Beta Ray Bill is a Marvel Comics superhero created by Walt Simonson. The cybernetic, horse-faced champion of the Korbinite race, Beta Ray Bill made his debut in Thor (vol. 1) #337 (November, 1983), becoming the first non-Asgardian to lift Mjölnir, Thor's enchanted hammer.
With the decimation of the Burning Galaxy at the hands of Surtur, the Korbinite race was on the brink of extinction. Once a mighty empire inhabiting several planets, the surviving Korbinites were reduced to a fleet of ten thousand starships. Realizing that they needed a champion to protect the fleet during their search for a new home, the Korbinites selected the strongest among them, Bill, after their original champion, Alpha Ray, proved to be dangerously uncontrollable. Having bested his fellow Korbinites in combat to prove his worthiness, Bill's soul is transferred into a "bio-machine" based on the most ferocious carnivore in the Burning Galaxy. Now called Beta Ray Billnote , the champion and his sentient ship, Skuttlebutt, successfully delay Surtur's remaining demons while the fleet makes its way to safety. With the fleet light-years away, Bill attempts to flee but the demons give chase, threatening to overtake the Korbinites within days. Taking Skuttlebutt ahead of the fleet to find sanctuary, Bill enters stasis while the ship replenishes its energy reserves by absorbing a star. This act is picked up by a S.H.I.E.L.D. deep-space satellite, prompting Director Nick Fury to take drastic measures.
Detecting the ship's path, which will carry it through the Milky Way galaxy, Nick Fury kidnaps Dr. Donald Blake and "asks" his alter ego, Thor, to investigate. Using his great speed, Thor intercepts Skuttlebutt en route to Earth. Detecting a similarity between Asgardian magic and that used by the demons pursing the Korbinites, Skuttlebutt attacks but is unable to defeat Thor before he pierces the ship's hull and makes his way inside. With no alternative, Skuttlebutt wakes Bill from stasis and the two champions start slugging it out. Losing possession of Mjölnir for more than 60 seconds during the fight, Thor is transformed into his mortal identity of Dr. Donald Blake and is knocked unconscious by Bill. Picking up Dr. Blake's cane, which is really Mjölnir in disguise, Bill is recognized as worthy and gains Thor's powers and a similar costume after striking the cane against the wall. Heavily damaged by Thor, Skuttlebutt crash lands on Earth, where S.H.I.E.L.D. agents lie in wait. Using his new powers to defeat the agents with ease, Bill realizes that a weapon like Mjölnir could save his people from certain death. Before he can leave, however, Bill is unexpectedly whisked away to Asgard.
Finding himself in a strange place, Bill quickly takes down the gathered Asgardians before coming face-to-face with Odin. Angered, Bill throws the hammer at Odin only to watch it float harmlessly into the All-Father's hand. Locked in a cage of pure force, Bill and Odin speak about the implications of Thor's defeat aboard Skuttlebutt. Teleporting the helpless Dr. Blake to Asgard, where he is mystically transformed into Thor, Odin releases Bill and the three men depart for the mountains to discuss their situation. Never before encountering a non-Asgardian who can wield Mjölnir, Odin acknowledges Bill's claim to the hammer and arranges a battle to the death between the two worthies. The prize: Mjölnir. Battling for hours in the fiery realm of Skartheim, Bill and Thor demolish the countryside with their blows before collapsing from sheer exhaustion. As their bodies rest above a lava flow, Bill revives first, his bio-machine body rejuvenated by the intense heat. Recognizing Thor as a worthy opponent, Bill prevents Thor from falling into the lava flow, reaffirming his own worthiness in the process. Recognizing Bill as the winner, Odin teleports the two broken, exhausted warriors home to Asgard. Days pass while Odin's healers work their magic, during which the All-Father speaks with Bill about his victory over Thor. Citing the hammer's mystical bond with Thor, Bill is hesitant to take Mjölnir for his own despite his great need, so Odin strikes a deal with the Eitri of Nidavellir to forge another hammer of equal power: Stormbreaker.
Now fully-healed, Bill leaves Asgard along with Thor and Lady Sif, hoping to track down the Korbinite fleet before it is too late. The great speed of Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder allows the heroes to catch the fleet with ease, but the demon attack has already begun. In order to defeat the demons, the source of their power must be destroyed. Lady Sif volunteers to stay behind to defend the fleet while Bill and Thor travel to the heart of the Burning Galaxy. Traveling faster than the eye could follow, Bill and Thor arrive in a twisted, demonic perversion of the former Korbinite galaxy. Encountering a barrier around the galaxy's center protected by intense heat, Bill slips through while Thor lies in wait. Discovering a portal projecting massive amounts of energy, Bill and Thor strike simultaneously, destroying the portal with the combined might of their hammers.
Back with the fleet, an exhausted Sif cuts down hundreds of demons, but their numbers only grow until the unexpected arrival of Skuttlebutt turns the tide. Working together, Sif and Skuttlebutt drive the demons back, but time is running out. Desperate, Skuttlebutt readies her Self-Destruct Mechanism, which can wipe out all life within a light-year. Unwilling to abandon her fellow warrior, Sif watches as the demons suddenly fade away.
This character appears in the following works:
- Stormbreaker: The Saga Of Beta Ray Bill
- Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter
- Planet Hulk: Beta Ray Bill appears in the animated adaptation, taking the place of the Silver Surfer due to licensing issues.
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance: Beta Ray Bill appears as an alternate costume for Thor.
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance: Bill joins the alliance as an unlockable character in SpecOps 24.
Tropes seen in these series include:
- The Anti-Nihilist: Beta-Ray Bill, despite calling Thor "oath-brother" and meeting the Norse pantheon, does not believe in God in the traditional theological sense and finds worshiping any so-called gods 'obscene.' As he puts it: "If there is nothing but what we make in this world, brothers... let us make good."
- Aliens Speaking English: Subverted by Skuttlebutt's translation program, which allows Bill to learn both English and the Asgardian language in seconds.
- Anti-Hero Substitute: Downplayed. He was Thor's replacement for one arc, as decreed by Odin. Compared to Thunderstrike, he may be the more brutal Thor replacement, buth this doesn't change the fact that Bill was a fundamentally kind and good-natured soul.
- Arch-Enemy: At first it was Surtur, but in later comics it's Galactus. And unlike the other countless billions that have sworn to destroy the Devourer of Worlds, Bill is a genuine threat to him.
- Atrocious Alias: Cool as it is, Bill's ship is stuck with the less than badass moniker of ''Skuttlebutt".
- Attack Drone: Skuttlebutt is equipped with sapient attack drones. These drones are smart enough to stay back when Bill is using Stormbreaker's more powerful attacks and ambush targets from multiple angles.
- Barrier-Busting Blow: Adding to his monstrous first appearance, Bill fulfills this trope by breaking out of his stasis pod with one arm.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted by Bill. Treated as a hideous monster by his own people, Bill was actually pure at heart. This goodness allowed him to lift Mjolnir and, for a time, attract the attention of Lady Sif.
- Big Damn Gunship: Skuttlebutt has acted as this more than once.
- Big "NO!": Bill delivers one after witnessing Ashta wiping out the last of the Korbinite defense fleet.
- Body Horror: Bill is the only survivor among a cadre of volunteers who tried to have their souls transferred into the most terrible bio-weapon their highly advanced civilization could design. By his own choice, he's confined forever in a patchwork of genetically altered flesh from a fearsome predator and high-grade cybernetics.
- The Chosen One: Fulfilling a prophecy by leading the Korbinites to a new home, Bill is the champion of his people for years. Some of the Korbinites even began to worship him as a god (to Bill's consternation).
- Clothing Damage: While his body rarely shows battle damage, Bill's costume has a habit of being torn to shreds. Strangely enough, his pants always manage to survive the destruction of a planet intact.
- Costume Copycat: Originally a side effect of being transformed by Mjölnir. Stormbreaker seems to share its older sibling's ideas of proper apparel for a god of thunder.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Bill vs. Ashta does not end well for the Korbinites. By his own admission, nothing in Bill's arsenal is powerful enough to stop the Fallen God for good.
- Deadly Upgrade: Bill's cyborg body possesses power reactors that were meant to last for millenia. Decoupling these reactors outputs all that energy into Bill's body with no restraints, giving him more power than two of Galactus' Heralds combined. While the power boost is nice, Bill's body is not designed to handle so much power at once, so his reactors will reach critical mass and explode within a few minutes time.
- Doomed Hometown: Surtur destroyed the Burning Galaxy, wiping out most of the Korbinite empire. This action led to the creation of Bill and his original encounter with Thor. Later, Ashta, the Fallen God, would consume New Korbin, leading to the events of Godhunter.
- Driven by Envy: With some of the Korbinites worshiping both Bill and Stormbreaker, the High Priests began to see the champion as a threat to their power. Using the arrival of Ashta to reactivate Alpha Ray, the Priests were delighted when the uncontrollable machine attacked Bill instead of the Fallen God, justifying their actions by claiming they were acting in the best interests of the Korbinite people.
- Drop the Hammer: He has his own version of a mystical hammer as his weapon, Stormbreaker.
- Duel to the Death: The initial battle between Bill and Thor, though the victor refused to destroy his Worthy Opponent.
- Dying Race: The Korbinites
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In Stormbreaker, Bill is strong enough to destroy a small planet with a single hit. Skuttlebutt carries surface-charges powerful enough to destroy larger planets.
- Empathic Weapon: Stormbreaker.
- Enemy Mine: Bill and Stardust, a Herald of Galactus, team up to stop Asteroth, a demonic creature released during one of their fights.
- Empty Shell / Psycho Prototype: Alpha Ray, the Korbinites' original bio-machine prototype. Lacking a soul, Alpha was dangerously uncontrollable, so the Korbinites placed his body into stasis until the events of Stormbreaker.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Bill and Thor
- Flying Brick: His powerset.
- Godzilla Threshold: After Ashta wipes out Blue Squadron, the fleet defending New Korbin, the Korbinites bring the uncontrollable Alpha Ray out of stasis out of sheer desperation. Instead of battling Ashta, Alpha Ray attacks the returning Beta Ray Bill, allowing the Devourer of Worlds to defeat both champions and consume New Korbin.
- Hollywood Atheist: Averted. Bill does not deny the existence of gods (because his friends are gods), but he has explicitly made it clear that he doesn't believe in God(s) in the sense to worship any of them. In spite of this, he's portrayed as a sympathetic Anti-Nihilist, saying that lack of a God "does not change what is right".
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In Stormbreaker, Bill hammers Stardust's own polearm through her chest, destroying a small planet in the process.
- Invisibility Cloak: Skuttlebutt is equipped with a cloaking device.
- It Is Not Your Time: Left on the brink of death after defeating Omega Ray, Bill's soul was transferred into the newly-dead body of Simon Walters after an encounter with a mysterious Man in White.
- Little Bit Beastly: Spider-Man gave Bill the nickname "Mr. Ed" for obvious reasons.
- Last of His Kind: Bill became the last Korbinite after the loss of New Korbin until Galactus created a mate for Bill named Ti Asha Ra.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Having been forced to battle thousands of demons to protect his people and to prolong his own survival, Bill spends most of his premiere issue trying to bash the heads in of everyone he meets as he also believes them to be demons who are out to harm him and the rest of the Korbinites. He is mildly embarrassed when he learns that Thor and the other Asgardians weren't actually demons and calms down when he realises he is in the presence of beings who don't actually want to kill him.
- Monochromatic Eyes: Bill's eyes are pure white.
- Most Common Superpower: Asteroth
- Nay-Theist: Bill does not dispute Thor's claims to godhood or deny the existence of gods, but after seeing horrors done in the name of religion and how others had come to view him as a god creating a whole other set of issues he does not see any gods worth worshiping.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: Near the top tiers in the Marvel Universe - in Thor's league or even a trifle higher, able to withstand solar flares, planetary destruction, and all sorts of terrible things. Although he did receive a brutal (if comical) beating from the Champion of the Universe when he appeared in She-Hulk but that guy had the excuse of being powered by an Infinity Stone.
- Only the Chosen May Wield: Only the worthy may lift Stormbreaker.
- Only the Pure of Heart: The definition of "worthy" with regards to lifting Stormbreaker. After Bill infects the population of I'Than Prime with a nanoplague, he loses the ability to lift the hammer.
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: Like Mjolnir, Stormbreaker returns to Bill's hand after being thrown.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Bill describes himself as a warrior in his "heart and soul", explaining why he and the Asgardians get along so well. He was even willing to die alongside the Asgardians during Ragnarok until Thor steps in.
- The Reveal: Depicted as a hideous cybernetic beast, Bill becoming the first non-Asgardian to lift Mjolnir certainly qualifies. Later, Ashta, the Korbinite God of Destruction, is revealed to be Galactus.
- The Rival: With Thor. When faced with the other Asgardians, Bill refused to give up Mjolnir because it would be immensely helpful in protecting his people. Recognizing Bill's worthiness, Odin eventually had a new hammer crafted for Bill with powers to rival Mjolnir, and his rivalry with Thor has been much friendlier after that.
- Sapient Ship: Skuttlebutt, Bill's sentient battleship. Built from much of the same technology as Bill's bio-machine body, Skuttlebutt and Bill are described as "brothers in arms".
- Save the Villain: Having a change of heart, Bill defends a starving Galactus from a giant fleet of I'Than warships long enough for the Devourer to consume the uninhabited world of I'Than III. Regaining his strength, Galactus wipes out the I'Than fleet with ease.
- Ship Tease: Between Bill and Sif during his first appearance. Sif saw past Bill's beastly appearance and accompanied him when he returned to the Korbinite fleet. Later, Bill mourned for Sif at the beginning of Stormbreaker after witnessing her death during Ragnarok.
- Shout-Out: Bill himself appears to have been designed as an homage to Jack Kirby.
- His human alter-ego is named Simon Walters, in honor of his creator, Walt Simonson.
- Soul Jar: The Meta-Orb, a high density sphere construct built from the same technology that transferred Bill's soul into his bio-machine body. In Stormbreaker, the Korbinite civilians transferred their life force into the Meta-Orb before Ashta consumed New Korbin.
- Special Person, Normal Name: A 6'7" alien cyborg with the power of ancient gods. Named Bill. Partially subverted in that, post-cyborg conversion, the "Beta Ray" became a legal part of his name (on Korbin, at least).
- Stay in the Kitchen: Bill's views towards women seem a bit outdated in the fight against Surtur; he's obsessed with keeping Sif safe. This quickly passes once he realizes how much of a badass she is.
- Super Power Lottery: Played with: Bill was designed with tons of super-powers and then won a super-power lottery by receiving the powers Mjölnir granted. Bill's bio-machine body gives him super-senses, Super Reflexes, Super Speed, and Super Strength. Once he gets his claws on one of those magic hammers, Bill can also reflect attacks, create Deflector Shields, use Elemental Powers identical to Mjolnir, absorb incredible amounts of energy, take down multiple enemies with a single throw, block attacks by spinning the hammer and teleport almost anywhere in the galaxy.
- Super Soldier: After Bill was chosen to become the guardian and protector of his people during their exodus through space, his mind was transferred into a powerful artificial body.
- Super Weight: Level 5
- Superheroes Wear Capes: Well, something about his appearance has to hint that he's not the bad guy!
- Transformation Trinket: Mjölnir's transformation enchantment was transferred to Stormbreaker, allowing Bill to transform into his original Korbinite self by tapping the hammer on the ground. Later, Bill would use Stormbreaker to transform into Simon Walters, the human body housing his soul.
- Villainous Rescue: Given a tiny portion of the Power Cosmic by Galactus, Alpha Ray reappears in time to knock Asteroth into a black hole before she can kill Bill and Stardust.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: After Galactus destroys New Korbin, Bill becomes obsessed with killing the Devourer of Worlds. Part of Bill's plan was to destroy inhabited planets in order to starve the Planet Devourer. The High Priests of Korbin also ventured into this territory during Stormbreaker by pushing for the reactivation of Alpha Ray.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: In the Silver Surfer cartoon, Bill is inexplicably Scottish/Irish.
- Where Is Your X Now?: With Bill off-world, High Priest Rogotta taunts his General this way just before Ashta destroys Blue Squadron.Rogotta: Where is your Beta Ray Bill, "your savior"? Where is your great champion now?
- Withholding the Cure: After infecting I'Than Prime with the nanoplague, Bill purposely withheld the cure, promising to deliver enough to cure the planet's population if they abandoned their homeworld. At that point, Stormbreaker abandoned him on the grounds that this is a really assholish thing to do.
- Worthy Opponent: Bill and Thor see each other this way. Bill also earns the respect of Stardust during Stormbreaker. Which is unusual given that Stardust thinks that all life has no purpose but to be consumed by Galactus.
- Wowing Cthulhu: In his debut, Bill became the first character other than Odin and Thor himself to lift Mjölnir, and the next one wouldn't do so for about another decade.
- Ye Olde Butchered English: Depending on the Writer, wielding Stormbreaker apparently makes Bill speak in the Asgardian fake-Shakespeare dialect (seen most prominently in Maximum Security).