In honor of the hashtag #BlackWomenHistoryMonth, we've been celebrating our favorite black heroines and villains. Last, but not least in any capactiy is Bumblebee. This is a space in which I often preach about representation for PoC and women in an industry that is predominantly run by white men. Because of the importance of this month for Black women and the necessity that they be seen, heard, and uplifted in comic books, film, and television, it is a personal honor to me that my Blavity fam, Alex, is taking over the column to tell you about this Black woman hero, and what she means to her. - IraGreetings, Blavity Fam. It’s been awhile since I have been around in a writing capacity and I assume you’re wondering what brings me back to these writing skreets.
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Bumblebee is the answer.
Who is Bumblebee?
Bumblebee aka Karen Beecher is one of DC comics few Black heroines. Like most great Black superheroes, Bumblebee’s inception can be traced back to the 70s (specifically 1976), right smack-dab in the middle of the Blaxploitation film era.
Many comic book nerds and Blerds alike argue that she was DC’s first Black heroine, but that’s a bit hard to say when Nubia was created just three years earlier. Photo: Gifntext.comThere’s more to Bumblebee however than arguably being the first. Bumblebee is also known as scientist Karen Beecher and didn’t get sucked into the superhero life until coming to the rescue of her boyfriend the Herald (also known as Mal Duncan).
To explain, the Herald needed a little assistance impressing the folks over in the Teen Titans squad and Bumblebee had no qualms about helping her bae accomplish that. So, since she’s a freakin’ genius, she built a super-suit for herself and attacked the Teen Titans. Then, because she’s smooth as all get out, escaped unscathed without blowing her cover. Photo: TumblrOf course, she’d eventually come clean to Mal and the Teen Titans later, but because everyone was so impressed with her, she eventually got drafted onto the squad. After that, she and her bae Mal moved to San Francisco and became apart of the newly established Teen Titans West team. They would end up retiring for the hottest of minutes due to Teen Titan HQ troubles and in this time Bumblebee and Mal would get married and Bumblebee would get a job with famous S.T.A.R. Labs and develop key non-lethal weaponry.
So, think a cooler version of Ant-Man (or maybe even Janet Van Dyne’s Wasp) without all the egotism and abuse (on Hank Pym’s part) and the buffoonery and con artistry (on Scott Lang’s part). Photo: Giphy
What gives the Bee her sting?
My mentioning of Ant-Man brings me to my next segway--Bumblebee’s super-suit. So, here’s the thing. We can’t really talk about Bumblebee’s powers before parsing her suit first. To start off, Bumblebee’s suit is what we would call a high-tech battle suit that has multiple parts, parcels, and pieces:
- Her Cybernetic Helmet - Attached to Bumblebee’s mind and spin, this helmet empowers Bumblebee by granting her access to electricity through solar power.
- Her Eyepieces - In some iteration of Bumblebee, Bumblebee is wearing goggles within her cybernetic helmet and within these goggles are these “eyepieces” that are actually quartz prisms that discharge energy similar to that of a bee sting.
- Her Exoskeleton - AKA her wings. They allow ya girl Bumblebee to fly, inhance her movement and agility, and grant her some serious vibration abilities that allow her to disrupt sound (sonic disruption). These bad boys also act as much-needed body armor. She can also produce very powerful hypersonic blasts.
Because of those facets of her super-suit that I mentioned above, this is a shortlist of her abilities (not to mention that she is quite the brilliant research engineer, which always helps):- Fly- Sonic Disruption
- Superhuman Durability- Superhuman Strength- Superhuman Agility
The Teen TitansOf course, while her publication history is quite interesting (can’t say as much now since I don’t like the New 52 and don’t even want to hear about what they may or may not have done to her in the New 52), I for one still vividly remember her portrayal in Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans
. Photo: DC Comics Unlike her canonical counterpart, this Bumblebee (voiced by the always amazing T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh - famously known as Tanya Baxter) made her first appearance by infiltrating H.I.V.E for Aqualad and playing the game of double agent until she revealed herself later to H.I.V.E and Cyborg--who was Stone at the time.
My favorite part of this particular arc is that pretty much everybody in H.I.V.E was under some sort of mind control voodoo hoodoo due to Brother Blood--EXCEPT Bumblebee.So of course, when the One True Chet™
Brother Blood and everybody else inquire about how she was able to resist Brother Blood’s Chetbeckery™, Bumblebee states matter-of-factly that
“There’s not a man alive who can tell me what to do!” Photo: GiphyAnd you know, while she was missing her “super-suit” this time around, I thought it was cool that they implied that she didn’t need it to use her superpowers (which came naturally to her in this moment) and also did the extra work to inform the audience that she was still a genius. A cocky, assertive, and brilliant genius.
Now this version of Bumblebee is why I am fascinated with her character to begin with. It is not very far-fetched for me to say that plenty of female/female-identifying superheroes do not get to be cocky, assertive, or powerful without being labeled problematic or a loose cannon, unstable or--my favorite-- a bitch. Photo: Giphy
Indeed, if you look at powerful, HBIC superheroes like Bumblebee, you might peep that the rhetoric surrounding them wreaks of the words I just mentioned. If you’re still confused, just look at how they portray a force of nature like Jean Grey and reduce her to being crazy (do not even get me started on the “Absolute Power Is Something Women Can Never Grasp
™ trope) or how we have less punch-y female superheroes for this reason
. Because, for some reason, men cannot comprehend that female superheroes can have different super powers. They cannot comprehend that not all these superheroes should be reduced to harnessing tactile or touchy feely powers--just because they are women -- just b
ecause some men cower in fear of an unapologetically secure and powerful woman.And that fear increases ten-fold when that unapologetically secure and powerful woman is BLACK. Of course, that fear is not my problem and it is certainly not Bumblebee’s problem.
So here’s to you, Bumblebee. Thanks for always being a cocky, bad-ass Black girl. Photo: Giphy
I do this because I love the culture and the community. Did you enjoy this post? Let me know on Twitter and share it with the homies on Facebook. This post concludes our Women's History Month guest post extravaganza. It's been amazing to read the perspectives of these amazing women and their thoughts about these characters that deserve more love. Next week, your boy is back. Great things to come for the month of April. I love the feedback, so let me know how you think this is going so far! - Ira