Last week, when we got to see the Comic-Con teaser footage for the upcoming third season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, there was a scene where the crew of the Waverider were walking around P.T. Barnum’s circus and we got to see a glimpse of Billy Zane as Barnum. And while that is cool, there was another image that popped up that I think was far cooler.
For some of you, that’ just a strong man in a mask. For the rest, like me, we shouted, “Oh my God! B’wana Beast!” And the people around us who did no shout looked at us like we were crazy.
Who is B’wana Beast you ask? Hand over your comic book fan card and read along.
Upon graduating college with the highest honors, Mike Maxwell shuned his family’s millions and business and hopped a plane with his roommate, Rupert Kenboya, headed for Africa where they were going to be rangers for a new animal preserve in Zambezi. But the private craft was struck by lightning and crashed into the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The injured friends took refuge in the cave, which turned out to be the home of a mutated red ape. It was likely mutated by the rain water that filtered through the mineral laden walls, the same stuff that affected Mazwell, turning him bigger and stronger and allowing him to subdue the attacking red ape. The ape accepts Maxwell as it’s master and retrieves an ancient helmet that lets him communicate with the ape, whose name is Djuba. Maxwell can also control animals with the helmet. With it and his new found strength, Maxwell creates the persona of B’wana Beast, hero for all of Africa.
This was all from Showcase #66 published in 1967 by Bob Haney and Mike Sekowsky. And yes there are a ton of problems with that including the ‘White Savior’ trope.
Grant Morrison tried to fix some of this when he brought the character into his Animal Man run. Djuba is captured, brought to America and infected by anthrax. B’wana Beast comes to rescue him but fails and contracts anthrax himself. Animal Man saves him involving mimicking Maxwell’s powers and doing something to white blood cells… but I’m not a doctor. Maxewell return a few issues later having decided to retire and pass his mantle on. He finds a successor in a South African activist named Dominic Mndawe, who takes the name Freedom Beast.
Mike Maxwell would return to Animal Man one more time when he is corrupted by a force called the Antagon and becomes a being of evil called the Shining Man. He then died in a battle with Metaman.
He popped up in the New 52 as a potential candidate for the Justice League International, but was ultimately passed over.
B’wana Beast has showed up a few times in animation. First as part of the DC Comics hour from Filmation, then on episodes of Justice League: Unlimited, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and on Teen Titans Go!
There has been no casting information on who is wearing the mask in the trailer and I doubt that we’ll see more of the character than a few minutes in a single episode, but the fact that he’s even there just shows how much fun the writers of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow are having. How long before we get Space Cabbie?