Bee-Man in action. Artist: Jack Sparling


Original Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Harvey Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creators: Otto Binder (writer) and Bill Draut (artist)
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Joe Simon was at least partly responsible for some of the greatest hits in comic book history. Hits like Captain AmericaThe Boy CommandosYoung Romance … But long after his stellar collaboration with Jack Kirby (X-Men, Thor) ended, he was also responsible for some of the most oddball concepts in comics. Concepts like The Green Team … The Outsiders …

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… (no relation) … Prez … Among the oddest were the Harvey Comics superheroes of the mid-1960s, and a stand-out even in that oddball crowd was a guy called Bee-Man.

Harvey, which for years had been known only for Little Dot, Wendy the Good Little Witch and other comics aimed at very young children, had given Simon the task of creating a whole new line for them, aimed at older kids, including war comics, fantasy/sci-fi, and superheroes. Simon's earlier associations with the company had produced Stuntman, Boys' Ranch and a few others.

Double-Dare Adventures gave evidence of having been planned as two regular-sized comic books, but ultimately combined into a single double-sized anthology title, much like Unearthly Spectaculars (Jack Q. Frost). If it had been two comics, at least one of them would have been a single-hero title like Big Hero (Jigsaw) or Top Secret (Spyman). The star would have been Bee-Man. As it really was, Double-Dare starred Bee-man on its cover. The cover date was December, 1966. Bee-Man's creators were writer Otto Binder (Captain Marvel, Supergirl) and artist Bill Draut (who has worked for both DC and Marvel over the years).

The first oddball thing about Barry E. Eames (the initials — get it?) as a hero was the fact that he wasn't very heroic. He started out as a low-level technician working for the U.S. space program, who decided that since he wasn't being sufficiently appreciated in his job as a drone, he was entitled to divert a probe returning from Mars, so only he could find it in the desert and avail himself of the riches it would no-doubt contain.

After all, you never know. It might have contained a complete set of the Martian edition of Uncle Scrooge in mint condition. What the heck, comic book characters have done stupider things than look for wealth in returning space probes, even if it's hard to think of any.

What he found looked more like a large meteorite than a piece of spacefaring hardware, and it opened to reveal it was packed with Martian bees, which stung him repeatedly. Later, he was found wandering aimlessly in the desert mumbling something about the bees … the bees … At the hospital where he was examined, his increased strength and healing ability were attributed to a tripled heart rate and the fact that his blood seemed to have been replaced by something else.

The experience doesn't seem to have fazed him. First chance he got, he escaped and got back inside the meteorite. Then it sealed itself with him inside and returned to the vicinity of Mars. On Deimos, one of that planet's tiny satellites, giant bees informed him that the stings had converted him into a bee-like alien, the other bee-like aliens would soon be conquering Earth, and he'd be held prisoner to keep him from blabbing. They also gave him a superhero suit perfectly tailored to his human form, which included certain bee-themed weapons, even tho their plans called for him not to get a chance to use them.

He escaped and returned to Earth, but the bugs needn't have worried about him spoiling their plans, since by that time, he was thoroughly on their side. He carried on lengthy monologues about how insects would someday rule the planet and everyone would be their slaves and whatnot. He was interrupted only by sudden weakness, which he remedied by consuming more honey than anybody possibly could without eating himself to death.

Aside from the obvious fact that he was a raving lunatic, another oddball thing about Barry was that he wasn't even called Bee-Man. In an apparent failure of the person who laid out the cover to consult the script, the series was called "Bee-Man", despite the fact that the character referred to himself only as "The Bee".

Whatever his name was, he was cured of his psychological condition by government scientists, who got him back to the straight and narrow. He eventually went to work for the F-Bee-I — no kidding! — tho one might reasonably suspect the sincerity of a man who takes the side of the same people who'd been responsible for a radical alteration in his mental state.

But this sort of question is seldom asked in funnybooks. Bee-man's, or The Bee's entire career, crazed villainy and redemption, spanned only two issues — that's how long Double-Dare lasted, with the other dated March, 1967. Binder wrote both, but the second was drawn by Dick Ayers (Ghost Rider, Human Torch). Barry got both covers — the other half's main feature, The Glowing Gladiator, was buried in the back.

Simon's entire mid-'60s Harvey line was similarly short-lived. Within months, they'd all disappeared without a trace.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Comics.