Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Infinity, Inc. v1 #19 (October 1985)
Created By: Roy Thomas and Todd McFarlane
Beth Chapel was not interested in superheroics. She had a normal, if super stereotypical, South Carolina childhood, with a pastor for a father and brothers named – seriously – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Eventually she moved to California to study medicine, where, as a surgical intern, she found herself under the tutelage of Dr. Charles McNider – Doctor Mid-Nite to his JSA chums – who believed Beth had the potential to become the greatest surgeon he had ever met.
During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, an earthquake wracked the hospital where Beth worked. While trying to rescue her patients, she was blinded by an oxygen explosion. Dr. McNider took it upon himself to operate on her. Since he couldn’t restore normal vision, he did what any self-respecting comic book doctor would do, and added an extra: he gave Beth the ability to see in the dark. Kind of a weird thing to do for someone without asking, but this being comics, Beth was probably just relieved not to have woken up with bitchin’ claws or a Kryptonite heart or something.
Since all children and protegees of JSA members were pretty much mandated by law to join Infinity, Inc., Beth did just that, although she was really more there in the capacity of team doctor than anything else. However, not long after she was added to the roster, the team disbanded. A few years later, the U.S. government sent her off to fight Eclipso, who had taken over the fictional South American country of Parador. It didn’t go well; Beth was killed, along with most of the task force.
So What’s So Great About Her?
So here’s the thing about Infinity, Inc.: I kind of want to smack all of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the team! They fulfill two of my favorite criteria for comics: they’re young people with a lot of feelings, and they’re so hopelessly entangled in decades-old DC history that it takes twenty minutes and a flowchart to explain them. But as I mentioned above, they’re all either offspring or protegees of JSA members, and that leads to a tremendous amount of entitlement. There is a lot of poorly-thought-out flouncing around and demanding to be admitted to the Justice Society/taken seriously/fight crime/drop out of school/wear a midriff-baring shirt/”STOP TREATING ME LIKE A LITTLE KID, DAAAAAAD!” I think Hector Hall managed to do all six in one panel. (Every panel.)
But not Beth. True, she got her powers through random chance rather than inheritance, and that leads to different expectations, but there’s no entitlement in her nature. Unlike 99.999% of superheroes, she has no prima donna in her nature; she never flounces. When she lost her vision, she accepted it with an almost supernatural amount of grace – and when she discovered her supervision, she basically just rolled up her sleeves and went to work as a superhero. She didn’t take on the mantle of Doctor Midnight because she felt it was hers by right; she did it because people needed saving, and she was a doctor, and that’s what doctors do. Heck, she got her powers risking her life to save her patients! Girl takes her Hippocratic Oath seriously.
Beth actually reminds me quite a bit of Cecilia Reyes – at least, from what I know about Cecilia, which is pretty much Mackenzie’s post there. But like Cecilia, Beth is a doctor first and foremost. She’ll do the superhero thing if she has to, but would much rather be healing than fighting. Even while on Infinity, Inc., Beth spends her time not slugging it out with Injustice Unlimited, but curing Rick Tyler’s addiction to Miraclo and putting casts on Mister Bones’s broken, um, bones.
As far as I know, none of the Doctors Mid-Nite/Midnight have shown up in the DCnU, and when one does I confidently expect it to be one of the two better-known white dudes, because comics. But I’d love to see Beth again, even just as a doctor and not as a superhero. Comics are lousy with white dudes, but women of color, especially ones with disabilities, are rare. And characters with as good a head on their shoulders as Beth’s are rarer still.
Infinity, Inc. v1 #19-22, 25, 28, 30-32, 35, 36, 38, 40-44, 46, 47, 49-51, 53