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It’s Clobberin’ Time!

A Comicscape Spotlight on The Thing

By Chad Derdowski     March 10, 2010

It looks like we wasted a great opportunity last week writing an article about the redundancy of the latest X-Men event when we should’ve been focusing on the Avengers lineup. Marvel is making a big deal out of cancelling all of the Avengers titles to replace them with a brand new lineup that looks suspiciously like every other Avengers lineup we’ve ever seen. Spiders Man and Woman, Wolverine and Jewell don’t immediately strike us as NEW Avengers. When we say we want a “classic lineup”, we’re talking ‘70s era, not 2004. But that’s just us doing our job as grumpy old geeks.

Don’t worry, Maniacs, we’re not here to complain about the Avengers; we’re actually quite pleased with the lineup (all three of them!) and we’re looking forward to the post-Siege relaunch. For today’s column, we want to focus on something Marvel got oh, so right when it comes to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew and the pride of Yancy Street. The ever-lovin’ blue eyed Thing: Mr. Benjamin J. Grimm.

Ben Grimm had an all-too brief stint on the West Coast Avengers some years back (was he actually an official member or no?) and we’re pleased as punch to see him solicited as a member of the New Avengers. The Avengers are supposed to be the big guns of the Marvel U and The Thing is one of the biggest guns they’ve got. He’s a founding father and cornerstone of the Marvel Universe and we feel that it’s about time the guy got his due as a member of the other greatest team the 616 has ever seen. It seems as though there’s no time like the present to shine a Comicscape spotlight on the self-proclaimed “idol of millions”…

 

Wotta Revoltin’ Development

A team of dysfunctional superheroes that bickered as much as they battled evil might be pretty boring by today’s standards, but when the Fantastic Four were introduced in 1961, it was monumental, bringing a new level of versimilitude to the genre. Representing the four elements as well as every family unit since the dawn of time, the Fantastic Four broke all kinds of new ground, from their lack of costumes in the early issues to their celebrity status. And the standout member of the team was, without a doubt, The Thing. Based on the personality of artist and co-creator Jack Kirby with speech patterns resembling Jimmy Durante, Ben Grimm was the Han Solo of the team but without the good looks. He always had a chip on his shoulder and always seemed like he might up and leave the team at any minute… but his loyalty proved to be beyond measure.

Anybody who has ever felt like an outcast could identify with Ben and admire him for his tenacity and ability to maintain a sense of humor in spite of his hideous appearance and inability to function in normal society. Just as every optimistic hero has roots in Superman and every dark, brooder avenger can be traced back to Batman, every pariah is in some way, a result of Ben Grimm. Though there have been several grotesque, yet sympathetic heroes before The Thing, none have reached his level of fame or importance. Rogue, Nightcrawler and Beast are all variations on the “Thing theme” and characters like Cyborg and Hellboy can call Mr. Grimm “daddy”.

 

Two-in-One Hero

Ben Grimm was ¼ of what made the FF so great but he has also proven to be a popular solo character. He was featured, along with the Human Torch, in Strange Tales for 10 issues back in the mid-1960s and carried his own title for 36 issues in the early 80’s. But in our minds, the highpoint of Thing’s solo career was Marvel Two-in-One, a book that lasted 100 issues and was a rocky-hided equivalent of Spider-Man’s Marvel Team Up.

Think about that. DC gave Batman a team-up book because (a) he was so popular, fans wanted another title and (b) it was a great way to promote lesser heroes. The Brave and the Bold was the type of book that might sucker an unsuspecting fan into reading a story about a hero they couldn’t give a flying f*** about because Batman was in it and if they liked the guest star enough, they’d seek out other books that featured them. Marvel did the same thing with Spider-Man, a character who has proven himself to be an icon on a level close to that of the Darknight Detective. And who else was used to the same end? The Thing, that’s who! That’s how popular he was! He even had his own solo cartoon series and teamed up with the Flintstones in Fred and Barney Meet The Thing. Not even Superman can claim that! (not that he’d really want to)

Granted, the popularity of the Fantastic Four, as well as The Thing has undoubtedly waned since 1961 due in large part to the fact that a dysfunctional group of heroes was brand new back in the early ‘60s but has become status quo today. Is there really any team of heroes that gets along anymore? Probably not. And the fact that for as many great FF runs as there have been, there’s undoubtedly been ten times as many bad ones hasn’t helped either. They may not be the flagship book of the Marvel Universe that they once were, but putting Ben Grimm on the company’s current flagship title is a step in the right direction and a great way to acknowledge The Thing’s status as one of the greats.

 

Working Class Hero

Lest ye think that Benjamin J. Grimm is just a brawler, we’d like to remind you that he’s a lover as well as a fighter. Sure, his first girlfriend was blind, but he’s had other loves in his life such as Sharon Ventura… who was a freaky woman wrestler that got turned into a She-Thing. So maybe she’s a bad example. But there was also Debbie Green, who was actually going to marry the big lug until he left her at the alter and… okay, let’s not talk about Ben Grimm’s love life.

Whether he’s a football hero on a scholarship, the pilot of a stolen spacecraft, a team player or a solo hero, Benjamin J. Grimm, aka The Thing, is one of the all-time greats in the comic industry. One quarter of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, he is an one of the most recognizable heroes of any age, be it Silver, Modern, Marvel or Heroic. We’re glad to know that whenever the battle cry of “Avengers Assemble!” is uttered, The Thing will be one of the folks doin’ the assembling.

 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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EvilMonkey 3/10/2010 5:34:15 AM

I think that that his portrayal in Civil War was spot on and one of the only good thingsto come out of that event. His was the only character I felt that remained a 'true' hero throughout that series.

jedibanner 3/10/2010 6:19:36 AM

well evilmonkey....not too sure quitting on your country, not choosing a side and leaving all your friends and familly behind counts as being a ''tru hero'' though.....

I've never had a big fan of the Thing because he's not that interesting in my view. Being part of a team takes away the single perspective of the character and it's hard to concentrate on the good qualities he displays in the FF books.

He's amonster but....Hulk is also a monster yet Hulk has many different perspective that many can relate to way easier then the thing. Cap is a working class hero and the thing tries to follow that (but not in Civil War since the thing wimped out). the thing has a sense of humour but, so does most of the X-men who fall under the ''not-easy-on-the-eye-in-public'' category....those mutants with extra body-parts and weird mutant power, they all have to deal with society and judgment of the humans and they can deal with humour also but they do it less because they deal with the problem compared to the thing who has a favorable public image and plays the hero card, what's not to love???

All this to say...the thing in my view is an amalgam of other characters and I just don't feel much for the thing because I see nothing new in him, I see parts of what's already out there but, done in a lower standard.

DarthDuck 3/10/2010 6:22:35 AM

"It's Avengerin' Time!"

Great stuff.  Thing is one of my favorite character, in any medium, for all the reasons you mentioned.  I'm especially enjoy him in Hickman's FF right now and can't wait to see him on the Avengers.

I loved and hated how they used him in the movie.  Chiklis is great and his interactions with Chris Evans were usually funny but there's only so much an actor can do with a script like that.  He was often selfish, which Thing never is, and then at the end of the first movie he tells Reed: "I'm good as is."   WHAT?  No!  That's what makes the character great, especially early on was how much he hated being who he had become and struggling with it!  Anyway, not much point in bitching about that now, you just gave me a window.

Great stuff as always Chad.

everdreaded 3/10/2010 6:44:57 AM

 Very well said..I think Ben is one of the most underrated characters in Marvels batch and they need to stop sleepin on him!

thecheckeredman 3/10/2010 6:55:28 AM

The THING was probably one of the first, if not the first, character that first drew me to comics when I was a kid. 

 

Wiseguy 3/10/2010 7:05:57 AM

Nicely put Chad. Btw, I'll try not to bitch about other's complaining as much as possible especially since I do my fair share or probably even more :)

I love the Thing as well, the original (at least in the Marvel Universe) outcast. You can say the X-Men and many others were modeled after him. I think it's a great idea to have him in the Avengers for a while

Maybe it'll help the FF's popularity which as you said has waned. Unfortunately or not everything needs to be grittier or darker it seems to me to get really noticed. And IMHO the kids don't help. Marvel should kill them off, strip them of their powers or have  Mephisto give the FF the BND treatment :)

Rheul_home 3/10/2010 8:25:32 AM

Im happy to see Ben on the Avengers. He truly is one of Marvels greatest characters and he is an Avengers class heavy hitter.

dracor00 3/10/2010 9:20:15 AM

jedi banner

Ben Grimm may not have choose a side but he was involved in Civil War.  He fought on the street level to protect the innocent bystanders from the fallout of all the fighting.  The reason he didnt pick a side is because he found it rediculous that his friends resulted into fighting instead of trying to talk through the issues.

HunterRose 3/10/2010 9:52:58 AM

Sorry, but I'm old school and want the original Avengers on the team. I don't really care for gimmicky members on the team espescially then said memners belong to other teams. Being the comic lover that I am, I'll probably give it a try.  O.o

agentkooper 3/10/2010 10:41:24 AM

Jedi - The big diff between Hulk and the Thing that makes the Thing so much better?  He doesn't have an event written by Jeph Loeb.

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