Beta Ray Bill
|Beta Ray Bill|
Beta Ray Bill on the cover of Thor #337 (Nov. 1983).
Art by Walt Simonson.
|First appearance||Thor #337 (November 1983)|
|Created by||Walt Simonson|
|Alter ego||Simon Walters|
|Team affiliations||Omega Flight
|Notable aliases||Simon Walters, Beta Ray Thor|
Beta Ray Bill is a fictional superhero that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appears in Thor #337 (November 1983) and was created by writer-artist Walt Simonson. Debuting in the Bronze Age of Comic Books, the character was initially intended to be a surprise as an apparent monster who unexpectedly proves to be a great hero. As such, Bill becomes the first being outside of the Marvel Universe's Norse pantheon to be deemed worthy enough to wield Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. After an initial rivalry for possession of the weapon, the alien warrior was granted a war hammer of his own, called Stormbreaker, and the two reconciled as staunch allies.
Beta Ray Bill has been featured in other Marvel-endorsed products such as animated television series, video games, and merchandise such as action figures and trading cards. He was voiced by Paul Dobson in the animated DVD film Planet Hulk.
Beta Ray Bill debuted in Thor #337 (November 1983), being established as an alien belonging to a race known as the Korbinites. Bill was created by Walt Simonson as a new concept for the title Thor. Simonson said,
I wanted to start fresh, and I thought a new character would be the way to go on that. My thinking was that comics are a short form, and one of the things that's mostly true about comics characters are what they look like ... I designed Bill deliberately as a monster, because I knew that people would look at it and go, "Oh my God, it's this evil guy." I deliberately wrote them so you weren't sure in the beginning if he was a good guy or a bad guy ... I chose the name for its alliterative qualities. Originally I was going to call him 'Beta Ray Jones' because I really wanted a common name. My feeling was Bill was Everyman for this alien race ... I deleted 'Jones' because ... there were too many Joneses floating around the Marvel Universe.
During a "Thor Spotlight" panel at the Baltimore Comic Con, August 28, 2010, Simonson further stated:
One of the cool things about Thor was the enchantment around Mjolnir and the original inscription on it. So I thought, well that means someone else can pick up this hammer and get this power, if they're worthy! So since then, some other big characters, people's favorites, have picked up the hammer, Captain America, Superman, whoever. But at this point, no one had ever picked up the hammer. I liked the idea of Cap walking to the bathroom and seeing it, and grabbing and just tugging, not being able to. So this had to be someone new. This is the most powerful weapon of the Norse gods. This hammer is a killing weapon. It's used to kill Frost Giants and others. So, Superman couldn't pick it up, cause he's never going to kill anyone, and the hammer knows that. Captain America, he's too patriotic. He's too much a symbol of America to be chosen by this Norse artifact. So he couldn't get it. So I created Bill because he's noble, and he's designed to kill. He's got a great purpose as a warrior, and also the noble ability. That makes him "worthy" whatever that may be.
As far as appearance, back then, comics were these self-contained stories. So for Bill, I had to do this in short form. This was a four-issue story, and that was my longest on my entire run on Thor. We had to take him, make him into a character that the Hammer would recognize. So I wanted for Bill, I wanted him to have a "monstrous" look as a visual, so that everyone would think he's a bad guy, and I got letters after the first issue that said "What on earth? Why is this monster picking up the hammer, what's wrong with you?" and I said "I got it!" So I basically started with a skull, and then I made him a bit like a horse, with the gap behind the teeth. But horses are beautiful creatures. So what I was aiming for is a sense of death, a sense of monster, underlined by beauty. His costume was the same so that the minute you see that image, when he strikes the stick and becomes "Beta Ray Thor" or whatever, you know: OK, that guy has the powers of Thor. So that's why Bill had the monstrous face, that's why that stuff was done the way it was done.
The character's introduction continued in Thor vol 1 #338–340. He continued to make appearances in Thor sporadically. He appeared in the "Maximum Security" crossover in January 2001 and the Secret Invasion crossover in 2008. He starred in the 6-issue miniseries Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill and its two follow-ups, the one-shot Beta Ray Bill: The Green of Eden and 3-issue Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter.
Fictional character biography
Spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. detected an alien fleet passing through Earth's solar system, with Director Nick Fury asking Thor to investigate. When Thor finds the advance ship, it scans Thor and perceives him to be a threat. Unable to stop Thor, the sentient ship — called Skuttlebutt — revives Beta Ray Bill, who is in suspended animation. Bill battles Thor to standstill, until the ship reaches Earth's orbit, where one of the mystical enchantments of Thor's hammer Mjolnir comes into effect, which means that Thor will revert to his mortal persona of Donald Blake if separated from the hammer for more than 60 seconds. When that happens, Blake is knocked unconscious by Bill, who examines Blake's cane (Mjolnir's "shell" when Thor is in Blake's form) and on striking the cane receives Thor's power and costume.
Once Skuttlebutt arrives on Earth, Bill easily defeats an approaching S.H.I.E.L.D. team and is then transported to Asgard by the King of the Norse gods, Odin, who mistakes Bill for Thor. After some initial confusion, Odin returns Thor to Asgard, and Bill's origin is revealed. Bill's race, the Korbinites, were 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 a dedicated champion, Beta Ray Bill. Via Korbinite science, Bill was physically augmented and given the attributes of an indigenous wild beast (a process that killed all of Bill's predecessors). Skuttlebutt attacked Thor because the ship recognized the Asgardian magic as similar to that of the previous global threat, and assumed the Korbinites were being threatened once again.
On discovering that Bill was worthy enough to lift Mjolnir, Odin proposes a battle to the death in the fiery Asgardian realm of Skartheim to decide who will wield the hammer. Bill and Thor render each other unconscious. Bill's resistance to heat allows him to recover first, however, and he is deemed the winner—but he also saves Thor from going over a lava flow, believing he is too worthy an opponent to die. He tells Thor he saved him as he did not want so worthy an opponent to die, but he feels he needs the hammer to protect his people. After Bill reconsiders his claim to the hammer, Odin creates a compromise by bestowing upon Bill a different hammer — Stormbreaker — which is equal in power to Mjolnir and was created by the same dwarf. Odin also bestows 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, one of Asgard's most powerful enemies, Bill agrees to join the Asgardians in a war to stop Surtur and his armies.
Bill leads many of Earth's heroes against Surtur's forces on Earth while Thor, Odin, and Thor's adopted brother Loki confront Surtur in Asgard. Surtur is eventually defeated, but apparently kills Odin when they both fall through a mystic portal. Bill remains on Earth, aiding the spaceknight Rom against the threat of the alien Dire Wraiths  and foes such as Iron Man opponent Titanium Man.
Forming an attachment with the Asgardian goddess Sif, Bill aids Thor against the Dark Elf Kurse in a two-part storyline before returning to his people. Bill eventually returns to battle the Egyptian god Seth  and the Juggernaut.
Bill remains a staunch ally of Thor and Asgard before featuring in a storyline involving a creation of Galactus, Tyrant. Bill also features in the storyline "Blood and Thunder", attempting alongside Adam Warlock, Thanos and others to deal with the "warrior madness" of Thor in which he is trying to destroy the universe, although at one point he is struck with enough force to destroy a planet. Together with Thor, Bill joins with other versions of the Thunder God in the Thor Corps against the entity Demonstaff. and has several cosmic adventures.
Bill also participates in a battle between the heroes of Earth and several alien races such as the Kree, Shi'ar, and Z'Nox. and after several adventures with Thor  guest starring in the final storyline, when Thor — determined to end the perpetual cycle of death and rebirth the Asgardians are trapped in — brings about Ragnarök (in Norse mythology this event means the end of Asgard and its gods, as they die in battle against the armies of evil). Although Bill attempts to aid the Asgardians, Thor teleports Bill away as it is not his destiny to die in Ragnarök.
Bill visits his people's new homeworld, where he is attacked by his insane predecessor, Alpha Ray, defeating him just as the cosmic entity Galactus and his herald Stardust arrive. Despite Bill's efforts, Galactus consumes the world and almost kills him, with Bill drifting in space until recovered by Skuttlebutt. After finding an orb containing the souls of many of the Korbinites, Bill revisits a desolate Asgard, and joins forces with Stardust to battle a new demonic menace named Asteroth.
Although victorious, Bill is mortally wounded, and while near death is healed by an unknown entity that also claims the remaining souls in the orb. Placed in the recently deceased body of a war veteran named Simon Walters (a reference to his creator, Walt Simonson) on Earth, Bill has a brief encounter with the villain Boar and the hero Spider-Man. Bill eventually finds and joins Canadian superhero team Omega Flight against the supervillain team the Wrecking Crew, who release the supernatural Great Beasts. The battle ends with Bill and the Beasts trapped in an alternate dimension.
During the Secret Invasion storyline, Bill is wounded and captured by the alien Skrulls, who bestow his hammer Stormbreaker on a warrior Super-Skrull called the Godkiller. Thor rescues Bill, although Loki starts a rumor that Bill may be a Skrull, causing some Asgardians to go against him despite Balder telling them to stop. Thor throws Mjolnir at Bill, who catches it proving he really is Bill. After being nursed back to health, the character retrieves his hammer. Although the Godkiller defeats him, with Thor's help he tricks the Godkiller, causing Asgard to fall onto it, killing the Skrull. Thor and Bill then raise the city again.
Bill decides to hunt the cosmic entity Galactus, to avenge the destruction of the Korbinites' second homeworld, and the seeming eradication of his species. After a brief confrontation with the herald, Stardust, Bill is intercepted by the Silver Surfer, who is puzzled by the Korbinite's apparently futile quest to destroy Galactus. During a brief battle, Bill explains that while he understands he cannot hope to destroy Galactus with his power alone, he intends to destroy Galactus by annihilating any and all worlds Galactus seeks to feed from, thus starving him to death. The character's obsession with stopping Galactus eventually results in him being unable to lift his own enchanted weapon, an object that can only be wielded by the worthy. Equipped with alien weapons, Bill finds Galactus but discovers the entity already under attack by another race. In a moment of conscience, Bill saves Galactus. The grateful entity rewards Bill by creating a Korbinite mate for him, with Bill also regaining the ability to wield Stormbreaker.
When the universe is invaded during The Thanos Imperative storyline, Beta Ray Bill joins Nova's select group to travel across the Fault and into the Cancerverse. Bill is recruited by Cosmo to join the Annihilators, a new super-group intended to replace the fallen Guardians of the Galaxy. Annihilators defend Galador from the Dire Wraiths, resulting in a peace between the two groups who have been at war for generations. Later, when trying to end a conflict between warring factions of the Universal Church of Truth, the Annihilators are transported to a Church base on Earth and come into conflict with the Avengers.
Powers and abilities
Beta Ray Bill's life force and consciousness were transferred by scientists of his race into the body of an alien carnivorous equine-like beast that had been bionically restructured into a cyborg. Courtesy of highly advanced genetic engineering, the character possesses vast superhuman strength, speed, stamina and durability, and a highly extended lifespan. Beta Ray Bill is also a superior hand-to-hand combatant. His combat prowess is such that he was able to fight Thor, noted as one of the best hand-to-hand fighters in the Marvel Universe, to a standstill.
Beta Ray Bill's weapon, Stormbreaker, also has the same properties as Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, and includes the ability to transform into a cane when struck upon the ground and return Bill to his unaltered Korbinite form. Bill also possesses the advanced and sentient warship Skuttlebutt.
In other media
- Beta Ray Bill debuts in the Silver Surfer episode "Innervisions", voiced by Karl Pruner. This version of the character along with the rest of his species shared a group dream using a special "dream weaver" from Zenn-La. When the Surfer came to alert them that Thanos was approaching, he convinced Beta Ray Bill to end the group dream and save the planet using all of the dream weaver's power to trick Thanos into believing he had succeeded in destroying the planet.
- Beta Ray Bill appeared in The Super Hero Squad Show episode "The Saga of Beta Ray Bill", voiced by Pat Fraley. Here, it is revealed that the Korbinites were taken over by the villain known as the Stranger and Bill escaped into the Skuttlebutt to take refuge where he has been its janitor ever since. After proving heroism in saving Thor from the villain and an expert usage of Mjolnir, the hammer then forged Bill's own hammer out of a toilet brush, after which Bill chooses from names such as "Windbreaker" before finally settling on "Stormbreaker." It is then that Bill's friends are freed from the Stranger's mind control, and an alliance between the two hammer wielders is forged, with Bill promising to use his friends' technology to get Thor back to his own universe.
- Beta Ray Bill appeared in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill", voiced by Steven Blum. When the Korbinite's homeworld was destroyed by Surtur's Fire Demons, Beta Ray Bill was specially modified to oversee the Korbinite's survival on the Skuttlebutt with the race under cryogenic hibernation. When Surtur's Fire Demons attack the Skuttlebutt, Beta Ray Bill has the Skuttlebutt take refuge in an asteroid field. His presence was detected by Heimdall as Thor sets out to investigate. When Thor makes his way into the Skuttlebutt, he is ambushed by Beta Ray Bill (who mistakens Thor for a demon) and manages to pin him down. Beta Ray Bill successfully lifts Mjolnir and attacks Thor with it. Beta Ray Bill is then teleported to Asgard by Odin (who was trying to teleport Thor back) where Beta Ray Bill mistakens the Asgardians as demons and attacks Balder, Sif, and the Warriors Three before being subdued by Odin. Thor is teleported back to Asgard by Odin as Thor successfully reasons with Beta Ray Bill stating that they are not like the Demons that are associated with Surtur. When Beta Ray Bill demands to wield Mjolnir to fight the Fire Demons, Sif offers to assist him in the battle and Thor offers Mjolnir. Odin denies the offer made by Thor and says he has an idea. After Thor convinces Eitri to help, Beta Ray Bill receives Stormbreaker (which was made from the remaining Uru following Surtur's raid) and uses it to help Thor and Sif fight the Fire Demons in order to keep them from harming the Korbinites. While Sif and the Skuttlebutt's defenses fight the Fire Demons, Thor and Beta Ray Bill fight Enchantress (who has been converted into Surtur's mind-controlled pawn). After Thor and Beta Ray Bill defeat Enchantress which causes the Fire Demons to disappear, Surtur speaks through her telling Thor and Beta Ray Bill that Enchantress is now under his control. Beta Ray Bill then leaves with Skuttlebutt in order to find a safe place for the Korbinites to settle down and repopulate.
- Beta Ray Bill appears in the animated DVD film Planet Hulk, voiced by Paul Dobson. He appears along with Thor battling Kronans and later offers to return the Hulk to Earth.
- Beta Ray Bill appears as an alternate costume for Thor in a number of video games:
- Beta Ray Bill appears as DLC in Lego Marvel Super Heroes, voiced by Steven Blum.
- Beta Ray Bill appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon mobile game (2014).
- Beta Ray Bill appears in the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance.
- The character received a 6 inch figure in the Marvel Legends toy line in 2006.
- The Classic Marvel Figurine Collection issued a 96mm Beta Ray Bill statue as number 140.
- A Minimate version of Bill was released in November 2011. One version was released with an "Armored Thor" (based on the Walt Simonson run), while another was released in a "Stormbreaker" box-set with figures of Thor, Sif and Loki, all based on Simonson's art.
- Beta Ray Bill was a playable character in the Critical Mass and later Galactic Guardians sets of Marvel Heroclix.
Some of the characters appearances have been collected in trade paperbacks:
- "The Mighty Thor: The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill" (origin, collects The Mighty Thor 337-340) December 1989, ISBN 0-87135-614-7
- Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill (collects Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill six-issue limited series, 144 pages, September 2005, ISBN 0-7851-1720-2)
- Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter (collects Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter 3-issue mini-series and Secret Invasion Aftermath: Beta Ray Bill - The Green of Eden, 104 pages, November 2009, ISBN 0-7851-4232-0)
- Maçek III is, J.C. "Thor WHO? It's Beta Ray Bill!". PopMatters.
- Cooke, John B. (June 2004) "Walt Simonson Interviewed", Jack Kirby Collector #14, collected in Collected Jack Kirby Collector Volume 3, ISBN 1-893905-02-0, p. 114.
- "Thor Spotlight" panel; Baltimore Comic Con; August 28, 2010. As related by "Cosmic Book News".
- Thor #337–340 (November 1983 – February 1984)
- Cronin, Brian (July 21, 2010). "A Year of Cool Comics – Day 202". Comic Book Resources CSBG Archive. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- Thor #341-353 (December 1983 – December 1984)
- Rom #65 (April 1985)
- Thor #354 (April 1985); #357–358 (July – August 1985)
- Thor #359 (Sep. 1985)
- Thor #363 (Jan. 1986);Power Pack #19 (Feb. 1986)
- Thor #400 (Sept. 1989)
- Thor #411-412 (Dec. 1989)
- Thor Annual #16 (January 1991); Thor #439 (November 1991); #442 (January 1992); #454 (November 1992); Thor Annual #18 (January 1983)
- Silver Surfer vol. 3, #79 (April 1993); #81–82 (June–July 1993)
- Silver Surfer vol. 3, #86–87 (November – December 1993); Warlock Chronicles #7-8 (Jan.-Feb. 1994); Warlock and the Infinity Watch #25 (Feb. 1994); Thor #461 (April 1993); #468 (November 1983); #470–471 (January – February 1994)
- Thor Corps #1–4 (September – December 1993)
- Cosmic Powers Unlimited #1–5 (May 1995 – May 1996); Star Masters #1–3 (December 1995 – February 1996); Thor #492–493 (November – December 1995); Silver Surfer vol. 3, #111 (December 1995); #122 (November 1996)
- Maximum Security #1–2 (December 2000); #3 (January 2001)
- Thor #30–33 (December 2000 – March 2001); #39–41 (September – November 2001)
- Thor vol. 2, #83 - 85 (Oct. - Dec. 2004)
- Daniel Berman (w), Michael Oeming (w), Andrea Di Vito (p), Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill #1-6 (March-Aug. 2005)
- Omega Flight #1-5 (April-Aug. 2007)
- Cronin, Brian (July 29, 2010). "A Year of Cool Comics – Day 210". Comic Book Resources CSBG Archive. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- Secret Invasion #1-8 (June 2008 - Jan. 2009)
- Secret Invasion: Thor #1–3 (October – December 2008)
- Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #1–3 (August – October 2009)
- The Thanos Imperative #3
- The Thanos Imperative: Devastation #1, March 2011
- Annihilators: Earthfall #1 (September 2011)
- "Ultimate Spider-Man," "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" May 2012 Episode Details
- James Harvey (December 25, 2009). "Animated "Planet Hulk" Cast And Crew Details, "Hulk Versus" 2009 Year-End Sales". Marvel Animation Age. Archived from the original on 2013-12-25. Retrieved September 8, 2010.
- DJ (2011-05-27). "SDCC 2011 – Hasbro Marvel Universe and Legends line refreshes". MU Review. Retrieved 2011-09-07.
- More Galactic Guardian Heroclix Spoilers, Heroclixworld.com
- Beta Ray Bill at the Marvel Universe wiki
- AlphaFlight.net - Alphanex Entry on Beta Ray Bill
- Beta Ray Bill at the Marvel Database Project
- Beta Ray Bill at the Comic Book DB
- Brereton & Beta Ray Bill in Eden, The Pulse, Comicon.com, April 14, 2009