with Bob Rozakis, by himself, as the book’s regular writer. This series, the second reincarnation of the Titans and the fourth major editorial shift, emphasized characterization and continuity more than any series previously. This is also the most maligned Titans sequence – unjustly so, I feel.

The 70s Revival Line-Up.

Teen Titans #45 continued to develop the characters, especially Mal. He was given a girlfriend, Karen Beecher, and a superpower of his own. In a battle with Azrael, the angel of death, Mal won the ram’s horn, or shofar, of the angel Gabriel. He was told that by blowing It he would become the equal of any opponent, but that he should use it only when the odds were against him.

In his first outing with the Titans, the Hornblower (as he came to be known) helped to prevent the Wreckers, an adult street gang, from blowing up the Wayne Foundation building. Bruce Wayne’s reward was the financing of a new headquarters for the Teen Titans.

Heroes Galore

Teen Titans #46 was another notable story because it introduced the Joker’s daughter (from Batman Family), reintroduced the Earth-Two Fiddler on Earth-One, had a cameo by Jack Ryder (a.k.a. The Creeper) and further revealed that the new Teen Titans headquarters was slated to be a disco/restaurant in Farmingdale, New York (the hometown of writer Rozakis).

Each of the succeeding issues also added interesting details to the Teen Titans story. In #47, Martha Roberts (of the Freedom Fighters series) and Two-Face made cameo appearances. Two-Face was the biggest name-villain the Titans had yet crossed paths with. He was featured in the next issue, which also told the origin of Duela Dent. Duela is Two-Face’s daughter, but she called herself the Joker’s Daughter to repudiate her father. She changed her name after joining the Titans and, as the Harlequin, was the newest member. The Bumblebee (Karen Beecher) was also introduced in #48.

In Teen Titans #49 (August, 1977), the Titans’ disco, Gabriel’s Horn, finally opened. Mal switched back to his identity as The Guardian, saying that “too many people know that Mal Duncan – alias The Hornblower – is a member of the Teen Titans,” but secretly thinking that he couldn’t tell the others, “the real reason for the change – that my horn has been stolen.” That plotline, though, was never resolved.

The next three issues (#s 50-52) made the Titans into a 20th Century Legion of Super-Heroes. The Titans East (Robin, Speedy, Wonder Girl, Mal, Bumblebee, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Harlequin) met the Titans West (Hawk, Dove, Lilith, Gnarrk, Beast Boy, Golden Eagle, and Bat-Girl). Only The Golden Eagle (Charley Parker) and Bat-Girl (Betty Kane) were new to the series.

Titans West meets Titans East in TEEN TITANS #52 [1978].

The Golden Eagle had previously been featured inJustice League and Betty Kane, the original Bat-Girl, decided to come out of retirement to handle an emergency (her senior partner, Batwoman, had recently reappeared in Batman Family #10).

Beast Boy had been starring in a science fiction TV series, Space Trek, 2022 and Hank Hall (The Hawk) had joined the Navy. Don Hall (The Dove) already lived on the West Coast and Gnarrk stated that he and Lilith had moved to California to get away from the Titans.

But the budding plans for the Titans East /Titans West were nipped; #53 (February, 1978) was to be the final issue. As previously noted, it revealed the origin of the Titans and so did not follow up the theme of the two groups of Titans.

Len Wein has stated that Teen Titans #44-53 sold well but DC was too embarrassed about the book to continue it. Writer Rozakis said he felt management had decided that a book about junior super-heroes just wasn’t a good idea. Faced with the title’s imminent demise, Rozakis and new editor Jack C. Harris decided to do something special in the final issue.

“Every other book starts out with an origin,” Rozakis said wryly. “We ended the book with an origin.” The framing sequence for the origin tale also featured the break-up of the group. In Speedy’s words, “We’ve outgrown that Teen Titans shtick! We’re not a bunch of kids playing super-hero anymore. Someday we’ll have to replace the Justice League and we’ve all got to be ready… as individuals!”

Titans from both coasts pose for a picture in TEEN TITANS #52 [1978].

Origin of the Titans

The untold story of how Wonder Girl joined with the others to found the Titans was never explained until Teen Titans #53 (February, 1978)  – and ironically, this was their last appearance in their own book for more than two-and-a-half years.

“In the Beginning…” revealed that DC’s five most prominent junior super-heroes (Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl, and Speedy) were first brought together to solve the mystery of why their adult partners had suddenly turned criminal. It turned out to be the work of Antithesis, an alien who forced the heroes to commit crimes in order to absorb “the energy created when [they were] successful in deeds of a criminal nature.” Afterwards, the teens decided to form a loose union in which members could participate when they wanted to.

For continuity buffs, the story helped explain an “untold” Titans tale featuring Speedy that appeared in Teen Titans#4 (August, 1966) which was set at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo-about the same time that Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad’s first team-up appeared and a year before they were first called the Teen Titans. That benefit from the tale, though, was unintentional, according to its writer, Bob Rozakis.

“As far as we (he and editor Jack C. Harris) were concerned, Speedy was a member of the group from the beginning,” said Rozakis. “I think he was a much more useful character than Aqualad.”

“We kind of felt sorry for him because we had done to him what had been done to Green Arrow in the early days of the Justice League: he was ignored. So, rather than let him be an also-ran, we established his presence as an original member of the group and tied it in with his attitudes and personality as they had been established in the Green Lantern drug issues.”

Nonetheless, Speedy was not an active member of the group for the first few years of the series. Why? No strong reason, apparently. Neither Haney nor Kashdan could remember, although Kashdan suggested that it may just have been that Green Arrow didn’t have his own strip at the time and therefore Speedy’s power to draw readers may have been considered negligible.

“Once Upon A Time”, a George Pérez Pin-Up.

 


Sources for this entry: The New Titans Sourcebook [Mayfair Games, 1990], Secret Origins Annual #3 [1989], DC Secret Files, supplemented by titanstower.com


End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author