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Beta Ray Bill has had it rough lately. He showed up in the pages of Donny Cates and Nic Klein's Thor to try and stop his old friend the God of Thunder from allying with Galactus, and got his beloved hammer Stormbreaker smashed for his trouble. Now, Bill's without his legendary weapon, and the tension between him and his brother in arms from Asgard is high. After all his battles, Bill needs a new path, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive first look at the shape that path is taking.
Last December, Marvel announced that acclaimed writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson (Wonder Woman: Dead Earth) and colorist Mike Spicer would chart Bill's search for "a new weapon and a new destiny" in the pages of Beta Ray Bill, a limited series spinning out of the events of Cates and Klein's Thor run. Speaking to SYFY WIRE about the genesis of the series, Johnson noted that addressing Bill's place as a kind of backup for Marvel's Asgardian characters was a key point he wanted to tackle, even without Cates' own plans for the character reinforcing that.
"Before I even knew I'd be spinning out of Donny's work, I wanted to focus on Bill as an entity who felt out of place and that has played second fiddle for a long time behind the gods of the Thor universe," Johnson said. "So when I saw Bill getting his hammer Stormbreaker obliterated by Thor [in Thor #3 last year], I knew I had the perfect in. So much of what kept Bill in the Thor world was that hammer. It was a symbol of him being included by Odin, that he was a part of the Asgardian family. Now, things with Thor are a bit strained, which provides an opportunity for Bill to break out on his own for a while."
Stepping away from some of his Asgardian ties might grant Bill a bit more freedom and a greater opportunity to pursue his own destiny, but that doesn't mean the journey will be easy. As you can see in the exclusive preview pages below, Bill still has battles to fight, including one against Fin Fang Foom while the legendary dragon is infected by the symbiote god Knull.
For Johnson, who calls Beta Ray Bill his "favorite Marvel character" ever, putting the legendary Korbinite in over his head is just another essential part of his character, something the writer/artist learned from reading the work of Bill's creator, Walt Simonson.
"I remember seeing Walt's famous Thor Cover of Bill breaking the logo in an Art of Marvel book back when I was growing up, and ever since then, the intense character visuals always stuck with me. I fell even more in love with Bill when I got my hands on the Thor Artist Edition, where he came to life in new ways. Seeing the raw lines of Simonson making this new character on the page was inspirational," Johnson said. "I also love how Beta Ray is a character that is defined by failure, and is trying to always prove his worthiness, even when it's not required of him. He's the perfect underdog."
But watching the forever-underdog Beta Ray Bill fight his way past Fin Fang Foom isn't the only reason to pick up the launch of this new series. The oversized first issue will also feature a conversation between Johnson and Simonson himself as they discuss the character of Beta Ray Bill and his legacy.
"Something that was inspiring while reading his answers is just how seriously Walt takes his craft," Johnson said about corresponding with the legendary Simonson. "When he made Beta Ray he was really trying to make something special, and he's still working on making cool things to this day. It makes me want to bring my best self to the Marvel table and make something that I can be proud of. It's an incredible pleasure to be part of a legacy as solid and as long lasting as Walt Simonson."
Beta Ray Bill #1 arrives March 31.