By Marc Strom
Beta Ray Bill has a whole planet's worth of bones to pick with Galactus.
Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Kano bring one of Thor's greatest allies against the planet -devouring Galactus in BETA RAY BILL: GODHUNTER #1 on June 10. Of course, Bill's actions shouldn't surprise too many fans given the fact that the world eating giant recently destroyed the planet his people called home. According to Gillen, Bill's taking the loss of his homeworld "as well as anyone would, really. Incredibly badly. It doesn't matter how stoic and heroic you are, the loss of every single person in your species tends to bring you down.
"Of course, being the stoic, heroic and genuinely painfully noble guy he is, he's been keeping it to himself," he goes on. "There are characters who [will] go on a monologue about the horror of life when they burn their toast. Bill has it worse than anyone, and you'd have to drag those words from him."
Sine Galactus' attack, Bill has kept busy with the latest iteration of Omega Flight and fighting the Skrulls alongside Thor. But now, the time has finally come for him to settle the score for the loss of his homeworld.
"Looking at what Bill's been up to since the loss of the Korbinites, I'd describe him as 'listless,'" Gillen analyzes. "He's been looking for a purpose of sorts, throwing himself into causes, making enormous sacrifices. In fact,
BETA RAY BILL:
I think he's almost suspiciously willing to make enormous sacrifices.
"After his encounter with a splinter group of surviving Skrulls in BETA RAY BILL: GREEN OF EDEN, he's become conscious of what he's missing in his life. As bad as a situation they found themselves [in], they were sustained by their belief. Bill doesn't have that. To him, it makes sense to try and do something about the thing which took his contentment from him. That is, do something about Galactus."
As Gillen illustrates, going after Galactus seems like a no-brainer to our hero.
"For Bill the question isn't really 'Why is he going after Galactus now,' but rather, 'Why has no one gone after Galactus before?'" he explains. "And to strive against impossible odds is, of course, the point of heroism. And he has a plan."
Ever since Beta Ray Bill's introduction in 1983's THOR #337, the character has maintained an avid following, something that Gillen chalks up to one simple factor:
"It's a great visual—never underestimate the power of a great visual. Otherwise, well, I have a big sprawling theory about Bill as being an embodiment of conflicting worldviews. That is, a science-fiction creature with the power of a god. There's an agreeable tension there. But while I think that's coherent, I think people process him on a purer level. By taking in those two poles, tying it to a visual which teeters between incredible ludicrousness and pure awesome, you have the walking avatar of the extremes and the madness that makes up super hero comics. You wouldn't get a character like Bill
in another medium. They'd roll their eyes. Which shows how little they know, as always."
GODHUNTER marks Gillen's second time writing the character of Beta Ray Bill after last month's GREEN OF EDEN one-shot, and the writer tells us that he "found one [story] flowing easily into the other.
"When [editor Warren] Simons asked me what I'd do with Bill after GREEN OF EDEN, GODHUNTER was my immediate response," continues Gillen. "After GREEN OF EDEN, it felt natural to me for that guy to go after Galactus. It was the only sane response. The difference [is that] in GREEN OF EDEN he lacked a purpose. He was pretty much on auto-pilot, saving people just because that's what he does. In GODHUNTER, he's driven. [It's] a little like 'Moby Dick,' with Bill as Ahab and Galactus as the titular whale. Exactly how far is Bill willing to go?"
Beyond Beta Ray Bill and Galactus, Gillen also promises fans will see a number of other major powers from the cosmic Marvel Universe grace the pages of GODHUNTER.
"Thor and Agent Brand of S.W.O.R.D. make appearances in the first issue, but it's the Heralds of Galactus who get the major stage time as primary antagonists," teases Gillen. "I think Stardust and the Silver Surfer as dual heralds are dramatically compelling in terms of two beings who have different perspectives on what the job is. The Surfer clearly has
more than a little sympathy with Bill. Stardust considers it the worst blasphemy the world has ever seen.
"Oh—and Skuttlebutt. When I was pulling together issue #2, I was surprised by how much of a genuine hard-case Skuttlebutt proved to be. Every cosmic powerhouse should have their own sentient warship. I wish I had one. I also wish I was a cosmic powerhouse. I barely have power in my house. It's kind of a shack."
When it comes to writing the more galactic characters like Bill or the Surfer, Gillen takes a slightly different approach to them than he would to most other Marvel heroes.
"There's a line," Gillen admits. "Cosmic characters need their grandeur. Their problems aren't the likes that I have to suffer, like my powerless shack. They're, by definition, cosmic. On the other hand, you do need to find ways to relate to them. One of the things I try to do is rub the cosmic elements against more human-scale characters, which grounds it a little while simultaneously giving the cosmic characters even more scale."
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