Saturday, November 03, 2007

Whatever Happened to Hank McCoy?

I got a simple question today. It's been bugging me for a little bit now, and I haven't really been able to find a satisfactory answer. I suspect there is no satisfactory answer, but merely a moderately depressing and dispiriting answer.

OK, to wit: whatever happened to the Beast?

We know who the Beast is: he's an X-Man who also spent a fairly long stint on the Avengers in the 70s. He's one of the first five X-Men, one of the few characters in the franchise to really feel the strong influence of Lee & Kirby, considering how few X-Men stories the two men actually created. Even given the gray / blue fur he received in the early 70s (a rare example of a significant cosmetic upgrade that actually stuck), he was still talking like Stan Lee and hitting people with his giant feet. He was a fan favorite, and that's probably why he stayed a significant player in the Marvel Universe when the other four original X-Men were relegated to support status in their own book, following the invention of the "All-New, All-Different" team.

He was a fun character. He used to jump around and hit people. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.

And then, after a lengthy tenure with the Avengers and a not-so-lengthy tenure with the New Defenders, he got shuffled back into the X-Men books for good with the invention of X-Factor, and there he's stayed ever since. And while there has still been a great deal of hitting involved, in later years the character has been seen in increasingly depressed states, usually in a lab coat muttering about science. Nowadays the Beast is more likely to be sifting through the mass graves of an ethnic cleansing than hopping around and hitting bad guys with his feet. Is there something wrong with me that I don't see the fun there?

Everyone loves the Beast. More specifically, everyone loves the Beast who appeared occasionally in the pages of Kurt Busiek's Avengers run: fun, flip and funky. The Beast who actually appears in the X-Men books is a clinically depressed recluse. It seems like there's always some kind of virus or mass contagion or something that comes along to sideline the Beast as an active participant in stories, relegating him to the role of generic Science / Doctor Guy. Whenever I flip through an X-Men comic today the mood is invariably Grim, Grim, Grim (that's been the default mood since, what, 1987?), and there's not a lot of room there for a giant blue teddy bear who talks like Stan Lee and kicks people with his giant feet.

So I ask you: why is this so? Do they think that a morose, non-functional Beast is better than a happy-go-lucky kick-happy Beast? I would posit that the latter is a demonstrably more interesting character, inasmuch as the latter is much more fun. Fun is good, yes? Or no, is fun not good? I forget how that works . . .

(Courtesy of these fine people.)

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