After graduating from college with highest honors, Mike Maxwell declined his millionaire father's offer to join the family business and instead decided to join his college roommate, Rupert Kenboya, in Africa becoming a game warden and head of the Zambesi nation's new animal preserves.
When the private aircraft carrying Maxwell and Kenboya to Zambesi was struck by lightning and crashed atop mount Kilimanjaro, the two injured men took refuge in the cavern home of a mutant red ape.
While drinking rainwater that had been filtered through the cavern's mineral laden walls, Maxwell suddenly found he was growing larger, stronger and more ferocious, and was able to subdue the attacking red ape with ease.
Acknowledging Maxwell as its master, the red ape retrieved an ancient helmet from the depths of the cave and placed it on Maxwell's head. Through the helmet, Maxwell was able to read the ape's mind and discovered its name was Djuba. He also discovered that the helmet enabled him to control the actions of all other animals. Agreeing these new powers must be used for the good of all Africa, Maxwell created the identity of B'wana Beast, and became the Dark Continent's super troubleshooter.
B'wana Beast was created in 1967 by Bob Haney and Mike Sekowsky.
B'wana Beast first appeared in Showcase 66-67 where his partner Djuba and him fought against Hamid Ali and the Red Ape.
In Animal Man, Maxwell decides to retire and tries to find someone to become the new B'wana Beast. He passed on his helmet and elixir to a South African activist named Dominic Mndawe (now called Freedom Beast).
B'wana Beast's last appearance was being possessed by an evil force called the Antagon, which transformed him into the villain called the Shining Man. In the ensuing battle, he is killed by Buck Samson who now calls himself Metaman.
His latest appearance was in a montage of heroes shown in the U.N in the reboot of Justice League International, showing that he has been revived. He, however, is not elaborated on and was not explained why he was rejected.
Major Story Arcs
Animal Man #3
In Animal Man, Maxwell journeys to America to save his gorilla partner Djuba, who has been tested and infected with an experimental form of anthrax. Maxwell fails to save Djuba, and gets infected with the disease himself, before being saved by Animal Man.
Animal Man #13
B'wana Beast decides to retire and performs a ceremony to find a successor. He passes the helmet and elixir to a South African activist named Dominic Mndawe, who assumes the name Freedom Beast, instead of B'wana Beast.
Animal Man #47-50
During this time B'wana Beast becomes corrupted and possessed by an evil force called The Antagon, which transformed him into the villain called Shining Man. In the battle that followed, Animal Man kills him.
Powers & Abilities
Thanks to the elixir B'wana Beast drinks, he gets super speed and strength of the strongest of Africa's wildlife. It also granted him the ability to telepathically control all wildlife. His main power was the ability to fuse two animals into a chimera, which used the greatest strengths of both animals. At most he can fuse four animals and even humans, but that requires great concentration. These transformations are of a limited duration, and afterwards the animals would be separated and unharmed.
Weapons & Equipment
B'wana Beast Helmet: The helmet B'wana Beast acquired in Africa gave him the power top fusion animals and mind control them. Currently the possessor of the helmet is Freedom Beast.
Magic Elixir: The magic elixir B'wana Beast drank on Mt. Kilimanjaro gave him super strength, speed and it made him larger.
In other media
B'wana Beast appears in Justice League Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy" he is called on by Batman to find Wonder Woman who has been turned into a pig. He later was shown fighting off Ultimen clones.
He also appears in Batman: The Brave & The Bold Season One episode "Enter The Outsiders" as part of the teaser, where he teams up with Batman to take down the Black Manta. He created two fusion animals by fusing together a spider with a horse and a pelican with a shark. B'wana Beast later appears in the Season Two episode "Gorillas in our Midst!" In this episode, B'wana Beast is one of the major guest stars, helping Batman when Gorilla Grodd, along with other super-evil gorillas, tries to take over Gotham City. In this episode, B'wana Beast is romantically involved with Vixen, who proposes to him at the end. He spends much of the episode uncertain of himself and the usefulness of his powers, but in the end, it his determination and powers that win the day. B'wana Beast also appears in both parts of the two-part episode, "The Siege of Starro!" where he is one of the few heroes left to defend Earth from Starro's invasion. He gave his life to save the World and his friends from Starro. They had a Memorial for him all the superheros attended to pay their respect to him for saving their lives in the fight and battle with Starro.
A running gag in his appearances is that other characters find his powers to be 'creepy', as shown by Batman and Booster gold's spoken reactions, and Firestorm's expression. Billy Batson, however, is an exception.