April 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Hero Case Files #107: Blue Jay

The DC hero who was a Marvel knock-off with all the powers of a small bird.

Marvel Comics has, for years, had a somewhat well-known group of characters called the Squadron Supreme, a knock-off of DC’s Justice League that various Marvel writers could use mostly when they wanted an excuse to have the Avengers smack the League around, or eventually team-up.

As it turns out, DC has had a few similar characters over the years, though not as well-known.  One of those was a guy named Blue Jay.

He’s the one with the wings.  The Champions of Angor also went through four or five different team names in their own history.

Blue Jay was a member of a superhero team from another world, originally an alien planet but later just an alternate reality version of Earth.  As it turned out, the idea of Blue Jay, the Squadron Supreme, and the other such characters was to create unofficial crossovers between DC and Marvel comics.  They couldn’t exactly use each other’s characters, but they could create knock-offs, and the people working on the team books trying to pull this off were all rather friendly.  In fact, Marvel’s Squadron Supreme first appeared in an issue of Avengers the same month that the Champions of Angor would appear in Justice League of America.  Now, the Squadron stuck around for a while, sometimes as heroes and sometimes as their villainous counterparts the Squadron Sinister.  Marvel’s Superman analogue Hyperion has existed in multiple different versions, the most recent of which was a member of the Avengers and a good friend to Thor.

DC’s version of the Avengers was a bit less successful.  Their premier issue had the Champions and some Justice Leaguers converge on a planet looking to nab the same bad guy.  Due to language differences, the two teams couldn’t understand each other and a fight broke out.  However, this was DC Comics, and heroes there generally get along, so the brawl was mostly a giant splash panel and some other smaller panels endings with both groups making friends.  As it was, the Champions’ line-up for that first appearance was Wandjina (Thor), Jack B. Quick (Quicksilver), the Silver Sorceress (Scarlett Witch), and Blue Jay (Yellowjacket).

And actually, it is with a little mild embarrassment that it took me years to realize Blue Jay was supposed to be Hank Pym.  He didn’t talk to birds or bugs, never did the giant-man thing, and a host of other issues, besides the fact that I largely missed the Yellowjacket era of Avengers anyway.  The others were obvious.  Wandjina was a big caped dude with what looked like an enchanted axe.  The Silver Sorceress and Jack B. Quick were even more obvious.  Later trips to the Champions’ homeworld would reveal other members like Tin Man and the Bowman, and yeah, they were obviously Iron Man and Hawkeye.  I just never made the connection between Yellowjacket and Blue Jay until the day I did and everything slid into place.  More on that below.

Anyway, what powers did Blue Jay possess?  Well, he could shrink down to the size of a small bird and then have a pair of working wings.  He also had some pretty sharp eyesight.  That’s about it.

Post-Crisis, Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress, and Wandjina would return with a new mission to abolish nuclear weapons.  By this point, Angor was established as an alternate version of the Earth, and it turned out there was a very good reason for the Champions to be against nuclear weapons:  they were the sole survivors of a nuclear holocaust.  Wandjina would die not long after stopping a meltdown at a power plant, and the two remaining Champions would eventually join Justice League Europe.

By the way, it turned out Angor was blown up by a supervillain team called the Extremists.  They were likewise a group of Marvel knock-offs, known to the League as Lord Havoc (Dr. Doom), Dr. Diehard (Magneto), Gorgon (Dr. Octopus), Tracer (Sabertooth), and Dreamslayer (Dormammu/Mephisto).  The Extremists coming to the League Earth and almost repeating the nuclear holocaust was actually a rather cool story where if I revealed how the League beat most of the Extremists, you’d think it was incredibly stupid when it actually worked out well in print so I’m not saying what happened.  Just trust me:  it came off cooler than it sounds if someone flat out tells you what happened.

As it is, Blue Jay and the Sorceress were basically a pair of friends.  They were never romantically linked, but it seemed as if you couldn’t see one without the other.  It likewise didn’t help that the League writers seemed more interested in the Sorceress than Blue Jay.  He mostly seemed to just fly around and sometimes get captured.

Blue Jay couldn’t even rate his own solo pin-up.

Let’s face it:  his powers weren’t terrible useful.  One annual had the JLE scattered through time to meet other DC characters from other eras.  Blue Jay popped up in front of the Silver Age Legion of Super-heroes having one of their occasional try-outs.  Thinking Blue Jay had teleportation powers, they were prepared to overlook the fact he was too old by Legion standards to let him join.  Upon learning he didn’t teleport and only shrunk and grew wings, the offer was quickly rescinded.  Blue Jay ended up joining the Substitute Legion for people with less useful powers to occasionally help out when the main Legion was off doing something else.

As it is, Blue Jay soon found himself even more alone when Dreamslayer managed to fatally wound the Sorceress.  Sorceress managed to take Dreamslayer out as she was dying, but Blue Jay took it pretty hard.

The main universe Blue Jay was last seen helping the Justice League just before the New 52 started.  After being captured by the Crime Syndicate and some others, Blue Jay managed to escape long enough to help the League defeat the bad guys from Earth-3.  He then opted to fly off into the multiverse where he maybe wouldn’t be seen as a joke.  That’s, um, rather sad.  He’s probably still flying.

Though, to be fair, he was somewhat badass on another Earth.  Between Crises there was a story from Earth-8 and a new version of the Extremists.  Riffing off Marvel’s then-recent Civil War, that Earth’s Champions were militarized and the Extremists, though still somewhat the same characters as before with a new member here or there, were now the good guys.  The Blue Jay there was Jay Abrams, Vice President of the United States.  The President was the Americommando, and he was corrupt.  As it was, Blue Jay ended up joining with the Extremists to save the day.

And he looked like this!

It’s probably worth noting that reading that mini-series, and seeing Blue Jay had a wife who also shrunk and grew wings, was where I finally figured out the Yellowjacket connection.  But ultimately, that was a Blue Jay who seemed capable of doing stuff, so maybe that would have helped keep the character around longer.

He also dealt with marital problems better than Yellowjacket, but that’s not important right now.