Abner Jenkins was a master mechanic at an aircraft parts factory who became dissatisfied with his boring, low paying job. Using his considerable mechanical knowledge, Jenkins built an armor-plated, strength-augmenting suit, a pair of gravity-defying wings, suction-fingered gloves, and a cybernetic control helmet. Calling himself the Beetle, Jenkins decided to use his battle-suit for fame, wealth, and adventure. Believing a victory over half the Fantastic Four would make him an overnight sensation, the Beetle chose to lure the Human Torch and the Thing into battle. However, the Thing and the Torch defeated him, and he was sent to prison.
Paroled a short time later, he sought revenge on the Torch, but found himself in battle with Spider-Man instead. He kidnapped the girlfriend of the Torch, and the Torch briefly battled Spider-Man, thinking he was in league with the Beetle. Once again, with help from the Torch, he was defeated after a cage of high-temperature flame was created around him. He was jailed once more. Upon his release, he decided to forego petty revenge and concentrated on the acquisition of wealth. At one point the Beetle was mentally dominated and recruited by the Collector to serve as his unwilling agent. Under the Collector's domination, the Beetle faced the Avengers. He battled Daredevil and then, allied with Gladiator, fought him again. The Beetle also battled Spider-Man again.
The Beetle was created by Stan Lee and Carl Burgos and first appeared in Strange Tales #123. Although, Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley deserve credit as 30 years later they chose the character and reinvented him for Thunderbolts. He first appeared as Mach I, a member of the Thunderbolts, in Incredible Hulk Vol.2 issue 449 (1997).
Abe has undergone a lot of changes since his creation. Initially a Human Torch villain, the character soon also became a recurring foe for Daredevil, Iron Man and most notably Spider-Man. As a villain, his overall contribution to the Marvel Universe was minimal, his most prominent action was probably forming the Sinister Syndicate to eliminate Spider-Man. Beetle also joined an incarnation of the Masters of Evil and a rather forgettable foray with the Sinister Seven in the 90s. Not long afterwards, the character became a founding member of the Thunderbolts and went on to fully reform and shed his villainous past. Abe also nobly served a prison sentence for his past crimes, proving he truly has moved on from his past. He has also been romantically involved on-again-off-again with his similarly reformed team-mate Songbird.
Major Story Arcs
As the Beetle
After their first battle, the Beetle wanted to gain revenge on the Human Torch so he searched for him, he followed the Human Torch, studied him, and then knew what he must do. He attempted to kidnap The Human Torch's girlfriend Doris. When the Beetle arrived at Doris's house, he encountered Spider-Man. The two fought, but the Beetle was able to eventually make a getaway. When the Human Torch arrived, he saw webbing thought Spider-Man was responsible for the kidnapping of his girlfriend. He then chased Spider-Man, who led him to the Beetle. They eventually caught the Beetle and he was sent back to jail.
The Beetle's original battlesuit was trashed after an encounter with Iron Man. Shortly afterward he designed a more sophisticated suit. He hired the Ringer so that he could analyze Spider-Man's fighting style and strategies and program them into his battle computer. Unfortunately for him, he put a vital system right on his helmet and Spider-Man snapped it off causing the suit to shut down.
Beetle would spend several years being beaten by Spider-Man, Iron Man and Daredevil. The Beetle's armor was upgraded by Justin Hammer (one of his regular employers) and thus brought him to the attention of Iron Man during Demon in a Bottle and later during his Armor Wars. None of his Mark II armors would last long after the original was negated.
From Villain to Hero
Abner came to the attention of Baron Zemo who was organizing a new Masters of Evil. When the majority of the worlds heroes sacrificed themselves to stop Onslaught, the Masters of Evil came up with the idea to impersonate a new team of Heroes. They became the Thunderbolts. Abner took up the identity of MACH-I. Their plan was to gain the trust of the people and gain access to sensitive equipment that would help them take over the world. During their time as Heroes many of the Masters of Evil started to like the admiration and respect they were earning in their new roles.
Abner also became interested in Melissa Gold, the villainess formerly known as Screaming Mimi, now going by Songbird. The two became a couple much to the displeasure of Baron Zemo. The Black Widow, suspecting who the Thunderbolts really were, cornered the duo when they were alone and related to them a story of redemption and how several of the Avengers themselves were once villains to saw the light. Before Songbird and MACH-I could decide what to do the heroes returned from Counter-Earth and Zemo outed them to the world. The Thunderbolts initially went along with Zemo (as the heroes were after them) and when Zemo set his plan into motion most of the team turned on him. After stopping his plan the Thunderbolts went on the run and tried to prove that they had really turned over a new leaf and wanted to be the heroes they had tried to be before.
Punishment for his Crimes
Hawkeye inserted himself into the group and seeing the potential in this team tried to broker a deal to get them pardoned. Unfortunately the government didn't go for it but Hawkeye didn't tell them this. Part of the deal included Abner turning himself in for a murder he committed while he was the Beetle. Reluctantly, even after Songbird offered to flee with him, he agreed to turn himself in. Abner knew doing so would be extremely risky as many of the inmates knew that he had turned against them and even put them in prison. Some despised him before that simply because they already didn't like him. Abner however managed to survive, even coming once again to the attention of former employer Justin Hammer.
Upon his "release" Abe's looks were changed by the Fixer to go with his new identity of Matthew Davis. Abe's new face at first caused some friction with his girlfriend Songbird (as Fixer had transformed him from a Caucasian to African-American) but she grew used to it. His features eventually returned to normal and he is still working with the Fixer. After the Thunderbolts stop Special Agent Gyrich from killing all metahumans with nanobots the Thunderbolts were all issued pardons in exchange for never donning their costumes again. They were unable to keep this promise as Graviton returned and killed all of the Redeemers, thus the V-Battalion issued the Thunderbolts new version of their uniforms and armors. Abe's MACH-III armor was designed by the V-Battalion (as opposed to the two developed by himself and the Fixer). The battle with Graviton landed the Thunderbolts on Counter-Earth where they were heroes. Upon returning Abe decided (much to Melissa's chagrin) to return to prison to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence (despite already having a Presidential Pardon).
New Thunderbolts and Civil War
Upon his official release he re-created the Thunderbolts (which had temporarily disbanded) to help give other villains seeking redemption a chance (or in some cases a chance to be in the spotlight for the other side). He designed and once again renamed himself MACH-IV. In the event of the Civil War, Abe has joined the Hero Hunters and is overseeing three college students using the previous Beetle armors (the first beetle theme design, the second streamlined update, and the third tank-like armor). Not long afterwards, he left the Thunderbolts and the team was handled to corrupt business tycoon Norman Osborn and was staffed with unrepentive serial killers such as Bullseye and Venom.
After Osborn's rise to power following the Skrull Invasion, one of his big targets was the ex-Thunderbolt and constant thorn-in-his-side; Songbird. After Songbird went into hiding, Abe and the Fixer were interrogated by H.A.M.M.E.R. agents who were looking for her. Osborn's Thunderbolts, who were now exclusively a wet-works team of murderers and mercenaries were soon sent after Melissa and also the Black Widow. With help from Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors, Songbird and Black Widow formed a temporary "Thunderbolts Resistance" with Abe and Fixer.
Eventually, Songbird was tracked down and things were looking bleak for her. As luck would have it friction amongst Osborn's black-ops team, particularly between the more honorable members such as Paladin against the murderous Mister X and Scourge, allowed Abe to intervene in a new MACH-IV armor and save the injured Melissa.
After Osborn was removed from power, he rejoined the Thunderbolts which was now led by the Avenger Luke Cage. While Abe finished off his own prison sentence he came up with lots of ideas to update and upgrade security of the Raft the prison for super-villains. He and Fixer implemented the ideas together as well as upgrading Abe's armor to MACH-V to be a member of the new Thunderbolts. He, as well as Songbird, joined with a big team of Avengers called upon in Fear Itself: The Fearless.
Government Parole Officer and return to Thunderbolts
Abe, having upgraded his armor to MACH-VII, became the parole officer of his former Sinister Syndicate and Thunderbolts team-mate Boomerang. Although Abe wanted to trust his former friend, he often felt that Boomerang was lying and not taking his parole serious enough.
Eventually, Abe, now known as MACH-X, took on a job as a security enforcer for the super-prison facility known as Pleasant Hill. This was a location in which villains where robbed of their own identities and given new ones as all-American stand-up citizens. During an outbreak of the facility, when the supervillains regained their own identity, Abe found out that some of his former teammates where also put there, despite their former efforts of becoming good. This got Abe to join his former teammates and reassembeling the Thunderbolts in hopes of puting a stop of the illegal activities of SHIELD.
Powers and Equipment
Abner has no superhuman powers, but has extensive knowledge of mechanics and engineering.
As the Beetle, Abner designed and wore a suit of full body powered armour that granted him superhuman strength and durability and artificial winged flight. The suit's gloves contained pneumatic suction-grippers, enabling him to cling to walls or lift things with his fingertips. The suit could also create an electrostatic energy discharge referred to as the "electro-bite". On the back of the suit are a set of ultra-tough mylar wings powered by super efficient micro-motors which enable him to fly. Antennae built into the suit's helmet allowed reception and ultra-efficient conversion of microwaves, providing the suit with a constantly-replenishing power supply. A mini-computer built into the chest-plate feeds data to heads-up displays in the helmet, providing him with constantly-updated tactical analysis of his opponent's movements.
As MACH-I through MACH-IV, Abner designed a new suit of power armor which granted superhuman strength, durability, and flight as the Beetle suit did. This new suit contains a variety of different weapon systems, however, instead of the insect-themed powers of the previous armor.
There is a Beetle in the Ultimate universe who is an operative of the Latverian government who opposes Spider-Man. His identity is unknown, however the existence of an ultimate version of Abe Jenkins was also confirmed among a list of names in a database.
In the Marvel Zombies reality Abe appears alongside the Thunderbolts and is wearing the MACH-I armor. The group is fighting a zombie Thor and then Nova. He was later killed by Human Torch's flame blast.
In Other Media
The Beetle appears in an episode of the 1981 Spider-Man series (the show which would later become Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends). He was voiced by Christopher Collins.
Iron Man: The Animated Series
The Beetle briefly appears in the "Armor Wars" story arc from Iron Man: The Animated Series, where Iron Man defeated him and destroyed his armor. He was voiced by John Reilly, who played the character with an English accent as a nod to the band The Beatles.
The Beetle appears as a recurring antagonist in Ultimate Spider-Man, voiced by Steven Blum. This version of the character is a deadly mercenary with a high-tech suit of armor, who clashed with Agent Coulson in the past. He returns to kill Coulson, but is thwarted. He appears in several other episodes, such as when he battles Hawkeye, and later joins the Sinister Six.
Beetle appears in the third season of the series, which takes place in the same continuity as Ultimate Spider-Man. After having quit the Sinister Six, Beetle is seen as part of the Masters of Evil, and is defeated along with the rest of his teammates. The group is later recruited by Baron Zemo, who has them pose as a team of heroes named the Thunderbolts, with Beetle changing his identity to MACH-IV. Like the rest of his teammates, MACH-IV eventually reforms and becomes a legitimate heroe. He is voiced by Mark Hanson.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series
The Beetle appeared in Super Nintendo and Sega Gensis games based off Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
Spider-Man: Lethal Foes
The Beetle appeared as a boss character in this Japanese video game.
The Beetle appears as a boss character in this game, predating his actual appearance in the Ultimate comics. This version of the character is an agent hired by Doctor Doom to commit various mysterious acts, including stealing a vial containing the Sandman, freeing the Green Goblin from captivity, and later capturing Venom. He was voiced by Tucker Smallwood.
- A Beetle action figure was released for the Spider-Man: The Animated Series line, even though the character never appeared in that show.
- A Beetle Lego figure was released as one of the Ultimate Spider-Man Lego kits.
- A Beetle action figure was released as part of the Marvel Legends Amazing Spider-Man 2 line, though once again the character was not present in the actual film. The design was taken from the character's Ultimate look.