Bumblebee Sketches by Instagram Artist Paul the Bambino
25 years ago - Karen Beecher is born.
11 years ago - 14-year-old Karen writes an essay about applied applications of White Dwarf energy, and is published in a peer-reviewed science journal.
10 years ago - 15-year-old Karen graduates high school early, and begins her undergrad studies.
8 years ago - 17-year-old Karen's metagene is activated in an accident with Ray Palmer's white dwarf star. She begins building her special equipment and joins the Teen Titans West as Bumblebee, where she meets Mal Duncan.
7 years ago - 18-year-old Karen earns her bachelor's degree, and chooses to wait on her post grad studies to focus on being a superhero. She goes with the Teen Titans West to Tartarus to rescue Lilith Clay from the Elder Titans of Myth.
6 years ago - 19-year-old Karen & the Teen TItans West try to stop the Ravens from stealing a nuclear weapon, but are decimated when Cheshire detonates the bomb in Qurac. Her powers are warped by the radiation, and her life is saved by Niles Caulder. She joins the Doom Patrol, beginning her graduate studies.
2 years ago - 23-year-old Karen & the Doom Patrol help Gar Logan & Teen Titans to recover Rita Farr. When Niles Caulder is killed by Prometheus, she chooses to take over his labs, joining Gar's new Doom Patrol.
If you grew up enjoying DC's animated series, you're probably VERY familiar with Bumblebee. She shows up all the time, and with good reason; she's a very dynamic, cool character with interesting powers and a fun personality. You'd never really know that from reading the comics, however, as she's generally depicted as a peripheral character at best. We want to create a character drawn from her comic book roles, but one that better lives up to the way she's depicted in her many appearances all over the larger world of DC media.
Bumblebee's Comic History
Karen Beecher showed up for the first time in a few panels of Teen Titans #45 in 1976, where we learn that she is Mal Duncan's girlfriend, and that she's angry at the Titans for not accepting him. She went on to attack the titans in her Bumblebee costume, attempting to give Mal a chance to look good to his fellow Titans, but they all came to his defense, and she realized she was wrong about them, revealing her identity, and joining them. It... doesn't make a lot of sense. The book was cancelled less than a year later.
Technically, Bumblebee is DC's very first black female superhero, despite that ignominious beginning. She would continue to be remembered as a one-time Titan, but where she really started to shine was in practically any DC spin-off media. She led the Teen TItans East in the animated series, became a stand out character in Young Justice, and is one of the core players in the DC Super Hero Girls series. She's always an effortlessly cool and exciting character, although the comics never really found anything to do with her that really used her obvious popularity. After her powers went haywire in the leadup to Infinite Crisis she joined the Doom Patrol for Keith Giffen's 2009 series, and would later become a member of the 2016 Rebirth Titans series. Still, the best takes on her have always been in animation.
Our Bumblebee Story
We're going to tap into one obvious element of Bumblebee here, and that's her clear parallels to the incredibly popular Marvel character, Wasp. They're so obviously similar, and that by itself should inform just how Karen should be wielding her powers. We want her ability to shrink to be a bonafide superpower, not just something done with technology. To do that we made her the teen lab assistant to Ray Palmer. This was also done in the Young Justice animated series, and it seems like a pretty obvious way to start. We also want to lean really heavily into her status as a teenage scientific genius, because this is a character that is going to go on and take over as the Doom Patrol's resident super-scientist.
We're absolutely going to take the idea of bringing her into the Doom Patrol, particularly when the team restarts under the leadership of Beast Boy. She works really well for that role. We imagine that the results of her irradiation was an inversion of her powers; that she now is naturally tiny and has to exert her abilities to grow to normal size rather than visa versa.
There have been a number of cool animated takes on Karen's costume, and while that makes it a lot of fun to look for art of her, it does make it a little tricky to narrow down exactly what our version of her should look like. While her suit is technically technological, it shouldn't seem overly-designed... simple black and yellow jumpsuits that expose her arms and midriff seem to be the way to go. While the b-shaped weapons from the Teen Titans animated series were fun, it just works so much better to have her stinger blasts come from her gloves. I'm tempted to suggest that she built her most recent costume from repurposed HIVE technology... but that's probably a little too on the nose.
One note about her hair; Her original costume covered her head completely, but almost all later versions have left her hair exposed. In her most recent comic appearances, as well as in the DC Super Hero Girls animated series, she has flowing brown hair sometimes with a streak of color. This is all pretty cool, but frankly, I just don't think you can top her two afro-buns. That's just WAY too iconic a look, something that gives her an unmistakable silhouette and also celebrates her as a black female superhero. That has to be what she uses.
Bumblebee's constant place of prominence in so much spinoff media is a pretty obvious indication that she is a character poised to play a huge role if she's ever given a platform. Our redesigned Doom Patrol is deliberately being built as a more center-stage group of exciting characters, and a huge part of that is Karen. We've seen a character with exactly these powers fulfill a major role over in Marvel, but arguably Bumblebee is even better poised to make an impact; she gets to add all the skills of being a super-scientist to her already cool set of superpowers, and gets to do it all with a healthy dose of black girl magic.
The plan moving forward with the Doom Patrol is to start using Raven to allow them to dip into some of the more Metaphysical content that the team has been famous for, and that means that Karen gets to be the scientist on the team dealing with weird super sciences. I'd love to see this new Doom Patrol become explorers of the weirder parts of the DC universe, and a character like Karen, who is so obviously meant to be front and center, can push them into that space.