Better Know A Hero: Beta Ray Bill
2 Guys Buying Comics has been apprised of the fact that a good portion of our visitors are just getting back into comics. We now present the fourth installment of our weekly feature, Better Know A Hero.
Name: Beta Ray Bill
Also Known As: Bill, That Awesome Horse Guy Who Odin Used To Teach Thor That He Ain't All That
Origin: The short version is that Bill was an alien Korbinite whose mind was transferred into the body of a bioengineered monster that the Korbinites built to guard their race as they fled from an alien race of demons and an exploding sun.
(Side Note: That last sentence right there? Sums up the awesomeness of 80's Marvel.)
Next thing you know, Thor goes to investigate, wacky Three's Company-like misunderstanding occurs, and ol' Bill winds up wielding Mjolnir. Odin takes a liking to Bill, elists him to defeat the alien demons and teach Thor a lesson in humility, and creates a hammer just for him. Cosmic ass-kicking ensues.
Powers: Pretty much everything Thor can do, and Bill's got a hammer named Stormbreaker. Also: it's worth noting that he's essentially a cyborg, which goes to prove that cyborg Thor ripoffs don't necessarily have to be lame (I'm lookin' at you, Clor).
How's The Costume?: Pretty badass, as if someone took an old-school Thor outfit and decided to make it entirely out of shiny metal. Plus, I'm a sucker for wings on the head, so make of that what you will.
Alter Ego: Simon Walters, an Earthling he's bonded with who carries a cane that turns him into Beta Ray Bill. No, they weren't trying particularly hard here, were they?
Home Cookin': Another day in the Marvel Universe, which means we're either in New York or outer space, although for the upcoming Omega Flight launch he's gonna be taking up residence in Canada. Don't look at me like that. It wasn't my idea.
Chillin' At The Crib: Reason #944 Beta Ray Bill is cool is that he tools around in a living space battleship named Skuttlebutt. It's one thing to be an alien horse monster with the power of a Thunder God. It's entirely another to fly around in a sentient battleship. You had me at hello, Mr. Simonson.
Can He Fight?: I mentioned he beat up Thor at least three times, right? Kay. Moving on.
Allies: Thor, Sif, the Asgardians in general, those yahoos that are going to be in Omega Flight, and the Thor Corps. (No, I'm not making that up. Check it, yo.) He was also a member of the Star Masters, which for the uninitiated was kind of the cosmic version of the Champions, only lamer.
Enemies: Demon aliens (the Surtur), any number of cosmic or supernatural baddies, and the first "iteration" of Bill created by the Korbinites but ultimately deemed too dangerous and psychotic to be their champion: his name, of course? Alpha Ray. I love comics.
Symbol: Pretty much one of the ten best covers EVER in comicdom, right here from his first appearance:
Family Matters: His home race, I guess. Other than that, he considers Thor a 'brother'.
Might Be Cool To: Drive around with for awhile, watching the faces on people as they think, "Hey, that costume reminds me of someoGAAAAAAAH! A HORSE DEMON WITH THE ABILITY TO WIELD MAGICAL BLUNT OBJECTS!"
Under No Circumstances: Refer to him as "Thorse". Attach a feed bag. Point out that really, no matter how hard he tries, it's Thor that gets the love.
Annual Performance Review: I mentioned he's in Omega Flight, right? We'll see how that turns out, but damn Marvel for making me want to pick up the first issue just to see how he ends up in Canada and whether or not he still has the wicked spaceship.
What Makes Him So Special, Anyway?: Quite frankly, Beta Ray Bill is one of those supremely Marvel properties, with cosmic wackiness and great visual design combined with a goofy origin and being a somewhat shameless rip-off of a well established hero. Bill's hugely powerful but was burdened with protecting his race, and he's got just enough pathos and courage to make him both sympathetic and balls-to-the-wall 'HULK SMASH!' cool. Also, it's interesting that he's essentially been able to retain his alien persona over the years, without humanizing him too much.
The magic, though is in Walt Simonson's Thor run that introduced Bill, and what a marvelous tale that was, indeed. It really shows A) the awesomeosity of Bill, Thor, Odin and the gang, and B) just how skilled Simonson was. You'd think a Thor arc that didn't really focus on Thor most of the time would suck. I offer Bill and this book here as evidence to the contrary.
I say thee YAY!