B is for Beast:
Dr Henry (Beast) McCoy first appeared in X-Men no 1 back in September 1963 as part of the first group of X-Men students and has been here and there in the marvel universe pretty much from then.
Born of Edna and Norton McCoy, Hank is a mutant, born with an X-gene which caused mutation, giving him enhanced strength and agility as well as increasing his dexterity. When he was in his late teens, he was recruited by Professor Charles Xavier, who trained him in the use of these phyiscal talents as well as further his more traditional education. After leaving the team, he went to college, then got his doctorate in bio-chemistry, making him one of the few X-Men graduates who have marketable skills outside being an X-Man. Escaping his super-heroic lifestyle, he got a job at the Brand Corporation as a research scientist. Here he was investigating his colleague and had to disguise himself, since he was researching mutation, he was able to distil some of the chemicals that triggered mutations from his own genes, even identifying it as the source of human to mutant mutation, needing a disguise he administered it to himself and developed a more animal appearance, he was unable to reverse it in time and has for the most part not looked too human since.
A way to describe the Beast is, what if the smartest person you knew was a blue furry ape/tiger looking thing? He’s a scientist, scholar, comedian and all-round voice of thought and conscience.
One of my all time favourite Avengers and X-Men, Beast is always the funny and delightful heart of whatever team he is in. As much as scientist as a super hero, he plays the dichotomy at the heart of the X-Men experience. He’s strong and powerful, but prefers to be a thinker. He’s cultured and erudite, but looks like a blue Tony the Tiger. At times shy and awkward, but very much the ladies man. He’s been written several ways, but to be honest, they are all consistent with who is presented as, very few writers write him that out of character.
He’s had many great eras, from his time with the Avengers in the 70’s (Avengers #137), to joining X-Factor (X-~Factor #)1 in the 80’s and his return to the X-Men in the 90’s (X-Factor 71) which is where I first saw this blue furry version.
He underwent a change in 2000 under the pen of Chris Claremont and Grant Morrison, (New X-Men# 113) which saw him injured and then undergo a secondary (or tertiary when you think about it) mutation, leaving him more Cat-like that before.
Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run (Astonishing X-Men 1-24 + Giant Size 1) played up the greater split between Beast-like Man and Man-Like Beast and Cassaday did a great Cat-Beast.
Since I am in the minority, the Cat-Beast was retired to make way for this more Ape-Like Beast.
Last seen in the X-Men during the Black Vortex story, I lost track of him when he was sort of removed from the team, for his increasingly erratic behaviour in the aftermath of the death of Charles Xavier. After Secret Wars, I saw him in an issue of Uncanny Inhumans, but to be honest, I’m less inclined to read current Marvel.
The Beast is fun, intelligent and can be a spring-board for all sorts of stories and with the teenage Hank popping around in All New X-Men, it seems that we are only going to get more good Beast stories.
B is for Bloodshot
Bloodshot was a title that was part of the early publishing releases of Valiant comics from the early 90’s. Valiant was a company that in part was run by former Marvel boss Jim Shooter and mixed repurposed Gold-Key comics characters with brand new creations and concepts including Bloodshot. The character was created by Kevin Van Hook and Yvel Guichet and first appeared in Valiant’s Eternal Warrior title, before jumping into a high selling solo series. It is the story of Angelo Mortalli, a rising star in the mafia in New York, who was framed for one of the few crimes he didn’t commit by his boss Mr Canelli and to save his life, turned state’s evidence. Betrayed by the Dept of Justice as well, he was sold to Iwatsu Industries, who used him as part of an experiment, which replaced his blood with a nanotech package. The only successful recepient, he found he could heal faster than anyone else, could augment his physical characteristics (strength, speed, senses etc) and interface with electronic devices. This process damaged his mind, costing him his memories and any feelings related to them. Devoid of any human connection, all he had left was revenge. Chance encounters with Geoff (the Geomancer) McHenry and Gilad (the Eternal Warrior) Abrams, headed him down a different path. He ended up making a life for himself as Mike Lazarus, or Bloodshot and worked with Neville Alcott and his daughter Jillian, who run a secretive agency to battle terrorism from with the British government( how f***ing 90’s is that?) and give him missions and support.
This was a versatile and exciting series, with clean house style art and clear storytelling, it was a standout from the admittedly still very entertaining Valiant comics stable and the loose theme and broad characterisation allowed Bloodshot to tell many different types of stories. There’s noir, sci-fi, action, cold-war esque thriller all within these pages, would make a great Netflix series to be honest.
A lot of these can be found on comixology and also the cheap bins at comic marts, worth checking out.
B is for B-List
To all things there is a hierarchy. League tables for sports, rich lists for a$$holes, oscars and other awards for actors. Wherever you are, you are in some sort of pecking order, comics are no different.
The A-List are the obvious ones, the ones everyone knows and get the movies, games and other mass media products. They get action figures, spin off series. The A-List for comics may vary, but they are easy to see Superman, Spider-Man, Batman of course, X-Men, Avengers and so on, they sell the comics, bring in the movies and are recognised the world over. They have their benefits, but as a comic fan, the most loved reads, favourite characters are always below that sense of fame. Batman is as awesome as everyone says yadda yadda, but for me, I do prefer 70’s era Green Arrow for the billionaire/mystery man guy, or maybe Wildcat. Superman is a great standard bearing hero, but (pre-recent-movies) Captain America works almost as well. Spider-Man is a fantastic every-man hero, but my one of those was Nova back in the 80’s. I have always appreciated the X-Men (my gateway to comics) but X-Factor (by Peter David) still has my favourite issues in it. The Avengers are the big leagues, but I always think more of the original Guardians of the Galaxy (https://liverpoolmunky76.wordpress.com/ no suprise there eh?)
In looking at comics as a medium, the similarities to other media properties are evident and the b-list is very much evident. Many of the best sit-coms are ensemble pieces (seinfield, how I met your mother, friends and community are those that come to mind) and drama and genre series have similar characters levels, you have the star/lead, but it’s the smaller characters that hook you to a show. A-List characters get the first blush of movies and tie-ins etc, they start off the comics, but it’s the supporting characters, lower tier heroes and recurring guests that take a bunch of comics and turns them into a fictional universe. These B-listers are starting to come into their own as movie properties as well. Think about it, suicide squad, Abnett & Lannings Guardians of the Galaxy reboot and Deadpool F*@$%ing DEADPOOL gets a movie) the rise of the B-list has moved off the page and onto the screen, if you’re a comic geek, movie going life, just got a lot sweeter.
B is for Bong, Dr Bong
Next Time: C