1. “And Introducing Fatman” (Action Comics #42, 1942)
Is this the first instance of a character in comics calling herself “Queen Bee”? I’m too lazy to research it, so let’s all agree that it is. Tex Thompson a.k.a. Mister America first appeared in Action Comics #1 — and if he ever shows up asking, yes, tell him he’s the reason that book is so valuable. By the 42nd issue, his buddy, Bob Daley, is tired of missing out on the action, so he puts a lampshade on his head and strikes out as Fatman, “a new nemesis of crime, a finger in the arm of the law.” (Finger in the what now….?) Later, as Mr. America is testing his new flying carpet(?), Fatman literally stumbles across a meeting of “all gangdom” in the city to hear the plans of the Queen Bee. “Who is this woman who has caused common enemies to band together to do her bidding? It is the Queen Bee, new mistress of the underworld, as shrewd and daring as she is lovely…” Armed with little more than an imperious attitude and some sharp fighting skills, the Queen Bee proved to be a formidable opponent for Mr. America (though it’s not that hard when your opponent’s only crime-fighting assets are a whip and flying carpet). She returned to bedevil him a few more times (though Baily kept changing how she looked for some reason), and in Action Comics #49 it’s revealed she was an average, law-abiding woman until a machine accidentally set her mental switch to “evil.” So after the requisite action scenes, she’s put to rights and readers never heard from her again.
2. “Golden Swarm” (Blackhawk #38, 1951)
So what’s the point of calling yourself a queen bee if you don’t know how to fly? And believe me, this is one gal who knows how to fly. She’s also got a mean sting, as this poor guy finds out the hard way. “EAHHHH!” (“You secret members of my golden swarm may seize Valga now and form a woman’s government!” Meh, we men had a good run.) Killing the dictator of this fictional country was only Phase 1 of the Queen Bee’s plan; her alliance with the warmongering weenie was a ploy to take over the neighboring country by convincing the women there to seize power from the men. Not content with ruling one nation, Queen Bee then embarks on a disinformation campaign to put the Blackhawks out of business (because apparently they’re the only military force in the world that can stop her) and unite all women of the world against their male oppressors. I’m not sure where the beehive-shaped palace, striped hot pants and fake antennae figure into this battle for gender supremacy, but a gal’s gotta motif, I guess.
3. “Drones of the Queen Bee!” (Justice League of America #23, 1963)
Back in more innocent times when their clubhouse was in a Rhode Island cave and they let gibberish-spouting beatniks mess up the joint, the Justice League enjoyed adventures that weren’t always “oh, it’s Thursday time to save all of existence yet again.” Oh sure, you had the occasional Starro showing up to enslave all humanity, but in those early days the League was just as likely to mix it up with alien bank robbers or a doofus with a flying chair. For a title that emphasized camaraderie and collaborative problem-solving over spectacle, it was all in a day’s work. On the “planetary peril” side of the ledger was Queen Zazzala, “queen bee of the planet Korll” who was literally that, a human/insect hybrid who uses her “magno-nuclear rod” and army of “bee-men” to commit crimes on Earth. Having attracted the League’s attention, she gets down to business, holding Earth hostage while they fetch her three vials containing an elixir for immortality. “Once I become immortal — I’ll be queen of not only Korll — but of the entire universe!” she explains to the heroes, not really explaining how “universal domination” logically follows from “all the time in the world to catch up on her Netflix shows.” Suffice to say, the team found a way to thwart her plans, and she came back a few more times to tangle with the League before disappearing for a stretch, probably spending that time tracking down the tailor who told her horizontal stripes were “in” this season.
4. “Batman versus Eclipso” (The Brave and the Bold #64, 1966)
It’s Batman! It’s Eclipso! It’s Queen Bee! It’s a giant eyeball! It’s a bunch of thugs giving the “bee power” salute! It’s the first mention of yet another shadowy organization in the DC universe seeking power via crime waves! Remember kids: “It’s the most!” This issue came out with a February-March 1966 cover date, which means it hit the stands December 1965 — a few short weeks before the TV show Batman debuted January 12, 1966. It’s interesting timing, because all the TV show’s classic elements are here: a villain with a theme, costumed henchmen, bad puns centred on said theme, an on-the-nose secret hideout (Apis Enterprises), a naughty girl who only needs a certain strong man in a mask to make her an honest woman out of her… the only things this story is missing to be a TV episode are a breathless narrator and a death trap. I’m thinking something with dogs. Or bees. Or dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you. Anyway… I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing the young socialite we’re introduced to at the start of the story — the one a younger Bruce Wayne was once in love with — turns out to be the villainous Queen Bee (though she tells Batman she only put on the costume and acted on CYCLOPS’ orders to save her father’s life, making her another “bad girl” in a long list of many forced to be bad against their will). She escapes at the end, leaving only her Queen Bee costume behind, leaving Batman — the eternal punster — to say, “Farewell, honey.” Oh, Batman.
5. “Bialya Bound” (Captain Atom Annual #2, 1988)
Dispensable Lists: come for the free spanking pics, stay for the fascinating facts about bee funk. For instance, have you heard of something called Queen Mandibular Pheromone? QMP is a chemical produced by a queen bee that’s shared with the rest of the colony to give the bees a sense of belonging to that queen. It sends a message of “queen doing well/carry on, citizens” throughout the colony, and it plays a role in the suppression of egg-laying by worker bees (reducing the chance of a competitor coming along to challenge the queen bee). I bring this up because our next Queen Bee — while not traipsing about in horizontal stripes or fake antennae — knows a thing or two about using behavior control to keep her subjects in line. First appearing in 1988’s Justice League International #16, this Queen Bee declared herself the ruler of Bialya (a fictional Middle Eastern country) after having its previous ruler murdered in front of dozens of spectators. Though the Justice League tried to bring her to justice (because, y’know, it’s right there in the name), it wasn’t that simple, as Queen Bee brainwashed a band of superhuman protectors and manipulated the international political structure to her advantage. Besides, under her rule the country quickly went from a war-torn backwater to a tourist destination drawing comparisons to Monaco: eggs, omelettes, you know the drill. She didn’t last long as a character, though, and a few years after her demise the Queen Zazzala version came buzzing back to resume bugging the Justice League. Which is too bad — there aren’t a lot of villainess masterminds with only their wits as their weapon, never mind female rulers with the kind of loyal subjects and diplomatic immunity usually reserved for the Dr. Dooms of the world. It might have been nice to see her kick around a bit longer.
6. “The Queen Bee?” (Spider Super Stories #15, 1975)
I love how there’s a question mark in the story’s title, as if even the editors can’t believe they’re presenting this character for the world to see. “The Queen Bee? Really? We’re going with this? Huh. Okay, then.” Created by the Sesame Street gang, The Electric Company spent six seasons in the 1970s teaching elementary school children their grammar and reading through songs and comedy skits. Aside from being the show where a young Morgan Freeman got his start in show business, it was also known as the home of “Spidey Super Stories,” a recurring live-action sketch in which a silent Spider-Man would only “speak” via speech balloons for the audience to read. In one episode, Spidey tangles with the Queen Bee, a bee-themed super-villain who plots to rule the world. How she intends to do that with only three underlings and a bee named Fang was never made clear, but at least she gave Spidey a lot of bee stings before getting away. Their epic battle was recounted in Spidey Super Stories, the companion title chronicling the adventures of Spidey and the rest of the Electric Company gang on Earth-57780. What, you didn’t know there’s a whole Marvel Earth devoted to the Electric Company-verse? Of course there is. Now we just need to see an Into the Spider-Verse sequel where all my “Nicolas Cage speaks in word balloons” dreams can come true.
7. “Missing Man Meets the Queen Bee” (Pacific Presents #1, 1982)
First appearing in a backup story in Pacific Comics’ Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, Steve Ditko’s The Missing Man is definitely one of his weirdest creations (and considering it’s Ditko, that’s saying a lot). Readers never got an origin story in his handful of stories, and it wasn’t obvious what his full set of powers were; heck, it wasn’t even clear what his real name was (in one issue he’s Syd Vane; in others it’s Syd Mane). What we do know is that when there’s trouble our mild-mannered computer programmer transforms into Missing Man… er, somehow… a being who consists of noodle-like arms and legs, glasses, hair and mouth… and literally nothing else. Where does the rest of his body go? Is it invisible? Shunted into another dimension? Who knows? Moving on! In this story, Circle City crime boss I. Headman is attacked by a rival known only as “the King,” a man who uses Queen Bee — a young lady with the power of, ahem, emotion-manipulating humming — to get what he wants. Long story short: she’s working for the King because she believes he can help her find evidence pointing to who murdered her fiance when — shocker! — it turns out it was the King all along. Learning the truth, she causes the King’s goons to be overcome with sorrow while Missing Man defeats him and turns him over to the police. But as it turns out — shocker again! — Bee’s fiance was only in a coma the whole time! Thanks to Missing Man and his detective friends, she lands a gig entertaining at a local coffee shop to finance her future with Ned. Hold on, she plans to pay for a wedding by crooning in coffee shops? Now that’s far-fetched.
8. “The Revolt of the Queen Bee” (Double-Dare Adventures #2, 1967)
Yeah, I know — officially she’s called “Queen Bea,” but there’s only room for one Queen Bea in my heart and last time I checked this chick wasn’t trading zingers with the rest of the Golden Girls. So “Queen Bee” it is. Appearing at the height of Bat-mania in the 1960s, Bee-Man’s adventures — all two issues of them — were published by a publisher eager to hop on the superhero bandwagon. In retrospect, Harvey should have waited a little longer before making that leap. When our ethically challenged scientist (named Barry E. Eames because of course) realizes the aliens who gave him his bee-like powers intend to use him to conquer Earth, he has a change of heart and decides to join the forces of good, an act of rebellion that earns him a special “F-Bee-I” badge from, well, the FBI. And while the payback-seeking queen later sends some of her minions to our planet to destroy Bee-Man, the page above is literally all the face time we get with Queen Bee herself; Double-Dare Adventures was cancelled after this issue and Bee-Man never buzzed anywhere ever again. So the question has to be asked: why is the story titled “The Revolt of the Queen Bee”…? She’s not rising up in rebellion against anything, certainly not her own government. In fact, the only revolting thing I see around here is Bee-Man. In all senses of the word.