Brett Ratner took over direction at the last hour of X-Men: The Last Stand and while the film performed well at the box office, it didn’t for many fans and critics. Unfortunately, the negative turn also affected X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the two non-Bryan Singer directed X-Men films had put the franchise on the wrong track.

One of the highlights from X-Men 3 however was the long-awaited introduction of Beast, one of the original X-Men from the comics. Kelsey Grammer played him on screen and to this day, remains one of the fan-favorite characters of the franchise. For X-Men: First Class, the film that marks Singer’s return to the series – first as director, then moving into a producer role for Matthew Vaughn – Nicholas Hoult was cast as the young version of Hank McCoy, the man who would become The Beast.

In Singer’s next film, where he switches roles with Vaughn and takes up the director’s chair, Hoult returns as the now-blue mutant with genius intellect. Singer, now embracing Twitter for viral marketing purposes on the upcoming superhero team-up shared the very first character photo from X-Men: Days of Future Past and it teases a slightly more mature Beast:

[Click For Full-Size]

The image came with the following tweet:

“Many a monster wears the form of a man; it is better of the two to have the heart of a man & the form of a monster”

Note the slightly graying hairs, wrinkles and most importantly, those yellow eyes. That’s one of the clear distinctions between Hoult’s Beast and Grammer’s, who had blue eyes. Another key difference in the character designs actually take a reverse spin on the evolution of the character in the books.

Note below in the comparison images the line above the lip. Grammer’s Beast embraces the more classic, original design of the character, whereas Hoult’s is based on the cat version from modern Marvel Comics. The image above from Days of Future Past begins to bridge the gap between them since the First Class sequel takes place 11 years later. Also note that the teaser image Bryan Singer posted intentionally cuts out where the above-lip-line would be. Is it there or is it not?

Perhaps an element of the story is with coming to terms with the outcome of future McCoy (or at least one timeline’s version of him). That would be something that would peak the scientist’s interest if they’re dealing with time-travel. Grammer is one the characters who haven’t heard about joining the cast.

Hoult is not the only returnee however, as X-Men: Days of Future Past brings back both the primary cast of First Class and many of the characters from the original X-Men trilogy, including of course, franchise star Hugh Jackman who’s preparing for the release of The Wolverine this summer.

Jackman reveals he was pitched the story idea last fall during principal photography of The Wolverine by then-director Matthew Vaughn. He’s since read the script, calling it “fantastic,” and is excited to work again with Bryan Singer, who first cast him years ago for the first X-Men as a replacement for Dougray Scott.

“I must admit I was starting to see a life free of steamed chicken breasts. They told me the idea and, at the time, it was Matthew Vaughn [directing]. Instantly, I knew it was a winner. It just felt like everything was coming full circle. However, I must admit my stomach and my mind were like, ‘Oh no.'”

“I owe, in a way, everything to Bryan. The first film I did in America was X-Men. Wolverine is a character I’ve loved playing and I can’t believe it’s going to be my seventh time playing it. It just blows me away. It not only feels like the right kind of project, it actually is so exciting that we’ll all be back together again. I don’t want to give away too much but I’m really excited not only to reunite with all those great actors but also to work with some of the other ones.”

Since this is Jackman’s 7th appearance – a record for superhero acting appearances in any franchise – what comes after? Is Days of Future Past the end of the “old” X-Men series and there still potential for Wolverine 3?

Bryan Singer will direct X-Men: Days of Future Past with newcomers Peter Dinklage, Omar Sy, Boo Boo Stewart and Fan Bingbing, along with returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Daniel Cudmore.

The Wolverine releases July 26, 2013, X-Men: Days of Future Past on July 18, 2014 and Fantastic Four on March 6, 2015.

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes who your favorite original X-Men character is!

Sources: EW, Bryan Singer