The veteran Avenger and founding X-Men member Beast is well-known for his iconic blue fur, even though that was not his original color design.
Hank McCoy, the Beast, is one of the most popular X-Men, and his defining feature is his iconic blue fur. While McCoy famously didn’t have his fur when he debuted in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s X-Men #1 in 1963, an experimental formularadically transformed Beast, bestowing the mutant scientist with gray fur which later became blue before changing in even stranger ways. Beast’s blue form, however, was not originally his intended color.
Hank McCoy underwent his first drastic change in 1972’s Amazing Adventures #11, by Gerry Conway and Tom Sutton. At this time, Beast had graduated from the Xavier Institute and worked for the Brand Corporation as a genetic researcher. During his first days there, Hank worked on a formula to induce temporary mutations. Hank’s boss, Carl Maddicks, planned on stealing the formula for his own nefarious schemes. With no other choice, Beast took the formula himself and was mutated even further, gaining increased strength, speed, agility and heightened senses. In addition, Beast gained canine teeth, a healing factor and a thick layer of gray fur.
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Of course, Hank only took the formula so he could hide it from Maddicks. Beast was planning on taking the antidote soon, so he wouldn’t be stuck in this form forever. Unfortunately, Hank became occupied with stopping a security guard from stealing the formula for Maddicks.
After fighting the guard, Beast found that he was too late to cure himself. As a result, Beast became permanently gray and monstrous. After Maddicks was stopped, however, Beast resumed his ordinary life. Hank wore gloves and a mask which made him look human, while continuing to fight villains as Beast.
Everything changed when Beast faced Quasimodo, the living computer. Quasimodo tried to drain Hank’s life force, wanting to gain his healing factor. With Beast’s metabolism, Quasimodo reasoned that he might become human. Beast was almost completely drained, an event which physically altered him once again. Hank’s healing factor was gone, plus his fur changed color. In the comic, Beast claimed that his fur was now black.
In truth, Beast’s fur appeared more of a dark blue. There are several moments in Amazing Adventures #15, by Steve Englehart and Tom Sutton, that Beast’s fur does look more black than blue. Even so, the coloring makes Hank seem blue in most panels, not unlike the way Superman’s hair has frequently been depicted. This blue tint was probably meant to make Beast more visible, although it still inadvertently made Hank seem more blue than black. The blue tinges, while helpful at the time, turned out to be a coloring error that turned Beast into the furry blue mutant that he is today.
Ever since this issue, Beast has traditionally been depicted with blue fur, which grew lighter and lighter as he continued to appear in comics. It wasn’t until 1976’s Avengers Annual #6, by Gerry Conway and George Perez, that Beast finally acknowledged that his fur was actually blue rather than black.
This coloring error is quite similar to the Hulk’s color change. In Incredible Hulk #1, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Hulk debuted as gray. Due to issues with printing at the time, however, the Hulk was green by his next appearance. Green was a far easier color to print, giving the Hulk his jade skin color. Similarly, it could have been easier to print Beast as blue rather than black. Since this coloring issue, Beast’s blue fur has remained a constant.
Even as Hank mutated into his cat-like form and his ape-like appearance, his blue fur has remained a constant. Of course, this isn’t to say that the idea of black fur was discarded entirely. Just as the Hulk’s gray color was repurposed for the Gray Hulk in Incredible Hulk #324, by Al Milgrom, so too was Beast’s darker fur reintroduced in the comics. Much of Beast’s original fur color was preserved by Dark Beast, who debuted in X-Men: Alpha #1, by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Roger Cruz and Steve Epting. Beast’s “Age of Apocalypse” counterpart had a very dark gray fur tone, which bordered on black in a few instances.
Although the real McCoy’s darker fur didn’t last in the Marvel Universe, it still made a mark on Marvel history as an important stepping stone in the look of one of Marvel’s most distinctive heroes.
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