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Walt Simonson on Beta Ray Bill

Posted By: Matt McGloin, Editor/Publisher
On: August 28, 2010 Updated: 4 years 12 weeks ago
The Story Of Beta Ray Bill THOR #337 FIRST APPEARANCE BETA RAY BILL ART BY WALT SIMONSON Marvel held their "Thor Spotlight" panel today at the Baltimore Comic Con with Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, Jonathan Hickman (Ultimate Thor), Brian Glass (Thor: First Thunder) and legends John Workman and Walt Simonson. Walt Simonson commented on the creation of the fan favorite member of the Galaxy's Mightiest, Beta Ray Bill, to which he received a huge applause from the audience: Simonson: When I get on a book, I'm interested in doing something IF YOU CAN that has never been done before. For me, I've been in comics long enough, that most stories are re-dos of things that have come before. In the 70s, this was pre-royalties; all of us working there had seen what happened to Jack Kirby. He had basically helped create the entire universe, and walked away from them with nothing. So we were reluctant to invent new stuff, cause we didn't have a vested interest in it. That's not a knock on Marvel, it's just the way things were done back in those days. In the early 80s, Marvel and DC did institute royalty programs, so now if you created something you DID have a vested interest in it. I had done a lot of stories and had a lot of fun doing them, but a lot of them weren't groundbreaking. I did want to do something that hadn't been done before though. 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 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 guys 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. You can head on over to read the replay of the Live Blog at Newsarama which featured Hickman discussing his Ultimate Thor; discussion on the upcoming Thor Movie and more.