Cover of Showcase #66 (January 1967).
Art by Mike Sekowsky.
|First appearance||As B'wana Beast:|
Showcase #66 (January 1967)
As Shining Man:
Animal Man #47 (May 1992)
|Alter ego||Michael Payson "Mike" Maxwell|
|Team affiliations||Justice League|
B'wana Beast (Michael Payson Maxwell) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The series is infamous for its portrayal of a Caucasian savior in Africa; the character's first name, "Bwana", is a Swahili word for leader or "master". The character was perceived as racist even at DC Comics; co-creator Mike Sekowsky eventually refused to continue drawing the strip.
Fictional character biography
After graduating from college with highest honors, Michael Payson "Mike" Maxwell declined his millionaire father's offer to join the family business and instead decided to join his college roommate, Rupert Kenboya, in Africa and become a ranger in the Zambezi nation's new animal preserves.
When the private aircraft carrying Maxwell and Kenboya to Zambezi was struck by a lightning and crashed at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the two injured men took refuge in the cavern home of a mutant red ape. While drinking rainwater that had been filtered through the cavern's mineral laden walls, Maxwell suddenly found he was growing larger, stronger and more ferocious, and was able to subdue the attacking red ape with ease.
Acknowledging Maxwell as its master, the red ape retrieved an ancient helmet from the depths of the cave and placed it on Maxwell's head. Through the helmet, Maxwell was able to read the ape's mind and discovered its name was Djuba. He also discovered that the helmet enabled him to control the actions of all other animals. Agreeing that these new powers must be used for the good of all Africa, Maxwell created the identity of "B'wana Beast", and became the Dark Continent's super troubleshooter.
In the initial story arc of Animal Man, written by Grant Morrison, B'wana Beast journeys to America to rescue Djuba, who has been captured by scientists and infected with an experimental form of anthrax. He fails to save Djuba and is himself infected with the disease, but he is cured by Animal Man, who mimics B'wana Beast's powers in order to merge his white blood cells into forms capable of fighting off the disease. In Animal Man #13 (July 1989), also written by Morrison, Maxwell decides to retire and performs a ceremony to find a successor. He passes the helmet and elixir on to a South African activist named Dominic Mndawe, who assumes the name Freedom Beast.
Mike Maxwell returns in Animal Man #47 (May 1992) written by Tom Veitch, after a long period of absence, in which after hearing the call of the destructive force called the Antagon, he is corrupted and possessed, and transformed into the evil Shining Man. With his new identity, Maxwell wreaked havoc on Earth until he was killed in a fight with Metaman.
The New 52
In The New 52 (a 2011 reboot of the DC Comics universe), B'wana Beast is considered as a possible new member for the Justice League International by United Nations head of intelligence Andre Briggs. They decide he is not right as a candidate for the team at that time, and he is not invited to join, but it is unknown whether he will become a member later.
Powers and abilities
B'wana Beast drinks an elixir that gives him great strength, speed, hunting and tracking abilities. He also wears an ancient helmet that allows him to communicate with animals, and to merge up to four animals together to form a chimera. For the most part, once these animals are merged, B'wana is able to acquire their aid in situations of need. Whether this is due to his ability to communicate with them or an instinct on their part is not known.
In other media
- B'wana Beast was among the characters to be featured in a DC Comics cartoon hour produced by Filmation.
- B'wana Beast is featured in the Justice League Unlimited, voiced by Peter Onorati. In the episode "This Little Piggy", he is recruited by Batman for his superior tracking skills in the search for Wonder Woman, who had been mystically transformed into a pig by Circe. In this incarnation, B'wana Beast was given a thick New York accent and blue collar personality to match, and his abilities were presented as animalistic feats of agility and the ability to communicate with animals. According to the DVD commentary for the episode, B'wana Beast's seductive growl to Zatanna was actually performed by producer/character designer James Tucker. Peter Onorati could not quite get it, so Tucker stepped in to perform it. Additionally, B'wana Beast appears in the episode "Panic in the Sky", in which he battles against the invaders of the Watchtower.
- B'wana Beast appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Mike Maxwell was an American wrestler in Africa with low self-esteem who lost a local wrestling match to Djuba (in this incarnation, Djuba is a masked ape). Later, after wiping his face with water contaminated by radioactive waste, he develops his merging powers and later wins a fight against Djuba earning his mask and title. In "Enter the Outsiders!", he helps Batman in his fight with Black Manta. B'wana Beast returns in "Gorillas in Our Midst!" helping Vixen stop Killer Moth and his henchmen from robbing an armored car while Batman was away. Later in the episode, Vixen asks B'wana Beast to marry her. In "The Siege of Starro! Part One", B'wana Beast assists Batman and heroes Booster Gold, Firestorm, Captain Marvel in stopping Faceless Hunter and the Starro invasion. The Hunter is fascinated by B'wana's abilities, and kidnaps him when Starro is defeated. In "The Siege of Starro! Part Two", Faceless Hunter uses B'wana Beast's powers to fuse together the Starro parasites into a giant, destructive beast. When Batman defeats Faceless Hunter, B'wana uses all of his power to pull the Starro beast apart, sacrificing himself in the process. A heartbroken Vixen and the other heroes erect a statue to him after he dies. A voiceover by him declares "I'd do it all over again, in a hummingbird's heartbeat." B'wana Beast appears in the final episode "Mitefall" at the wrap party where all the characters gather to celebrate the end of their show at the wrap party where he is seen reuniting with Vixen.
- B'wana Beast appears in Teen Titans Go! episode "You're Fired!", where he is seen amongst the heroes auditioning to be Beast Boy's replacement. He is the second person to audition and is immediately ridiculed by Cyborg. Demonstrating his powers, he fuses Starfire's pet Silkie with a rabbit. Horrified with the results, the Titans immediately reject him. B'Wana Beast also stars in Teen Titans Go! episode "Justice League's Next Top Talent Idol Star", where he is seen amongst the heroes auditioning to be the next member of the Justice League.
- An unnamed strongman under the title B'wana Beast appears in the third season of DC's Legends of Tomorrow as a member of P. T. Barnum's traveling circus in the episode "Freakshow". He was played by stuntman/actor Jason William Day. 
- B'wana Beast makes a brief appearance in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.
- Four B'wana Beast action figures have been produced by toy manufacturer Mattel. The first was released as part of the company's Justice League Unlimited line in a six-figure boxed set (along with Superman, Crimson Fox, Deadman, Commander Steel, and Vibe).
- Two figures of his likeness from the Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series have been produced, one in the five-inch scale (called "Machete B'wana Beast" after his accessories and action feature) and another in a two-pack with Batman as part of the smaller Action League series (similar in size and design to the Marvel Super Hero Squad figures). A six-inch scale DC Universe Classics figure of B'wana Beast was released in the "Justice in the Jungle" two-pack with Animal Man in December 2009 as a MattyCollector.com internet exclusive.
- Markstein, Don. "B'wana Beast". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
- Wells, John (2014). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 169. ISBN 978-1605490557.
- Showcase #66
- Morris, Jon (2015). The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half Baked Heroes from Comic Book History. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Quirk Books. pp. 134–135. ISBN 978-1-59474-763-2.
- Animal Man #3
- Animal Man #4
- Animal Man #13
- Animal Man #47-50
- Justice League International (Vol. 3) #1
- Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Manning, Matthew K.; McAvennie, Michael; Wallace, Daniel (2019). DC Comics Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle. DK Publishing. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-4654-8578-6.
- Showcase #67
- "The Voices of B'wana Beast". Behind The Voice Actors.
- "First Look at B'wana Beast on Legends of Tomorrow". Comic Book. July 23, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
- Justice League Unlimited #29