Posted by:
Matt McGloin

Walt Simonson on the Origins of Beta Ray Bill


picLegendary creator Walt Simonson spoke with i09 on about the fan-favorite Korbinite, Beta Ray Bill, who first appeared in Thor #337.

Simonson comments on creating the character and offers up some very interesting insights.

For one, Thor wasn't selling too good and was on the verge of cancelation. When Simonson presented his ideas to editor Mark Gruenwald, Gru gave it the go.

"Editorially, it was not a problem at all. My editor, the late Mark Gruenwald, was a good guy and offered Thor without conditions. The book wasn't selling very well — I heard it was in danger of cancelation, but I don't know if that was true. The good part about that was that Mark said, 'Do whatever you want. We'll support it. Just go for it.'"

And what Simonson did was base the new character off the design of a "bad guy."

"Every month was your chapter, so writers took a number of shortcuts to get their stories across as quickly as possible. One of those shortcuts was simple –- mostly, 'bad guys are ugly and bad girls don't wear a lot of clothing,'" Simonson told i09. "I thought it would be kind of fun to put this on its head. When I designed Bill, I made him look like a monster.."

Simonson continues, noting that the design for Beta Ray was based off a horse's skull, and explains just where he got the idea.

"Before I ever talked about Bill's design, nobody ever said, 'Bill's a horse.' Back in the day, nobody knew. I did this for two reasons. One, the monster quality –- in many cultures, skulls are an emblem of death," said Simonson.
"At the same time, Bill's head is very roughly based on a horse's skull. I was a geology student when I was younger, and I was familiar with skulls. Skulls have this quality of horror, but at the same time, horses are beautiful animals. The skull is the structure under the skin that gives the horse its look. In a way, the skull was representative of Bill's true nature," he said.
So was this new character a success? Well, the issue did force comic shops to go buy remaining issues that were still available at newsstands to satisfy the demand.
"I went to a comic shop in New York City three days after the book came out because I wanted to buy a couple extra copies for my files. I walked in and they said, 'Oh! We're sold out of Thor #337.' It sold like crazy in comic shops completely out of the blue, so all the dealers ran out to the spinner racks in 7-11s and mom-and-pop grocery stores, and they bought all the copies off the racks to resell in the comic shops, " Simonson said.
Simonson goes on to discuss the origins of Frog Thor, the death and return of Skurge, and more on Thor over at i09.