What’s one of the weirdest, yet still useful superpowers out there? How does having the ability to take up to four animals and combining them into a new creature with traits from each to create a chimera sound? You could have a rhino that can fly with bumblebee wings while stinging things with its new horn/stinger. That’s one of my favorite superpowers, so I’m pleased that B’wana Beast (and later Freedom Beast) is the hero with it. Who is this hero with the funny mask and strange powers? Let’s find out!
Mike Maxwell was just your regular ranger hanging out in Tanzania on Mount Kilimanjaro when he got trapped in a cave. Thankfully, he found a water source in the cave, and upon drinking it he was granted enhanced physical abilities. He then found a gorilla and a strange helmet; with the helmet on he could understand and control animals, and even stranger, he could merge animals into new forms! The gorilla was named Djuba, and the two began to work together to fight crime around Kilimanjaro.
When Djuba was kidnapped and sent to America to be used to test anthrax, Mike headed to find him and ran across the path of Animal Man. Sadly, he failed in saving Djuba, and was affected with the anthrax as well; only with Animal Man’s assistance was he able to live. Some time after this, Maxwell decided to find a successor for his helmet and Kilimanjaro hideout. He eventually found the right person in Dominic Mndawe.
Having retired, Mike spent his time to himself until he was found by the demon Antagon. The demon possessed him and turned him into the villain Shining Man. He became a scourge to the Earth and was eventually killed in battle.
Dominic Mndawe was born in South Africa, living during apartheid, and lived his life fighting it. After being arrested for having evidence in a racially motivated crime by the police, he was rescued by B’wana Beast and Animal Man. Mike realized the potential in Dominic and granted him his mantle. He used his powers to continue fighting the injustices of the government, and sometimes teamed up with Animal Man.
Dominic became a protector of South Africa, and during the Day of Judgement fended off demons trying to lay claim to the area. Dominic’s career as Freedom Beast was filled with possessions, as all sorts of entities tried to take control of his actions. I guess it just runs in the Beast hero line. He became a member of the Global Guardians and aided in planetary fights. He even fought off Gorilla Grodd at one point. Sadly, while on a mission with his friend and teammate Congorilla (a man possessing the body of a mythical Golden Gorilla), Dominic was killed. Congorilla took it upon himself to find the successor to the Beast mantle. This new Beast was only seen and their identity was never confirmed.
As of the New 52, it looks like Mike is back as B’wana Beast and was turned down as a member of Justice League International. What will come of the later Beast, and will we see more of either? Only time will tell; at least you can see Mike on Justice League Unlimited and Batman: Brave and the Bold.
Animal Man #13
Day of Judgement