The Thing (Benjamin "Ben" Jacob Grimm) is a fictional character, a founding member of the superhero team known as the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Comics universe. He was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in The Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961). His trademark orange rocky appearance, sense of humor, blue eyes, and his famous battle cry, "It's clobberin' time!" makes him one of comics' most recognizable and popular characters. The Thing's speech patterns are loosely based on those of Jimmy Durante.
Michael Chiklis portrays The Thing in the 2005 film Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
In addition to appearing in the Fantastic Four, the Thing has been the star of Marvel Two-in-One, Strange Tales (with his fellow Fantastic Four member the Human Torch), and two incarnations of his own eponymous series, not to mention many miniseries and one-shots.
The Thing joined his Fantastic Four partner and frequent rival the Human Torch
with #124 (1964
) of Strange Tales
, which then featured solo adventures of the Human Torch
and backup Doctor Strange
stories. The change was intended to liven the comic through the always humorous chemistry between the Torch and the Thing. They were replaced with the "modern-day" version of Nick Fury
, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
, who was then already appearing in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos
in #135 (1965
Marvel Two-In-One (1974-1983)
After a 1973 two issue try-out in issues 11 and 12 of Marvel Feature
, the Thing appeared in the long-running series Marvel Two-In-One
, which lasted 100 issues with seven annuals. In each issue Ben Grimm would be paired with another character from the Marvel Universe
, frequently an obscure or colorful choice. The series was undoubtedly intended to introduce readers to new characters from Marvel's further reaches, by way of the more recognizable Thing's gruff, avuncular and pomposity-deflating humor. In 1992, Marvel reprinted four Two-in-One stories (#50, 51, 77 and 80) as a miniseries under the title The Adventures of the Thing
The Thing (1983-1986)
The cancellation of Marvel Two-In-One
led to the Thing's first completely solo series, which ran for thirty-six issues. It was originally written by John Byrne
and then later by Mike Carlin
, and drawn first by Ron Wilson
and later by Paul Neary
. It was notable for elaborating on Ben Grimm's poor childhood on Yancy Street
in its first issue, as well as chronicling the Thing's adventures as a professional wrestler
It also crossed over heavily with Marvel's Secret Wars event, after which the Thing elects to remain on the Beyonder's Battleworld when he discovers that the planet enables him to return to human form at will. A full third of the series' stories (issues 10 through 22) take place on Battleworld.
The Thing: Freakshow (2002)
In 2002, Marvel released a four-issue miniseries starring the Thing, in which he takes time away from the Fantastic Four
to ride the rails across America, inadvertently stumbling on a deformed gypsy boy he once ridiculed as a teenager--now the super-strong main attraction of a troupe of traveling circus freaks
--and a town full of Kree
warriors fighting over a Watcher
infant. The series was written by Geoff Johns
and illustrated by Scott Kolins
The Thing: Night Falls on Yancy Street (2003)
In 2003, Marvel released another four-issue miniseries starring the Thing. The story was of a less action-oriented and more character-driven and analytical type than is usual for the Thing. Some reviewers considered the story a nostalgic homage to Silver Age
comics, while others found its noir-ish atmosphere "depressing". It was written by Evan Dorkin
and illustrated by Dean Haspiel
The Thing (2005-2006)
After the success of the Fantastic Four
feature film and events in the Fantastic Four
ongoing series which contrived to make Ben a millionaire, the Thing was once again given his own series, written by fan favorite Dan Slott
and penciled by Andrea Di Vito
and, later, Kieron Dwyer
. Despite becoming a critically-acclaimed fan favorite, in the midst of large-scale, company-wide events from both Marvel
, The Thing
met with low sales and was canceled with #8.
Fictional character biography
Born on Yancy Street in New York City
's Lower East Side
, to a Jewish
family, Benjamin Jacob Grimm has an early life that was one of poverty and hardship, shaping young Grimm into a tough, streetwise scrapper. His older brother Daniel, whom Ben idolizes, is killed in a street gang fight when Ben is eight years old. This portion of his own life is modeled on that of Jack Kirby
, who grew up on tough Delancey Street
, whose brother died when he was young, whose father was named Benjamin, and who was named Jacob at birth. Following the death of his parents, Ben is raised by his Uncle Jake (who at some point married a much younger wife, Petunia).
Excelling in football as a high school student, Ben receives a full scholarship to Empire State University, where he first meets his eventual life-long friend in a teenaged genius named Reed Richards. Despite their being nearly a decade apart in age, science student Richards described his dream to one day build a space rocket to explore the regions of space around Mars, and Grimm jokingly agrees to fly that rocket when the day comes.
Following college, Grimm joins the United States Army Air Forces, where he is trained as a test pilot (his exploits as a military aviator are chronicled to a limited extent in issue #7 of the "Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders" comic, in a story entitled "Objective: Ben Grimm!") Following this, he becomes an astronaut for NASA.
Some years later, Reed Richards, now a successful scientist, once again makes contact with Grimm. Richards has built his spaceship, and reminds Grimm of his promise to fly the ship. After the government denies him permission to fly the spaceship himself, Richards plots a clandestine flight piloted by Grimm and accompanied by his future wife Susan Storm
, who had helped provide funding for the rocket, and her brother Johnny Storm
, who helped the group gain access to the launch system. Although reluctant to fly the rocket, Ben is persuaded to do so by Sue, for whom he has a soft spot. During this unauthorized ride into the upper atmosphere of Earth and the Van Allen Belts
, they are pelted by a cosmic ray
storm and exposed to radiation against which the ship's shields are no protection. Upon crashing down to Earth, each of the four learn that they have developed fantastic superhuman abilities. Grimm's skin is transformed into a thick, lumpy orange hide, which gradually evolves into his now-familiar craggy covering of large rocky plates. Richards proposes the quartet band together to use their new abilities for the betterment of humanity, and Grimm, in a moment of self-pity, adopts the super-heroic sobriquet, The Thing
Trapped in his monstrous form, Grimm is an unhappy yet reliable member of the team. He trusts in his friend Reed Richards to one day develop a cure for his condition. However, when he encounters blind sculptress Alicia Masters, Grimm develops an unconscious resistance to being transformed back to his human form. Fearing that Masters prefers him to remain in the monstrous form of the Thing, Grimm's body rejects various attempts by Richards to restore his human form lest he lose the love of Masters. His unconscious fear keeps him in his rocky form, and Grimm remains a stalwart member of the Fantastic Four for years.
After the events of the first Secret Wars, Grimm leaves the team when he opts to remain on an alien planet where he can control his transformation to and from his rocky super-powered form. Upon returning to Earth, he learns that Alicia had become romantically involved with his teammate Johnny Storm during his absence (it is eventually revealed that this Alicia was actually the Skrull impostor Lyja). An angry Grimm wallows in self-pity for a time, later on joining the West Coast Avengers, and hanging out at the West Coast mansion. Eventually, he returns to his surrogate family as leader of the Fantastic Four when Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman leave the team to raise their son Franklin. Ben invites Crystal and Ms. Marvel II (Sharon Ventura) to fill their slots. Soon after Sharon and Ben are irradiated with cosmic rays, Sharon becomes a lumpy Thing much like Ben was in his first few appearances while Ben mutates into a new rocky form.
After being further mutated into the more monstrous rocky form and briefly being changed back to his human form, Grimm has once more returned to his traditional orange rocky form. He remains a steadfast member of the Fantastic Four.
Grimm's relationship with his teammates has been a close but occasionally edgy one given his temper. He and the Torch (aka Johnny Storm) are always arguing and have often clashed, causing no end of mayhem in the FF HQ. When Storm started a relationship of his own with Alicia Masters and they became engaged, Grimm was upset. However, he had to concede that, unlike himself and his stone-covered body, Johnny could "be a man". He even agreed to act as best man
at their wedding.
The relationship between Alicia and Johnny was vehemently disliked by many fans, and was later retconned and explained that the Alicia that Johnny fell in love with was actually Lyja, a member of the shape-changing Skrull race. The real Alicia, who was kept in suspended animation, was soon rescued by the Fantastic Four and reunited with the Thing.
He calls Reed Richards "Stretch" given both the fact that he is naturally tall and can literally stretch his body. However, Grimm also holds Reed responsible for his condition since he dismissed the potential danger of the cosmic rays that gave them their powers, whereas Grimm took them very seriously. At times of real frustration towards Reed, he even refers to him simply as "Richards".
He is the godfather of Reed and Sue's son Franklin who affectionately calls him "Uncle Ben".
The Thing has had a long-standing rivalry with the Incredible Hulk. The two refer to each other as "Grimm" and "Banner", and their feud isn't completely resolved.
In the 21st century
In a Fantastic Four
comic published in 2005, Ben learns he is entitled to a large sum of money, his share of the Fantastic Four fortune, which Reed Richards had never touched, as he had the shares of the other teammates (who were family members) in order to pay off various debts of the group. The following year, spurred by the success of the Fantastic Four
feature film (of which much of the press was centered on the portrayal of the Thing ) under writer Dan Slott
, Ben began starring in his first solo title in more than 20 years. Slott's series, though a critical success, suffered from low sales, and was canceled after the eighth issue.
The Thing uses his newfound wealth to build a community center in his old neighborhood on Yancy Street, the "Grimm Youth Center." Thinking the center is named after the Thing himself, the Yancy Street Gang plans to graffiti the building exterior, but discovers the building was actually named after Daniel Grimm, the Thing's deceased older brother, who had been a former leader of the gang. The relationship between the Yancy Streeters and the Thing is then effectively reconciled, or at least changed to a more good-natured, playful rivalry (as exemplified by the comic ending, with Yancy Streeters spray-painting the sleeping Thing).
Some personality traits of the cantankerously lovable, occasionally cigar-smoking, Jewish native of the Lower East Side are popularly recognized as having been inspired by those of co-creator Jack Kirby, who in interviews has said he intended Grimm to be an alter ego of himself. However, as was usual for comic-book characters of that era, no religion was publicly mentioned. Grimm has since been revealed to be Jewish, like Kirby, in Fantastic Four v3, #56, published in August 2002, in a story titled "Remembrance of Things Past". In the final issue of his solo series, Ben even agrees to finally have his very own Bar Mitzvah, it being 13 years since he began his "second life" as the Thing. To celebrate the ceremony, Ben organizes a poker tournament for every available superhero in the Marvel Universe.
Initially in the superhero Civil War
Ben is a reluctant member of Iron Man's side, until he witnesses a battle on Yancy Street in which Captain America
's forces try to rescue captured allies held by Iron Man
's forces. Old Fantastic Four foes the Mad Thinker
and the Puppet Master
try to escalate the battle, using a mind-controlled Yancy Streeter to deliver a bomb. The young man dies and the Thing verbally blasts both sides for not caring about the civilians caught in the conflict. He announces that while he thinks the registration is wrong, he is also not going to fight the government and is thus leaving the country for France
. While in France he meets Les Héros de Paris
(The Heroes of Paris).
Ben returns to New York as both sides of the SHRA battle in the city. Oblivious to whichever side gets in his way, Ben makes it his job to protect civilians from harm. His current status in the aftermath is unknown.
In the latest issue (March, 2007) Ben celebrates the Fantastic Four's 11th anniversary along with the Human Torch, and late-comers Reed and Sue. The aftermath of the Civil War is still being felt in this issue, as Ben and Johnny (and even Franklin) consider the future of the team and Reed and Sue's marriage. When Reed and Sue arrive near issue's end, they announce they are taking a break from the team and have found two replacement members: Black Panther, and Storm of the X-Men. The title of the story in this issue is a quote from Ben, "Come on, Suzie, don't leave us hangin'."
Ben has been identified as Number 53 of the 142 registered superheroes who appear on the cover of the comic book Avengers: The Initiative #1.
World War Hulk
Ben once again tries to take on the Hulk within the events of World War Hulk
in order to buy Reed Richards the time he needs to complete his plans for the Hulk. Ben gives his best shots, but the Hulk takes his punches without slowing down. The Hulk proceeds to knock out Ben by punching both sides of his head simultaneously and would have delivered a killing blow, if not for the timely arrival of the Sentry
; which turned out to be a hologram created by Reed in a failed attempt to calm the Hulk down.He is later seen captive in Madison Square Garden, which the Hulk has turned into a gladiatorial arena with an obedience disk fitted on him.
Released from his imprisonment, Ben, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage attack the Warbound, with Ben fighting Korg. Their battle is brought to an abrupt end when Hiroim repairs the damage to Manhattan Island, drawing the energy to do so from Ben and Korg.
In the Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four
miniseries, the Skrull Lyja, posing as Sue, sends the Baxter Building
, with Ben, Johnny, Franklin and Valeria
inside, into the Negative Zone
. Not long after their arrival, Ben has to protect Franklin and Valeria from an impending onslaught of giant insects.
Powers and abilities
As a result of exposure to cosmic rays, the Thing possesses high levels of superhuman strength, stamina, and resistance to physical injury. His strength has continued to increase over the years due to a combination of further mutation and special exercise equipment designed for him by Reed Richards.
He is capable of surviving impacts of great strength and force without sustaining injury. He is also able to withstand gunfire from high caliber weapons as well as armor piercing rounds. The Thing's highly advanced musculature generates fewer fatigue toxins during physical activity, granting him superhuman levels of stamina.
Aside from his physical attributes, the Thing's senses can withstand greater levels of sensory stimulation than an ordinary human, with the exception of his sense of touch. His lungs possess greater efficiency and volume than those of an ordinary human. As a result, the Thing is capable of holding his breath for much greater periods of time.
Despite his brutish, even monstrous form, the Thing suffers no change in his personality nor his level of intelligence. Despite his greatly increased size, the Thing's agility and reflexes remain at the same level they had been prior to his transformation.
The Thing is an exceptionally skilled pilot, due to his time spent as a test pilot in the United States Air Force and as a member of the Fantastic Four. He is also a formidable and relentless hand to hand combatant. His fighting style incorporates elements of boxing, wrestling, judo, jujutsu, and street-fighting techniques, as well as hand-to-hand combat training from the military.
After an encounter with the Grey Gargoyle, the Thing seems to have gained the ability to shift between his human and rock forms at will.
On occasion, when Ben Grimm regained his human form and lost his Thing powers, he used a suit of powered battle armor designed by Reed Richards that simulated the strength and durability of his mutated body, albeit on a lesser scale. Wearing the suit, which was designed to physically resemble his rocky form, Ben continued to participate in the Fantastic Four's adventures until it was destroyed in battle.
In other media
- The Thing is a regular character in the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon, voiced by Ted Cassidy.
- Although The Thing has always been closely identified with the Fantastic Four, he did appear as a solo character in a bizarre and short-lived 1979 spin-off of the animated series The Flintstones, entitled Fred and Barney Meet the Thing. For this series, Grimm became a gangly underweight teenager named "Benjy" Grimm as a result of a failed attempt to cure his Thing form. Since further work using this method could make him physically even younger, he was forced to live with this form as the best he can have for now. However when he needs it, he is able to change himself into The Thing by striking together two special rings and the saying "Thing Ring! Do your thing!". The only other Marvel characters who were recurring in the series were the Yancy Street Gang (remade into "TV-friendly" practical jokers, rather than a violent street gang), who served as Benjy's principal antagonists. Despite the title of the series, The Thing hardly ever encountered the Flintstones characters.
- The Thing is a regular character in the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon, voiced by Chuck McCann.
- Thing later appears in the '90s Spider-Man cartoon (voiced by Patrick Pinney) during the "Secret Wars" storyline, along with the rest of the Fantastic Four, and he plays a major role in the final conflict with Doctor Doom. Doom captures the Thing, reverts him back into his human form, uses the information he gives Ben to steal the Beyonder's power, and is only defeated when he turns his own weapon on him.
- The Thing also makes a single episode appearance in the '90s Incredible Hulk cartoon, with Chuck McCann reprising Thing. The episode seems to place this show in the same continuity with the Fantastic Four cartoon of the same decade as this episode plays off the Hulk's appearance in the other show. She-Hulk flirted with him, but Ben chose to rekindle his relationship with Alicia Masters.
The Thing is featured in the 2005 film
released by 20th Century Fox
, in which he is portrayed by Michael Chiklis
. In this film, a small explanation is given for why his physical alterations are the most severe, as he is exposed to the cosmic cloud with the least amount of protection. Dr. Doom manipulates The Thing's relationship with Reed and Sue, and tricks him into using an experimental machine to become Ben again; but he goes back into the machine and regains his powers to save Sue and Reed from being killed by Dr. Doom.
One difference in the film and the comic is Ben's military service. In the comic he was once an Air Force pilot, whereas in the film the Human Torch refers to him as a former SEAL.
Chiklis reprises his role as The Thing in the sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. In the film, Grimm serves as the best man at the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Grimm also takes pleasure in switching powers with Johnny as it also turns him back to his human form.
Stan Lee has stated that out of all the actors that portray his characters, Michael Chiklis is his personal favorite.
- In The Simpsons episode "I Am Furious Yellow", a senile/insane version of Stan Lee (Comic Book Guy says that Lee's brain is no longer in "near-mint" condition) tries to cram a Thing action figure into a Batmobile toy. Also in the "Treehouse of Horror XIV" story "Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off", there is a quick moment where the Simpson family members are turned into members of the Fantastic Four. Homer is the Thing. In the episode "Simple Simpson", Montgomery Burns spoofs the Thing's famous catchphrase "It's clobberin' time!" while blackmailing Homer (who had assumed the identity of "The Pie Man", a pie-throwing vigilante) into going after Burns's enemies, declaring "It's cobblering time!" In the related series Futurama, the phrase is mocked twice, first in the episode "Raging Bender" as "It's Bendering Time!" and later in "The Luck of the Fryrish" as "It's clovering time!"
- In The Venture Bros., the character of "Ned" in the Impossible Family resembles the Thing. He is pale orange, lumpy, and described as "a giant callus." He is stronger than ordinary people, but not nearly as strong or impervious to harm as The Thing.
- He is also mentioned in the movie Reservoir Dogs, where Mr. Orange in a conversation with Holdaway states that Joe Cabot "looks just like the Thing".
- The Thing's genitalia, along with that of fellow Fantastic Four member Mister Fantastic, is discussed in the film Mallrats in a scene guest-starring Stan Lee.
- In British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, one of the characters, Dave Lister, uses the Thing's catchprase, "It's clobberin' time" after being robbed of the ability to fear.
- Porky Pig mentions the Thing's catchphrase in the Looney Tunes episode "My Generation G-G-Gap" pronouncing it "It's clo-clo-clobberin' t-t-time".
- Xzibit references The Thing in his song "X" with the line "Niggas be weak, I'm concrete like Benjamin Grimm".
- In the Family Guy episode "Bill and Peter's Bogus Journey", Lois sets up a gag about the Thing being married to Lorena Bobbitt. It then cuts away to a forest, where the Thing is searching for his penis. A man holds up an orange rock and asks "Is this what you're looking for?"
- Michael Chiklis voices Thing in the Robot Chicken episode "Monstourage." He ends up being swapped with Vic Mackey and attacks the bad guys causing Vic's fellow officers to wonder if Vic looks different to them.
- "It's clobberin' time!" (first uttered in Fantastic Four #22, "The Return of the Mole Man")
- "Wotta revoltin' development."
- "I'm the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing."
- "...Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew..."
- "I'm the idol o' millions."
- "... my Aunt Petunia." (also first mentioned in Fantastic Four #22)
- "...As weak as one of 'em spineless Yancy Streeters..."
- "Here comes handsome Ben...!!!" (Used in the Spanish dubbed version of the Fantastic Four animated TV series from 1967)
- "Mebbe I ain't no Hulk...."
- "Maybe I'm too ugly and stupid to give up!" (in his fight with the Champion of the Universe)
- "You said we wuz gonna beat the hell out of each other, no fair to talk me to death!"
In addition, the Thing habitually refers to Reed Richards as "Stretcho", "Stretch", and "Big Brain". He refers to the Human Torch as "Match-Head" or "Matchstick". The Thing calls Sue Storm "Susie-Q" and "Suze".
His catchphrase, "It's clobberin' time" was translated into French when, during the Marvel Civil War, Thing moved to Paris — although he continually mispronounced it.
It was also borrowed by Leonardo in Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3.
In the movie Robot Jox, the character Tex Conway uses the phrase "It's clobberin' time" to let Achillies know that ranged combat has ended and hand to hand combat has begun.
Solo Titles and Lead Features
- Strange Tales (joined ongoing Human Torch solo series) #124–134 (Sept. 1964 – July 1965)
- Marvel Feature #11-12 (1973)
- Marvel Two-in-One #1–100 (Jan. 1974 – June 1983)
- Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1–7 (1976 – 1982)
- The Thing #1–36 (July 1983 – June 1986)
- Marvel Graphic Novel #29 (Nov. 1987)
- Thing and She-Hulk: The Long Night (May 2005)
- The Thing: Freakshow #1–4 (Aug. – Nov. 2002)
- Startling Stories: The Thing #1–5 (June – Oct. 2003)
- Hulk/Thing: Hard Knocks #1–4 (Nov. 2004 – Feb. 2005; reprinted as trade paperback, 2005)
- What if Dr. Doom Had Become the Thing? (Feb. 2005)
- Marvel Adventures: Tales of the Thing (May 2005)
- The Thing vol. 2, #1–8 (Jan. – Aug. 2006)
- Warlock #6 (May, 1983, also collected with #1–5 in 1992 trade paperback; reprints MTIO Annual #2)
- The Thing: The Project Pegasus Saga trade paperback (1988; reprints MTIO #53–58, 60)
- Adventures of the Thing #1–4 (April 1992 – July 1992; reprints MTIO #50, 80, 51, 77)
- Marvel's Greatest Super Battles trade paperback (1994; includes reprints MTIO Annual #7)
- Marvel Super-Heroes Megazine #5 (February, 1995; includes reprint of MTIO #50)
- Thunderbolts: Marvel's Most Wanted trade paperback (1998; includes reprints of MTIO #54 (partial), 56)
- The Thing: Freakshow trade paperback (includes issues 1-4 and Thing & She-Hulk: The Long Night one-shot)
- The Thing: Idol of Millions trade paperback (2006; reprints The Thing #1–8 (2006 series))