Just in time for Halloween, we’re back to feature all those creepy, kooky, and scary characters of comic book lore! This time, we’re going to take a look at monsters from the vaunted House of Ideas. So, enter, if you dare, for Comic Book Monsters 2012: The Mighty Merry Marvel Edition!
Comic Book Monsters – October 26th: Beta Ray Bill
In 1983, Thor fans would have little idea how awesome they were about to have it. Starting with issue #337, an artist by the name of Walter Simonson was going to take over the writing and art duties for the title. He didn’t waste a moment putting his stamp on the title, and for the next 45 issues that followed, we’d discover this would be a run on the title we’re still talking about today. Well, at least I do.
Right on the cover of #337, we got a look at a new character using Thor’s beloved hammer, Mjolnir, and dressed as our Thunder God, smashing the old logo that had been in use for years (a brand new logo that would last for decades made its first appearance on the cover of #338). This strange looking, horse-faced character we saw on the cover wouldn’t even be the only new character that appeared in Simonson’s first issue, but that’s a story for another time.
This new character became known as Beta Ray Bill. He was from a race called Korbinites (I wonder if Simonson was inspired to name the race from the Star Trek episode “The Corbomite Maneuver”). He only accidentally came to Earth when his ship, the Skuttlebutt (no kidding, that is the name of the ship which makes it all that more awesome), passed into the Solar System. Thor is sent to check things out, and revives Beta Ray Bill. Of course, as all things go, the two fight and Bill is able to get the upper hand on Thor. When Thor reverted to his Donald Blake persona, Bill studied his cane, the disguise for Mjolnir, and when he struck it on the floor, he received all Thor’s powers, and even his costume.
Odin, believing he was summoning Thor back to Asgard, zeroed in on Mjolnir which transported Bill there instead. When Odin realizes that Bill is just as worthy as Thor, he does what any caring father and king does – throws the two wielders of Mjolnir into a fiery battle to the death. Bill doesn’t wish to kill Thor, but begs to keep the hammer to save his people. When everyone comes back to the table to hash things out, everyone realizes that Bill’s people had been slaughtered by the Asgardian fire demon, Surtur. Bill joins up with the Asgardians to stop the demon. To assist, Odin creates a similar hammer to Mjolnir just for Asgard’s new ally – Stormbreaker. This new hammer worked exactly the same as Mjolnir from powers to even having the ability for Bill to return to his natural form by striking it on the ground. Though they stop Surtur, Bill decides to hang out on Earth for a while. This might be due to an attachment he formed with Sif, but I’m not too sure how I feel about this alien/god interracial(?) relationship. I’m down for whatever type of relationship anyone wants, but this one is just a bit too hard for me to get behind.
Bill would be used more sparingly in the 90s. He still participated in some bigger events in the Thor title and showed up in several cosmic stories, but when the new millenium dawned, Bill would be back in a big way. He teamed up with Thor on a few adventures, before arriving to aid the Asgardians during the most recent Ragnarok (the arc that ended the Thor title for a couple years). Despite his willingness to assist his friends, Thor decides it’s not his place to die in this catastrophe, and teleports him away.
With Asgard gone, Bill visits the new home of the Korbinites. Unfortunately, Bill comes home to find two major threats facing his people. The first is Alpha Ray, an insane predecessor of his, who attacks Bill. Bill is able to stop Alpha Ray, but only just in time for Galactus to come and consume the planet. He’s nearly killed, but is healed by an unknown entity. He returns to Earth and eventually joins Omega Flight, but is catapulted into an alternate dimension in order to defeate the supernatural Great Beasts.
A short while later, Bill returns (though I’m not sure it’s fully explained how) by crashing into Asgard during the Secret Invasion. In order to keep his friend from being lynched for being a suspected Skrull, Thor proves Bill is who he says he is by tossing Mjolnir at him transforming him into the hero they all remembered. After defeating the Skrulls trying to bring down Asgard, Bill returns to space, and is most recently seen as a member of the cosmic heroes the Annihilators. Oddly enough, the Annihilators’ first mission dealt with the defense of Galador from what else… Dire Wraiths (a Comic Book Monsters alum from just last week).
Let’s call it day for today’s Comic Book Monsters. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at a little creature who is not only a favorite of X-Men fans, but a constant companion of Kitty Pryde’s. See you then!