(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Contributing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with cosmic comics and their many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
The first time I beheld this character created by writer/artist Walt Simonson on his brilliant run of Thor, in issue #337, I hated him … it! Beta Ray Bill? Thor in horse’s clothing? Walt gave us Frog Thor, why not Horse Thor, is that it?
What happened next was even worse: Sif fell in love with the thing. What was Walt bringing to this book anyway, Equus?
But as I began to understand this alien, his character and his mental set, something in him made me feel he was indeed more deserving almost of the power of a Norse thunder god than Dr. Donald Blake.
Bill’s race, the Korbinites, was almost rendered extinct when their galaxy exploded. The remnants of the Korbinite race fled in a fleet of warships, guarded by a sentient ship called Skuttlebutt and Bill, their champion. Via Korbinite science, Bill had been physically augmented and given the attributes of an indigenous wild beast (a process that killed all of Bill’s predecessors, or so we are told).
By way of one of those famous fatherly interferences from All-Father Odin – and by way of an innate resistance to heat -- Bill won the right to Thor’s uru hammer, Mjolnir, in combat in the realm of Skartheim. After Bill considered his claim to the hammer and seemingly rejected the personal weapon, Odin created a compromise by bestowing upon Bill a different hammer – Stormbreaker! – which is equal in power to Mjolnir. Odin also bestowed the ability upon Bill to return to his original Korbinite form by striking Stormbreaker upon the ground.
After learning that the mishap that killed most of Bill’s people was caused by the fire demon Surtur, Bill agreed to join the Asgardians in a war to stop Surtur and his armies.
Bill then led many of Earth’s heroes against Surtur’s forces on Midgard while Thor, Odin and Loki confronted Surtur in Asgard. Surtur was eventually defeated, but apparently All-Father Odin was slain. For a time, Bill led the life of a terran super-hero while also being involved in more cosmic adventures.
Years later, Bill visited the new homeworld of his people, where he was attacked by an insane predecessor, Alpha Ray, defeating him just as Galactus and his herald of the day, Stardust, arrived. Despite Bill’s efforts, Galactus consumed the world and almost killed him, with Bill drifting in space until recovered by Skuttlebutt. After finding an orb containing the souls of many of the Korbinites, Bill revisited a desolate Asgard and joined forces with Stardust to battle a new demonic menace named Asteroth.
Although victorious, Bill was mortally wounded and while near death was healed by an unknown entity that also claimed the remaining souls in the orb. Placed in the recently-deceased body of a war veteran named Simon Walters (a reference to Bill’s creator) on Earth, Bill found and joined the Canadian super-hero team Omega Flight.
Beta Ray Bill eventually decided to hunt down Galactus to avenge the destruction of the Korbinites’ second homeworld and the seeming eradication of his species. After a brief confrontation with Stardust, Bill was intercepted by the Silver Surfer, who was puzzled by the Korbinite’s quest to destroy Galactus. During a brief battle, Bill explained that while he understood he could not hope to destroy Galactus with his power alone, he intended to crush Galactus by annihilating any and all worlds Galactus sought to feed from, thus starving him to death.
The character’s obsession with stopping Big G eventually resulted in him being unable to lift his own enchanted mallet, an object that can only be wielded by the worthy. Equipped with alien weapons, Bill found Galactus but discovered the entity already under attack by another race. In a moment of conscience, Bill saved the World Devourer and was rewarded by Galactus creating a Korbinite mate for him. Bill also regained to the ability to wield Stormbreaker.
Most recently, Bill helped Sif cope with the aftermath of her possession by Loki while she aided him in freeing Skuttlebutt from possession by alien pirates.
Bill was also active in the Annihilators, although who in the world (Bendis?) knows where they are these days? Another member, Gladiator, seems to be scheming against the Earth a year or so after saving it from the Magus.
Now I see Bill is once again (sniff!) beside the Lady Sif in coming issues of Journey into Mystery. You cannot keep a good mutant Korbinite down!