Beast (or The Beast), Dr. Henry Philip “Hank” McCoy, is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero, and a member of the mutant team of superheroes known as the X-Men. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-writer Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in X-Men #1 (September 1963).

When first introduced, Beast ” a mutant ” possesses ape-like superhuman physical strength and agility and oversized hands and feet, though he otherwise appears to be a normal human being. Throughout his history, Beast undergoes progressive latent transformations to his physiognomy, permanently gaining increasingly animalistic physical characteristics. These include blue fur, feline facial features, pointed ears, fangs, and claws. His physical power increases to even greater levels, as do his senses.

Despite his savage appearance, he is a brilliant man of the arts and sciences; he is a world authority on biochemistry and genetics, the X-Men’s medical doctor, and the science and mathematics instructor at the Xavier Institute (the X-Men’s headquarters and school for young mutants). He is also a mutant political activist. Fighting his bestial instincts and fears of social rejection, Beast dedicates his physical and mental gifts to the creation of a better world for man and mutant. He also has a witty sense of humor.

One of the original X-Men, Beast has appeared consistently in X-Men-related comics throughout the years. He has also been a member of the “all-star” teams the Avengers and Defenders. He is played by Kelsey Grammer in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Publication history

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created Beast. Stan Lee writes in the Foreword to X-Men: The Ultimate Guide that he made Beast the most articulate, eloquent, and well-read of the X-Men to contrast with his brutish exterior. Further, the book opines that the Werner Roth-Roy Thomas team garnered admiration for their “appealing and sensitive characterizations of the original X-Men.” Roth (under the alias Jay Gavin) had taken over for Kirby fully by issue #18 and Thomas was a new talent. Beast was given an individualized, colorful new costume with the rest of the X-Men by issue #39 in order to attract new readers. After Jim Steranko’s tenure, which supposedly added “exciting art,” Roth returned, working with Neal Adams who blended Kirby’s style with “realism, idealized beauty, and epic grandeur,” making the The X-Men (later named Uncanny X-Men) series one of the most popular super hero comics by the late 1960s.

In Amazing Adventures #11, March 1972, Beast underwent a radical change in appearance, mutating into the familiar furry creature. Over the next decade he would appear on the roster of several teams in titles ranging from Avengers to Defenders to X-Factor. It wasn’t until 1991, in X-Factor #70/X-Men #1, that Beast finally returned to the X-Men. In Uncanny X-Men #390, 2001, Beast cured the Legacy Virus and in X-Treme X-Men #3, 2001, Beast experienced a further mutation into a feline being. As evidenced on the back cover of X-Treme X-Men Vol. 1, Chris Claremont, writer of that series in addition to both Uncanny X-Men (for sixteen consecutive years) and X-Factor, contributed much to Beast’s characterization. According to BusinessWeek, Beast is listed as one of the top ten most intelligent fictional characters in American comics.[1]


Fictional character biography

Henry Philip McCoy was born in Dunfee, Illinois, in the United States, to Norton and Edna McCoy. His father, Norton McCoy, is employed at a local nuclear power plant before McCoy’s birth and was once exposed to intense nuclear radiation which appears to have caused his son’s mutation. Hank is born with a vast intellect, unusually long arms and legs, and unusually large hands and feet for a human; in fact, his body’s proportions are comparable to those of a gorilla and later stories reveal his nickname in school was “Magilla Gorilla”.


With the X-Men

Henry’s mutation more fully manifests during adolescence, providing greater strength and agility, and although his powers allow him to briefly excel in athletics during his remaining time at school, he soon attracts the animosity of his fellow students and other non-mutant humans. As he seeks refuge, he is approached by Professor Charles Xavier, who invites him to study at “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters”.

Henry recognizes the opportunities such an institution can offer him and accepts the offer. He finds the school both a font of scientific knowledge and a place of sanctuary and is there introduced to the X-Men, who accept him into their ranks and give him the codename Beast.

Alongside workouts in the Danger Room, under Xavier’s tutelage he studies subjects ranging from differential equations to Proust.

With the rest of the X-Men on their first field mission, he battles Magneto for the first time,[2] and later Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.[3] With the team, he also visits the Savage Land, and meets Ka-Zar.[4] Hank even battles the Juggernaut[5] and the Sentinels.[6] In addition, he and Iceman fight the Maha Yogi.[7] Hank later recounts his clash with the Conquistador and how Hank joined the X-Men.[8]


After the X-Men

Hank leaves the X-Men shortly after his twentieth birthday, claiming that he is no longer one of the “strangest teens of all.” He becomes a research scientist at the Brand Corporation, a genetics research facility. His assistant, Linda Donaldson, quickly becomes his girlfriend. Hank isolates a “hormonal extract” allowing anyone to become a mutant for a short period of time, and uses the mutagenic serum on himself to disguise his appearance while foiling an attempt to steal his research.[9] However, he waits too long to reverse the process, leaving him permanently transformed. He has grown gray fur (which later turns blue) all over his body and acquired sharp ears, elongated canine teeth, claws, the ability to run on walls and ceilings like a spider, enhanced senses, an accelerated healing factor, and a feral side he struggles to control. He briefly joins the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants when Mastermind wipes out his memory, but quickly recovers. When the Beast is wounded, he is aided by Patsy Walker, and then reunited with his old girlfriend Vera Cantor.[10] Back at Brand Laboratories, he discovers his girlfriend Linda Donaldson is a Communist spy, and they break up.


With the Avengers

Not long after this transformation, he is recruited to join the Avengers as a provisional member.[11] He is later granted full Avengers membership[12] and remains a member for many years, becoming a close friend of Wonder Man. He leaves the team periodically to rejoin his friends in the X-Men during times of need (such as the Dark Phoenix Saga[13]). He returns to the Avengers each time, but eventually leaves so that the team (which has a six-member limit at the time) can be filled out by new recruits.[14]


With the Defenders

He later joins the Defenders[15], stays with the team to organize as the “new” Defenders,[16] and is one of the final surviving members at the time of its first disbandment as a result of the battle with Moondragon and the Dragon of the Moon.[17] He and fellow surviving Defenders Angel and Iceman are contacted shortly after by Cyclops and Jean Grey to form a new group, X-Factor.[18]


With X-Factor

With X-Factor, he rejoins the original members of the X-Men, and is again reunited with Vera Cantor. Beast starts out in his furred-form, but on their second mission is captured by Tower. He is delivered to Carl Maddicks and used in an attempt to develop a cure for mutancy, which has rendered Maddicks’ son, Artie, mute. Maddicks develops a serum and tests it on the Beast. Hank is also subjected to chemotherapy and radiation, and suffers a cardiac arrest. X-Factor arrives on the scene and saves Hank, but not before he’s been injected with the serum. When the bandages around his face are removed, he is revealed to have lost his blue fur.[19] This helps in X-Factor’s cover as normal humans who are mutant hunters for hire (though they actually help the mutants they capture). When they see the need for their powers they don new costumes similar to their old X-Men costumes, and call themselves the X-Terminators, posing as renegade mutants. Beast wears a mask as he did originally, since he now looks human again.

Eventually, X-Factor clashes with the ancient mutant Apocalypse[20] after Angel loses his wings in a battle and shortly after turns up missing. Apocalypse turns Angel into Death, the most powerful of his four Horsemen of Apocalypse. During the battle, Beast is touched by the Horseman Pestilence, whose touch usually causes incredible pain and viral infection. The infection interacts with the recent serum treatment of Maddicks, and instead of killing him, Hank is affected in such a way that every time he uses his superhuman strength, his intelligence decreases.[21] Though the battle was won, it came at the cost of Hank’s decreasing intelligence and Angel’s humanity, which would not return for a time. Hank’s condition worsens for weeks. He even openly talks to Trish Tilby, a reporter, not realizing she might use the information on TV. Out of respect for Hank’s situation, Trish does not mention his name when she reports about X-Factor’s recent battles, only that one of them lost his intellect while heroically defending New York. The Beast is still hurt by her using the information at all, but she is able to convince him that she meant well.

X-Factor finally ends their charade and are hailed as heroes, and they then don costumes similar to their previous X-Terminator costumes. When Hank’s mind is nothing more than that of a child, he intercepts a mutant called Infectia who is trying to kiss Iceman. Infectia has the ability to manipulate molecular structures through touch, creating mutated “monsters.” When she kisses Beast, he becomes feverish and begins switching back and forth between his normal and furred forms.[22] Finally, he stabilizes in his furry appearance, keeps his intelligence, and has more strength than ever.[23]

Hank soon resumes wearing his old costume, but now no longer has need for a mask. During the events of Inferno, Beast, along with the rest of X-Factor team up with the X-Men and various other heroes to fight the evil forces invading the city; eventually, they manage to stop a portal between Hell and Earth from remaining open and peace returns for the survivors.[24] Soon after Inferno ends, the X-Tinction Agenda takes place where Genosha wants to punish various mutants for war crimes on their island. Here, Beast plays yet another key role. Shortly after the crisis ends, X-Factor switches costumes once more; Cyclops, Jean, and Iceman all wear identical costumes, while Beast returns to wearing trunks, and Archangel sticks to his old costume he received from Apocalypse.[25]

Towards the end of X-Factor’s career, they battle the Shadow King during the Muir Island Saga. The final battle leaves Professor Xavier crippled again which results in X-Factor rejoining the X-Men.[26]


Back with the X-Men

One of Beast’s greatest challenges emerges with Stryfe’s fatal Legacy Virus. Hank is already despondent, as he is turning thirty and questions his life accomplishments. His frustrations are further compounded when Professor Xavier and Moira MacTaggert don’t ask for his assistance with the Legacy research, but it turns out Xavier is just giving him his privacy. Perusing their data, Hank learns the problem is more difficult than he had initially imagined. Hank has always believed that, given time, he could solve any problem; the Legacy Virus becomes his obsession. He goes as far as making an unethical decision in giving Mister Sinister information on the virus, since he has more resources and fewer morals to inhibit him.

A turning point comes when Dark Beast finishes some of the formula, occasionally prying more information from Hank whom he imprisons and replaces for a while. The most critical step toward a solution (other than when Beast individually finds the cure) comes when Dr. MacTaggert discovers Mystique’s irresponsible manipulation of a virus strand. However, the cure is incomplete and it takes Beast to design the final cure. Based on Moira’s notes, Beast concocts the anti virus to much elation, but it soon is repaid with a heavy toll — Colossus has to sacrifice his life to release the remedy.


X-Treme X-Men

After mourning the loss of a teammate, Hank briefly leaves the school with Storm and her X-Treme X-Men team in search of Destiny’s diaries. After an attack by Vargas that leaves Psylocke dead, Beast is gravely injured and returns to the Institute.


Beast’s return

As the world experiences a mutant baby boom, much of the mutant community seemingly begins experiencing “secondary mutations”, often taking the form of additional or enhanced abilities. In the aftermath of Vargas’ attack, Beast’s secondary mutation is “jumpstarted” due to the powers of fellow teammate Sage. The further mutation causes Beast to develop a more feline physique, to which he initially has some trouble adapting. A psychic attack by the genocidal Cassandra Nova leaves Beast humiliated, badly beaten (by the controlled body of his friend Beak) and haunted by the possibility that his new form is simply a step in a continuous state of devolution. Additionally, the alteration in form causes his long-time girlfriend, Trish Tilby, to break up with him after being accused of bestiality in the media. Over time, Beast strikes up a strong friendship with Emma Frost, in one incident bringing her flowers to cheer her up. He finds her diamond form shattered into thousands of pieces and spends some time putting her back together. With a final jolt from Jean Grey, Frost returns to life.

Beast later uncovers what seems to be a female mutant with feline features, like his situation. This raises hopes for him, until he discovers it’s not a mutant female that looks like a cat, it’s a mutant cat who looks like a human. Either way, the creature is at the limit of her life and Beast allows her to leave the X-Mansion to pass away quietly in a spot she finds comfortable.

When news of a “cure” that would reverse mutations suddenly arises, Beast finds himself seriously considering taking it so he can once again appear human. Hank eventually decides against it after vigorous “urging” by fellow team member Wolverine, as it would send out a negative message to other mutants if an X-Man were to take the cure. After learning that the cure was developed by fellow geneticist Kavita Rao through experimentation on mutant corpses – as well as on the X-Man Colossus – Beast helps take down Rao’s operation. When the villainous Hellfire Club attacks the X-Men, Cassandra Nova telepathically strips away Beast’s higher human consciousness, leaving him with only his animal instincts. After hunting Wolverine around campus (and even eating his leg), a student named Blindfold faces him down with a device he and Xavier had built in case his consciousness was ever lost. The device is a high-powered sensory stimulant in the form of a ball of string, which Beast had alluded to as being his greatest fear. Once restored, he is quick to put on a suit and tie and save Wolverine with a hyper-magnetic device. He, along with his teammates, are taken from the Mansion by the government agency S.W.O.R.D. and airlifted to the alien Breakworld.

During the Civil War waged between Marvel’s heroes, Beast, along with the other X-Men, assumes a neutral stance. However, Beast is not a particular fan of the policy and secretly violates his stance by providing Spider-Man with a holographic disguise to enable him to continue teaching at Midtown High after his secret identity has been exposed. Despite his personal feelings about the Superhuman Registration Act, Beast enlists his services to the Initiative program after the war’s end, to assist in the training of the next generation of superheroes.[27] It is currently unknown whether his new position within the Initiative will affect his obligations to both the X-Men and the Xavier Institute.

In Endangered Species the X-Men and various other mutants attend the funeral of a young mutant boy named Landru who has been killed in a road traffic accident and muse on what this means for mutant-kind. Beast plans to find a way to reverse M-Day. He is unsuccessful in his research, but the final part shows him holding a child wearing a three-eyed smiley face shirt saying “Evolution” on it as a promotion of the Messiah Complex.

During World War Hulk Beast is training with the New X-Men when the Sentinels fly off and the Hulk shows up looking for Xavier. Beast summons several X-Men to the fight; it goes into a stalemate. Beast is endangered by the Hulk when he is saved by several of his teammates. Charles shows them what he saw and Beast is shocked and apologizes to Hulk. [28]


Messiah Complex

Beast is shown helping Professor X repair Cerebra when the X-Men were tracking down the child with the X-Gene. Beast is later seen at the Mansion when it is attacked by the Sentinels, who have been taken over by an unknown person. When Iceman arrives at the school with the New X-Men, Beast works with Prodigy and is able to stabilize the mortally wounded Hellion, as well as the other New X-Men and X-Men injured in their battles with the Purifiers and the Marauders, respectively. He is later present during the battle on Muir Island and is among the first to reach Professor Xavier after he was accidentally shot by Bishop. Xavier’s body soon disappears.

In the aftermath, Cyclops has sent Beast to search for Professor Xavier, whose status is unknown by the X-Men. He’s also featured in X-Men Divided We Stand #2, closing down the ruins of the X-Mansion and taking Martha Johansson with him.

Beast is seen as part of the team setting up a new X-Men headquarters in San Francisco, California. He is working closely with Cyclops, Emma Frost and the rookie X-Man, Armor. He is also still seeing Abigail Brand, who requests that he take a weekend off from the X-Men so that she can ‘tamper with him extensively’.


Powers and abilities

It is possible that Beast’s mutation is a result of genetic atavism.[29] However, he also possesses neotenous characteristics,[30] which may explain him having a super genius intellect despite his animal physique. Cassandra Nova and later the high evolutionary noted that he would eventually stop devolving and evolve into something comparable to a Celestial.[citation needed]

He is an excellent hand-to-hand combatant, employing a unique style of acrobatic combat, from combat training he received at Professor Xavier’s and coaching from Captain America.


Anthropoid/Simian physique

Originally, Hank McCoy retains the basic features of a normal human alongside a generally simian physiology (e.g., elongated limbs and enlarged extremities) equivalent to that of a Great Ape. This mutation gives him superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, agility, flexibility, dexterity, coordination, balance, and endurance. He is equally dextrous in all four limbs; able to perform tasks with his feet or hands with equal ease. Because of his talents and training, Beast can outperform any Olympic-level athlete, contorting his body and performing aerial feats gracefully. Later, Hank mutates further (from drinking an experimental solution), first through the growth of grey – then blue – fur covering his entire body. He gains claw-like nails and fang-like teeth, and his overall appearance becomes more bestial. With this physique, Beast uses his claws to climb vertical surfaces (though, he has been depicted performing this feat prior to his furry transformation). Beast gains the ability to emit mood altering pheromones, causing sexual attraction in women, and he becomes strong enough to withstand falls that would crush the bones of a normal human. Beast develops extremely powerful limbs, allowing him to make astounding leaps and to run at great speeds for a short duration.


Feline physique

After being critically wounded[31], Hank’s body undergoes a secondary mutation, jumpstarted by Sage. The result is a more feline appearance equivalent to that of a big cat. His strength, speed, stamina, sturdiness, and senses increase further with this change. He gains cat-like agility, flexibility, coordination, and balance, and all his senses are enhanced to twenty times that of a normal human being. In addition, Beast develops an accelerated healing factor that allows him to repair mild to moderate injuries within the span of a few hours. However, as his hands and feet change from simian to feline ( going from a normal human set of four fingers to just three, retaining the opposable thumb), he loses his superhuman dexterity, once admitting that he used to play the guitar, but is now learning to play the drums instead. In the first issue of Warren Ellis’ Astonishing run, Beast also comments he no longer needs full sleep.


Genius intellect

Hank is doubly gifted, not only having the fantastic abilities granted by his mutation, but also possessing a brilliant intellect. He is a world-renowned biochemist, having earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and is the man who cured the Legacy Virus. He frequently functions as both field medic and in-house physician for the X-Men, despite not technically having an MD. His intelligence and expertise in genetics rival that of Professor X. Despite this, he has never received a Nobel Prize or been elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences, as his colleagues see him for his beastly appearance rather than for the gentle scientific genius he is. A Renaissance man, McCoy is well-versed in languages (he is fluent in at least English, German, Latin, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian), literature, philosophy, history, art, and music, with a special affinity for science and technology and a penchant for quoting literary classics.

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