Dr. Hank McCoy was born to a nuclear plant worker and housewife in rural Illinois. It wasn’t until puberty that people noticed that the young man resembled a gorilla in stature. Eventually, he was found by Professor Xavier and brought to his school. At Xavier’s, Hank found the intellectual sanctuary that he had been missing his entire life. Hank fights against Magneto, The Blob and The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with relative ease. It isn’t until his first skirmish with The Juggernaut that Hank realizes that he could get possibly get killed being an X-Men. This set up a dilemma for Hank that continues to this day.
The Beast was also the first team member to leave the X-Men. He became stressed out having to maintain a secret identity while fighting The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. So, he decided to become a professional wrestler. What was with Stan Lee’s idea that every teenager wanted to become a professional wrestler in the 1960s? That’s where he met fellow mutant Unus the Untouchable and they worked on a device that was meant to help Unus live a better life, but Unus manipulated into making himself invincible. The X-Men intervened and The Beast beat Unus’s diabolical intentions. The Beast returned and enjoyed a few years with the team until their book got cancelled. That’s when the Beast entered the weird 1970s.
The Beast took on a blue furred Werewolf look in the early 70s due to Marvel’s success with their horror books. People forget that at the time, the main X-Men comic was a bi-monthly comic reprinting the 1960s adventures. While the ongoing stories had been cancelled, Marvel was stuck trying to figure out where they should place these mutants in the grand scheme of things. Gerry Conway took a break from his killer Amazing Spider-Man run in order to save The Beast from limbo. The Beast was now in his 20s, as he leaves Xavier for work with the Brand Corporation. It’s there during a lab accident that he develops the blue fur that has become synonymous with the character. He loses a girlfriend to the Secret Empire, gets brainwashed, rescued and ultimately ends up as part of the team that Krakoa kidnaps.
By the mid 1970s, Beast was splitting his time between The Avengers and cameo appearances in X-Men. Following his rescue from Krakoa, The Beast became a full-time Avenger and would occasionally visit his old stomping grounds when the team needed him. This usually involves everyone being kidnapped by Mesmero or events such as The Dark Phoenix Saga. Eventually, government pressure on The Avengers sends The Beast off to the New Defenders. It’s not long before Marvel mandates put him on the X-Factor team and begins a new portion of his life. The road to there is paved with Beast making cordial friendships with everyone from Spider-Man to Daredevil to Wonder Man. No wonder everyone seems to like him.
Much like the fates that befell Iceman and Angel, Beast would spend much of his time bounding around scrub teams like The New Defenders. Eventually, he was chosen to partake in the launch of X-Factor. One of the team’s earliest adventures results in the Beast being kidnapped and experimented upon. Due to the rather drastic measures taken, The Beast loses his blue fur and goes back to his classic Jack Kirby appearance. That makes the second mutant I’ve covered to be experimented on, but nowhere near the last. Pretty soon, we’ll discuss the most impacted mutant by this trope.
Beast grew by leaps and bounds during his time with X-Factor and it influenced his personality as time went on. One of Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen would tag him in battle, causing him to become infected with a degenerative diseases that meant every time he used his strength, his intelligence would decline. Within a few weeks, the Beast was already turning into a flesh toned Hulk. That was until he met a mutant named Infectia whose powers seemed to work on the same level. After planting a big kiss on her, the saliva contact engaged The Beast’s DNA and began his return to the classic blue form. The difference being was that Beast was now stronger than ever.
The Beast would eventually rejoin the X-Men after the Muir Isle Saga and all of the shenanigans on Genosha. The Beast would take on the persona that he displayed on the FOX animated series. Basically, token nerd scientist who answers all of the technical questions of the team. He’d also engage in feats of strength and acrobatics to showcase that he still had some worth. Meanwhile, he was continuing to age and question his worth in the face of things like The Legacy Virus. Nevermind the fact that his alternate reality doppleganger from The Age of Apocalypse had kidnapped him and taken his place on the team. Comics be like that.
Under Morrison and Whedon, The Beast would start to take the shape that we see today. Morrison entertained making the character gay, as he underwent secondary mutations. While Whedon wanted to toy with the idea of Beast either giving up his mutant powers or growing into a far more feral creature. The scientific ethos of the mutant cure would lead Beast further into his desire to protect mutants around the world. All the while showing Beast that there was still far more work to be done as an X-Men, an Avenger and as a globally conscious scientist. Dr. McCoy did all of this while look like a blue kitty in Jean Cocteau dressings.
The Beast took part in the move to Utopia off the coast of San Francisco, but ultimately sided against Cyclops during the great X-Men schism. This chain of events led to Hank growing closer to Wolverine, as they wanted to preserve everything that Xavier’s dream stood for by training new generations of mutants. Cut to a Phoenix Force invasion later and Cyclops killed the Professor in front of Beast and the others. The Beast took it hard, as he wanted to find a way to undo what Cyclops did and show him the error of his was. That’s when he broke space and time by traveling to the past to find the younger first team in a way to guilt Cyclops back to reality.
I have to admit that I’m a fan of where the character has gone under Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron. That being said, the continual mutations and attempts to hamstring his intelligence are getting old. Hank works best when he’s free, fun and able to use his brain for the greater good. The amount of history involved in the character often gets ignored in favor of making him a token source of support. The fact that no creators have attempted to acknowledge the genetic atavism inherent in his appearance and power structure is beyond me. But, that’s the beautiful thing about comic serials. You never know what the future holds.