What is a superhero without a supervillain? Not much. Some supervillains, however, are worth a lot more than others. I have therefore decided to spotlight some lesser-known villains. Are they underrated gems or irredeemable losers who deserve to be forgotten? You decide! Today’s subject: La Dama!
In the eyes of Brenda Del Vecchio, one of Blue Beetle’s friends, Amparo was the best aunt you could ask for. She was certainly better than Brenda’s father, a violent abuser who serendipitously died in a car accident after putting Brenda in the hospital.
There was just one problem: unbeknownst to Brenda, Amparo is also La Dama, the head of a criminal empire who is determined to build her own army of magical meta-humans. And she figures out Blue Beetle is really Jaime Reyes in no time flat. Oops.
Like many criminals, La Dama has one big weakness, and that’s Brenda. She will do absolutely anything to keep her safe and happy, up to and including murder. She arranged her father’s car “accident” to protect Brenda, and she tolerates her friendship with Jaime because she knows the two genuinely care for each other.
Amparo and Blue Beetle each have blackmail material on each other — she knows he’s Jaime Reyes, he knows she’s La Dama — so they agree to a truce at the end of her first appearance (Blue Beetle #3-6). Needless to say, that doesn’t last real long.
Despite her own love for Brenda, and despite being an astute observer, La Dama doesn’t quite seem to grasp that other people have loyalties, too. She is continually surprised by the lengths to which Brenda’s other friend Paco is willing to go for her.
She was, however, aware enough to keep her real career a secret from Brenda, only to have Brenda accidentally find out about it in…
Blue Beetle #19
Obviously, Brenda is very upset by the news, but she does also learn that Amparo had been making efforts to tone down the worst of her criminal activities to be a better guardian for Brenda.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get much resolution to this revelation. In later issues, Brenda moved in with the Reyes family so she could process everything, and we saw a couple of brief interactions between her and La Dama that indicated they might be able to repair their relationship someday. And that was how things stood when the series (and the entire DC universe) got rebooted in 2011.
Blue Beetle #1-5
I hate this reboot. In addition to altering Jaime and the Scarab’s backstory and inserting some questionable Spanish (why would you use the informal You to talk to your boss, who is also a crime boss?), it revived Brenda’s dad and erased all knowledge of La Dama’s real identity from the main characters’ minds. Oh, and she can do magic now, I guess.
On the upside, Amparo finally gets a last name: Cardenas.
Beetle’s first encounter with La Dama in this reboot ends with her accidentally magicking her house — and herself — out of this plane of existence.
Justice League 3001 #8-12
In a far-off future where everything sucks, the Justice League is cloned and set to fight Lady Styx, a supremely powerful despot who has conquered Earth. It goes kind of bad and culminates in the series getting canceled without a clear resolution.
What does this have to do with La Dama? Well…sigh…
Blue Beetle #13
This issue reveals that Amparo Cardenas is actually an immortal being who has gone by many names, including La Dama and Lady Styx.
I’ll get more into why I hate this in a moment. But what really burns my toast is the assertion that Lady Dama is incapable of love or warm feelings for anyone, even Brenda. Whereas Brenda was previously the focal point of Amparo’s life and even inspired her to change (somewhat), the rebooted version just wants power and will step on anyone to get it.
The issue ends vaguely (yes, again), with the implication that Blue Beetle will someday work for Lady Styx. As far as I know, though, she — and La Dama — have not appeared in any new stories since this one.
Not really. She apparently showed up in Catwoman: Hunted as a member of Leviathan. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say which version of the character this was.
The original version of the character is a refreshing change of pace from your normal villain. La Dama is a “big fish in a small pond” (as Batman puts it in Brave & the Bold #3) on purpose. She never became a global or nationwide threat because she doesn’t want or need that kind of trouble: her empire in El Paso provides all the money and power she needs, and she is happy with that. There’s something to be said for a villain who doesn’t let their ambition get the better of them for a change.
And then the reboot happened and threw all that out the window. It pains me to say this, since I normally like Giffen and DeMatteis’s Justice League work, but the Lady Styx business is absolutely the wrong move for this character. They took a morally complex antagonist and turned her into another generic supervillain. Maybe the fact that Justice League 3001 got canned hampered their ability to flesh out Lady Styx, but the very concept of that character goes against everything that made La Dama interesting.
I would very happily see Lady Styx dropped into a volcano, but La Dama deserves another chance — perhaps in a future Blue Beetle movie (hint, hint)?
Want to meet more overlooked villains? Check out my profiles on King Tut, the Matador, Peek-a-Boo, Man-Killer, Mad Mod, Big Wheel, KGBeast, the Living Monolith, Egg Fu, Mahkizmo, my One-Shot Special, Lord Manga Khan, and Deadly Nightshade!