Few superhero teams have earned the respect and adoration of fans like the X-Men. With 50-plus years of adventures and countless team variations, Stan Lee’s mutant masterpieces are an institution in the comic book multiverse. Sixteen years after the franchise’s first film, we’ve had a chance to explore some notable backstories and come to understand a few of our favorite heroes. Granted, a couple of those origin stories were flops, but hey – you can’t win ’em all.
Sadly, not every X-Men gets the same love and attention as The Ol’ Canucklehead. Dr. Hank McCoy, aka Beast, is in contention for one of the most over-looked and under-appreciated heroes of all. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s set to play a prominent role in the Xavier’s mutants upcoming battle with Apocalypse – the team will need his superhuman strength, genius-level intellect, and fantastic blue back hair if they hope to defeat the universal threat that is En Sabah Nur.
10. Once Upon a Time, He was a Real Boy!
Beast, aka Henry McCoy, wasn’t always a furry, bespectacled monkey-man. In fact, Hank was born looking quite human…. except for his ape-like appendages. From an early age, he exhibited signs of his mutation; stronger, faster, and (much) smarter than those around him, Hank became a star athlete and student in high school. Beast tried to hide his simian strength and genius-level intellect as they continued to develop, but was eventually found out and booted from the school.
It wasn’t until much, much later that Hank would find himself fluffed out for good. After years of studying at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, completing his doctoral studies, and fighting countless battles alongside the X-Men, he accidentally-purposefully dosed himself with the precursor to MGH (mutant growth hormone), turning himself into the Bouncing Blue Beast we know and love. Well, he was gray at the time but you get the point.
9. He’s Dead in an Alternate Timeline
25 Moments, Marvel’s viral marketing campaign for X-Men: Days of Future Past, details major mutant events that shaped the course of history. In this alternate timeline, Hank (an ambassador for mutant-human relations in the U.N.) is murdered by an angry mob of human extremists. in the year 2015. The campaign was an interesting little piece of propaganda, especially when you consider just how integral Beast is during the events of DOFP.
For those of you who missed it, young Beast asks Wolverine (who has traveled back in time, kind of) if he is alive in that version of the future. Wolverine – never one to beat around the bush – let’s him know that he’s deader than a door nail. Wolverine’s actions during the events of DOFP create a new timeline where Beast survives, a fact confirmed by Kelsey Grammer’s (Older Beast) cameo in the X-Mansion later in the film.
8. He’s Been Played by Three Separate Actors on the Big Screen
Dr. Henry McCoy first appears in the X-Men cinematic universe during the franchise’s second film, X2, in the form of a Steve Bacic cameo. McCoy can be spotted giving an interview on the mutant issue on a small TV in a bar, and appears completely human. He’s not even remotely ape-like, so it’s weird.
Frasier….er, Kelsey Grammer, sported the blue shag face-rug for 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and made a brief cameo as an older beast at the end of Days of Future Past. All told, Grammer’s time as Beast wasn’t too bad – he looks (and sounds) extremely distinguished, and actually throws down quite a bit. Don’t let those glasses fool you, tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
Nicholas Hoult, the current Beast, took up the mantle in 2011’s X-Men: First Class, staying on board for Days of Future Past and the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. Hoult’s version of McCoy has actually gone through some changes of his own, transitioning from human(ish) teen to Kitty-Cat Beast (First Class) to the more Ape-Man Beast that we first saw in Days of Future Past.
7. Real-Life Beast and Real-Life Mystique Dated and Broke Up. Twice.
Oh, Snap: J-Law and N-Ho (patent pending) are donezo! In non-millennial speak, Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) have ended their not-so-torrid relationship. (This happened years ago, but still.) The two started dating while working on X-Men: First Class in 2011, calling it quits in 2013. Like most couples, they gave love a second chance a few months later… and then split up, again. Classic Katniss, breaking names and kicking hearts.
Shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Eh. Simon Kinberg hinted that Apocalypse will delve deeper into Beast and Mystique’s complicated relationship, so that’s potentially awkward.
“And the relationship between Beast and Mystique is a really interesting one that we didn’t have a lot of time to explore in Days of Future Past, so we’ll have an opportunity to do more of that in Apocalypse.”
6. Dark Beast is a Real Prick
You probably guessed it from the name, but Dark Beast is an evil, alternate-timeline version of Beast. He’s actually the WORST. On Earth 295 – a reality where Professor X died before ever forming the X-Men – Hank McCoy serves as one of Apocalypse’s lead scientists, conducting sinister experiments on both humans and mutants. Delighting in torture and the infliction of pain, McCoy is dubbed “The Beast” by his prisoners and evil teammates. DB even experiments on himself to enhance his mutant powers, eventually triggering his own transformation into the massive and terrifying Dark Beast.
As the Age of Apocalypse draws to a close, Dark Beast escapes his home reality and travels to Earth 616 (regular Earth). Not only does he continue his devious mutant experimentation (leading to the creation of the Morlocks), he also kidnaps the real Hank McCoy and attempts to replace him on the X-Men team. Dark Beast eliminates several key figures from McCoy’s past (including his high-school principle, some old classmates, and an ex-girlfriend) in an effort to maintain his disguise. Long story short: he’s not a very nice dude.
While we won’t be seeing Dark Beast in X-Men: Apocalypse, it will still be entertaining to watch knowing a few tweaks of the timeline could lead to a drastically different film. If only Fox wasn’t afraid of messing with continuity. Sigh.
5. Just Kidding – His Continuity is already a Mess
For reals, it’s bonkers how much Fox has already wrecked the Beast timeline. It’s OK though, because they’ve made it clear that Days of Future Past changed all the things. In the comics, Hank McCoy is a pillar of justice, serving as the fourth (of five) founding member of the X-Men. Realistically, he should have been in every single X-Men movie to date. However, Fox couldn’t afford to plug Beast into the franchise’s first film, so…. he got the axe. Strangely enough, two scripts featuring Beast as one of the original team members were written (Andrew Kevin Walker in 1994 and Michael Chabon in 1996), but neither of them got picked up.
When X2 rolled around in 2003, we still didn’t get Beast on the team, although (as previously mentioned) we did get a Steve Bacic cameo as Dr. Hank McCoy. On a tiny TV screen. In the background. Of a bar. Without any sort of attempt at explanation, Beast (Kelsey Grammer) shows up a few years later in X-Men: The Final Stand as a permanently blue simian hero. He’s just sort of… there, with the rest of the X-Men, like it ain’t no thang. Fast forward to Days of Future Past (or is it rewind, since it’s set in the 60s?) and McCoy is a regular teen who sometimes turns into a Blue Cat person. Are you confused yet?
4. His Original Mutations are Rooted in Actual Science
Some mutants can shoot epic laser beams out of their eyes. Others can teleport, or wield psychic weaponry created solely from the power of their own mind. The unlucky ones have super-long necks, or roman candles for fingers. Either way, the vast majority of these mutations are created in the Fun Zone of each writer’s brain, with little-to-no thought dumped into realism.
Enter Beast, one of the few characters whose original mutations are actually rooted in science. As a child, Hank McCoy’s mutation manifested via over-sized, ape-like appendages (complete with prehensile feet), and genius-level intellect. It’s interesting to note that these mutations aren’t impossible; the evolutionary phenomenon known as Atavism is a genetic trait’s tendency to reappear generations after it has been phased out of a DNA sequence. Many atavisms have been observed in humans, such as babies with vestigial tails or overly large teeth like our primate ancestors. The only logical next step up would (obviously) be a guy with gorilla limbs that can lift two tons.
Even the development of Beast’s super-powered brain isn’t too far fetched. We won’t try to do the whole sciencey-science speak, but there’s a book all about it. Check out The Science of the X-Men by Linc Yaco for an in-depth analysis of every mutation.
3. That Serum From Days of Future Past? It’s Not Comic Canon
Remember Beast’s on-screen transition from nerdy teen with hobbit feet to full-time fluffball in First Class? Then in Days of Future Past he’s somehow back to part-time fluffball? Hoult shared the scoop about the time between both films, saying:
“What’s happened up to this point is between the time of the last movie and this movie my character has created a serum which basically controls his mutation so his appearance is normal as long as he doesn’t get worked up. Any animal instinct or urges, that kind of brings him out.”
That’s all well and good, since we’ve known for years that Fox just arbitrarily changes things around, but there’s one problem: it’s not real comic canon. Although Hank McCoy has messed with a lot of serums, none of them ever turned him into a Hulk-like character that only shows signs of mutation when he’s angry. That’s more like the Hulk than Beast. We’re OK with the change, but it’s definitely worth noting for fans looking to brush up on approved X-Men lore.
2. He’s got an Avengers Card
Hank McCoy might be the last mutant you’d expect to join the ranks of the Avengers, but he was actually the first! Beast joined the team in 1976 (Avengers #151), shortly after his transition from grey fur to the iconic blue. You may not believe it, but McCoy served as a member of the Avengers for much of the 70s and 80s, even forging a strong and lasting relationship with Wonder Man.
Although he’s not as strong as The Hulk or as durable as Thor, Beast’s intellect has made him an important asset to the Avengers over the years. He’s found love and public acceptance as a member of the Avengers team, and worked closely with them even after departing to form his own super squad, the Defenders. Beast continues to impress readers with his wit, charm, and outside-the-box thinking.
1. Kraven the Hunter Couldn’t Handle Him
In X-Men: The Hidden Years #17, Kraven the Hunter (one of Spidey’s most infamous enemies) attempts to test his skills against Hank in personal combat. Never one to fight fairly, Kraven hides various traps around the X-Mansion, catching Beast with several tranquilizer darts designed to slow his cognitive function. It (kinda) works: Beast’s higher cognitive functions are indeed impaired, but his animal instincts take over as a result.
Beast is sent into a berserker rage, void of human emotion. He attacks Kraven relentlessly, finally catching the hunter and pummeling him to the brink of death. The X-Men intervene, saving Kraven’s life and keeping Beast’s humanity intact. After nearly murdering Kraven, McCoy vows to hold back his rage and strength and begins a journey towards pacifism, only joining the fray when all other options have been exhausted. Should Marvel somehow tear the X-Men rights away from Fox (HA!), this particular battle could serve as an interesting jump-off point, since Spidey just swung his way back into the MCU and McCoy spent some time with the Avengers.
We’ve seen a (relatively) peaceful and diplomatic Beast in several major movies to this point – will he be able to hold back any longer when Apocalypse arrives?
Can you think of anything else we should know about Beast? Let us know in the comments!