Welcome to the D-List: Beetle
The “Beetle” costume has been in existence for more than 5 decades with 3 different villains adorning the outfit over the years. The aesthetics of the suit have generally stayed the same (spoilers- they’re all modeled after the insect) with only minor details having been changed. The verminous armor has typically granted the user multiple abilities including flight, super-strength, access to built-in weapons systems, and D-list-villain status. The current baddie to adopt the Beetle persona, Janice Lincoln, was given an extremely quick introduction into the Marvel Universe followed by supporting roles in a few less-than-popular comics. It’s time to shine a spotlight on Janice Lincoln, and let the current Beetle infest the D-List.
Created by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice, Janice’s first appearance was uncredited in Captain America #606, cover-dated August 2010. She was hired to drug the then-Captain America, Bucky Barnes, while posing as a bartender. The ruse worked (his democracy-sense wasn’t tingling, I guess), and Cap believed he was fighting a group of Nazi’s outside of the bar when they were actually police officers. After being treated by Dr. Jane Foster, Bucky rightfully suspected that the bartender was the evildoer, so he and Black Widow tracked the villain to her apartment building. Captain America #607 was where Janice, though still unnamed, made her first official appearance as the Beetle, ready to fight the two heroes when they came to her door. During the battle, Beetle very vocally mocked Cap and Widow, eventually shooting at civilians in order to distract the two. Like a good D-list villain, however, she took quite a beating and was brought into custody at The Raft, a prison for super-villains.
This story-arc didn’t characterize Janice as anything more than a mean young woman wearing silly pajamas. She understood how to use the Beetle armor but didn’t seem like a particularly skilled fighter (to be fair, she was fighting against Captain friggin America and Black friggin Widow). Beetle was introduced as a small part of a large plan in order to publicly shame Captain America, so it’s no wonder that she was squashed like a bug and thrown in prison. Thankfully, Janice was not forgotten, and her criminal career began to spread its wings and take flight.
Her escape was never specifically explained, but The Raft was destroyed by Juggernaut during the events of “Fear Itself” in 2011, so it made sense to see Beetle alongside the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six stealing technology from a science lab. Though beaten by Ock-Spidey (the less you understand that, the better off you are), the Sinister Six was given a comic book series that featured Beetle, Boomerang, Shocker, Speed Demon and Overdrive, named Superior Foes of Spider-Man. By the way, you read that right – they kept the name “Sinister Six” even though it was a team with only 5 members (numbers is hard).
Though Superior Foes focused primarily on Boomerang, Beetle was initially characterized as a young, indifferent millennial almost perpetually attached to her phone. When Boomerang held meetings for the team to plan robberies, Beetle rarely paid attention, opting instead to check Twitter, Facebook, and play Plants vs. Zombies (damn kids these days). When the self-appointed leader was absent from a meeting, however, Beetle took it upon herself to take charge. Though Boomerang would regain control of the group shortly thereafter, it was interesting to see Janice take initiative to lead the team. When they arrived outside of Owl’s hideout ready to rob the villain, Beetle handed out binders full of information about the heist in order to help her teammates.
It became apparent that Beetle wasn’t really lazy, she just didn’t respect or trust Boomerang’s leadership (surely he wouldn’t do anything to hurt the team). She took the time to plan out many details in order to make the heist an effective and successful one, illustrating her as a hardworking individual. Unfortunately, because Boomerang betrayed them (dammit!), Overdrive, Speed Demon and Beetle were caught by Owl and his henchmen. Though tied to a chair, Beetle managed to access her phone and send a text message. Moments later, the villain Tombstone broke through the side of the building and rescued the three captured criminals from the Owl’s clutches. Once free, Beetle took off her mask and said, “Hi daddy!” to Tombstone.
Grab some popcorn and get comfy, because it’s time for a flashback!
Janice pulled off her first heist in grade school at a friend’s birthday party, stealing all of the presents (what a gifted young criminal) with her dad’s help. Years later, she was shown graduating as the valedictorian of her class from Columbia Law School. This was an interesting contrast, as she clearly took after her father’s criminal tendencies but was also extremely intelligent. Tombstone thought his daughter would fit well as a financial lawyer in New York, able to make more money than he ever did as a criminal (actually, a financial lawyer in New York sounds like a criminal career), but Janice wanted nothing more than to be a super-villainous crime boss. When her dad began to tell her that female crime bosses have never been successful, Janice lectured him about equality, claiming that she would be the woman to break the glass ceiling in crime. Ever the good parent, Tombstone acquiesced his blessing, but would not finance her dreams – if Janice wanted the costume and gear to be a super-villain, she had to come up with the money on her own.
A hard-headed and motivated young woman, Janice took a job at a law firm in order to save money. Then came the fateful day when she was asked to mediate a case between Baron Zemo and Fixer. Not only did Janice help settle their argument, but when it became apparent that they were looking for low-level villainy in a scheme against Captain America, she volunteered for the job (explaining her first appearance). Fixer outfitted her with armor, propulsion systems, and weaponry in the latest Beetle costume.
In that origin iss
ue, Janice Lincoln was shown to be a strong, female character, though she desired nothing more than elite-villain status. One of the best moments in the comic was a montage on a splash-page showing a day in the life of Janice – working out at the gym, volunteering at a soup kitchen, lecturing college students, going on a date, and studying the Zemo/Fixer case throughout the entire day. Combine her busy schedule with the comments that she made to her father regarding women’s equality, and Beetle was clearly a powerful example to young women everywhere (who want to break the law), that women can do anything that men can do. She tried to take control of the Sinister Six in order to prove that point, and I believe that she would have been (relatively) successful had Boomerang not returned. Owing no more loyalty to the Sinister Six, Beetle was shown fleeing an enormous brawl in the final issue of Superior Foes.
Don’t bug out, true believers! Beetle most recently appeared in the Ant-Man series’ starring Scott Lang. Though Janice met Scott when the two were applying for a security position at Stark Industries, Beetle had no intention of giving up her criminal ambitions and made an attempt on Stark’s life (Beetle tried to *ahem* exterminate him). Lang saved the hero, but Janice was able to flee. Scott then ran into Janice at a bar immediately before the events of Secret Wars. Though Lang wanted to take Janice into custody, she convinced the lonely hero to buy her a drink. A funny exchange occurred after the two woke up in bed together the next morning, but Lincoln seemed to like him, commenting that she might actually call him sometime. Having survived the events of Secret Wars and making good on her word, Beetle seems to enjoy hooking up with the hero.
I’m extremely happy to see that Beetle is still being utilized, as not many of these “Welcome to the D-List-ers” have much, if any, role in the Marvel Universe anymore. Nick Spencer, the writer of Superior Foes of Spider-Man and the Ant-Man series’ is an excellent writer and thankfully seems to enjoy using Beetle in his books. Janice Lincoln could have easily been introduced, though never named, in two issues of Captain America and then forgotten into obscurity, so it’s satisfying to see Spencer using a low-tier character in his different books. The first Beetle, Abner Jenkins, gave up the suit and code-name nearly 20 years ago, and the second Beetle, Leila Davis, wore the suit very briefly before getting squished. I thought this Beetle was going to disappear into the catacombs of the Raft, never to be seen again, but I was happily proven wrong.
Janice Lincoln has been characterized as a self-reliant and sassy young woman who is intelligent and dedicated to her dream, even if her dream is less than legal. Though she appeared uninterested and unmotivated at times alongside the Sinister Six, it was clear that she believed that she should have been the one in charge of the team. Unfortunately, she didn’t have all of the necessary resources to be a truly powerful leader (or a team of even remotely intelligent villains), but that made Janice Lincoln a perfect fit for the D-list.
This Beetle has only appeared in one alternate timeline story – no cartoons, no trading cards, no statues, and no collaboration with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. However, all of that is excusable because a great writer is still incorporating her in his stories. It’s my hope that Janice Lincoln has a role in the books for years to come so she may continue bugging the Marvel Universe.