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Michael Hogan
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Posted: 26 June 2010 at 6:11pm | IP Logged | 1  

First off, I want to add my voice to the chorus of folks who loved your FF (it's where I "discovered" you).  I have a question about Ben Grimm -- in your opinion, has he lost his "edge"?  Maybe I've been reading too long, but it seems like he's come a long way from "This Man, This Monster" to comfy old Unca Benjy.  I will say that you did add to his monstrous aspect when you "devolved" his look during your tenure on the book.

Just wondered your opinion.  Thanks.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 June 2010 at 8:09pm | IP Logged | 2  

A while before I took over the FF, Marv Wolfman did a story in which the team battled monstrous versions of themselves. A monster Reed, a monster Sue, a monster Johnny..... and a monster Ben. A monstrous version of the Thing!! What the $&@%#?? I thought. For years I had been referring to "Fozzie Thing", but that story really brought home how far the character had strayed from his roots.

In many ways, this was Jack Kirby's fault (i say as I dodge lightning bolts). He got into the habit of doing funny drawings of the Thing -- Ben in a Beatles wig, or dressed as little Lord Fauntleroy -- and as so often happens, this slopped over into the books.

When I got the FANTSTIC FOUR assignment, one of the challenges I set for myself was to at least REMIND people that Ben was a monster, and not happy to be one!

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Mike Farley
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Posted: 26 June 2010 at 9:07pm | IP Logged | 3  

It's something I think a lot of writers tend to miss. Ben isn't okay with the fact that he's The Thing, he's just usually really good at masking it.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 3:59am | IP Logged | 4  

As I did what I could to bring back the "monster" aspect, some of the mail surprised me. One reader wrote to say he did not like what I was doing. "Ben must be used to it by now!"

People out here in the real world never really "get used to" disfigurements. For Ben, it was to equivalent of waking up one morning as the Elephant Man. Who could ever really "get used to" that?

Anyway -- here again is a doodle I did a few months back, still on my quest to find a monstrous Thing that does not lose all trace of the traditional version.

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Stephen Churay
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 4:23am | IP Logged | 5  

JB, this just makes me a little bit sadder that Fantastic 4Ever didn't happen. Great drawing.
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Michael Hogan
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 7:05am | IP Logged | 6  

Thanks, JB.  I remember that doodle and thought that it displayed a greater "edge" to the character.
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Tim O Neill
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 9:11am | IP Logged | 7  



He's looks so HEAVY



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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 10:48am | IP Logged | 8  

One of my favorite THINGs was when Roger Stern wrote a few issues of the
FF and depicted Ben Grimm in a serious psychological state of funk --
even the FF got alienated.
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Steven Myers
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 10:50am | IP Logged | 9  

As for Ben being used to his disfigurment.  Yes, and no.  I don't want to see him constantly complain, but sometimes, underneath it all....there's a real tragic sadness there.  It can be blunted by the love of a woman or the adoration of fans.  But it's still in there.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 11:00am | IP Logged | 10  

The DEGREE of Ben's disfigurement stands against him having much chance of ever really getting used to it. Aside from what greets him every time he passes a reflective surface, there is the problem of trying to walk thru an ordinary door (as illustrated nicely in his first scene, in FF1), wear clothes, sleep in a normal bed, or walk across an unreinforced floor. Then, too, there is the problem Spider-Man observed after one of their encounters -- to Ben it is as if the whole world is made of papier maché,

He has no real chance to "get used to it", as the reminders are constant.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 11:06am | IP Logged | 11  

...and yet, despite the sadness and bitterness, he still has the heart of a hero! Certainly, the Thing is one of the all-time great characters of the genre.

Of course, having him become "used to it" or looking cute and cuddly diminishes his unique form of heroism and makes him just another superhero.

A normal person might become a shut-in and/or suicidal if so hideously transformed. But Ben Grimm constantly takes lemons and makes them into lemonade.

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Stephen Robinson
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Posted: 27 June 2010 at 11:24am | IP Logged | 12  

"Too stupid to collapse... too ugly to die." -- Ben Grimm, fighter to the end, be it against his disfigurement or Doctor Doom himself.
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Tony Midyett
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 5:53am | IP Logged | 13  

As much as I love it when he's orange and rocky, I loved it even more when he a was brown and lumpy---he really had that "Timely Monster" look.
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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 6:32am | IP Logged | 14  

JB does a good "lumpy" Ben, too.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 7:41am | IP Logged | 15  

This page from FF1 still stands, after all these years, as my favorite portrayal of the Thing.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 8:09am | IP Logged | 16  

Imagine this immense Thing set against a Hulk shown to fit in an ordinary airplane seat!
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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 8:15am | IP Logged | 17  

What's odd is how quickly the FF went from a "ground breaking" comic, to something much more "ordinary". The Thing represents this most clearly, but the other characters changed rapidly and quite dramatically, too. Look at the cover of the sixth issue (my second, as a fan):

Reed has beefed up, as has Johnny, and Ben has shrunk to much more human proportions. I've often wondered how much was deliberate -- Stan and Jack deliberately pulling back a bit, after coming out of the gate so strong. (It's difficult to know if they were reacting to fan reaction. With a bimonthly, as many as the first four issues could have been in the drawer before the first one hit the stands.)

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 10:49am | IP Logged | 18  

That first issue of FF is such a classic--and I've occasionally wondered what would have happened if Lee and Kirby hadn't pulled back and made things a little more traditional (beefy Reed and Johnny, costumes, a headquarters, etc.). I get the impression that the classic superhero elements were added in partly due to fan reaction--certainly, there was a demand for costumes in the early letter pages.

I wonder how successful the plainclothes, California-based FF would have been if the original conception had been maintained.

The Thing would have been quite ugly and bitter, our heroes might only have faced monsters and weird sci-fi-type threats instead of super-villains, the flare-gun might have been used to get them together in each issue (instead of them all living in the Baxter Building), and so on.



Edited by Greg Kirkman on 28 June 2010 at 10:51am
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Jesus Garcia
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:03am | IP Logged | 19  

That is one of my favorite versions of the Thing. Nothing cute about him, and his face on the 6th panel looks almost reptilian.

Note his speech pattern which is much less "streetwise" then it later became. No one would have expected this Thing to later launch into battle hollering "It's clobbering time!"

I often wondered why Stan (I'm assuming he did the characterizations) discarded this mode of speech. On this page, Ben sounds just like Victor Von Doom!

Two members of the FF chatting using $20-words perhaps too much?

This is perhaps one of those many What-If concepts that Marvel failed to explore: What If the earliest 1960's Marvel characters had continued to be depicted in keeping with their inaugural tones and styles?

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Wallace Sellars
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:07am | IP Logged | 20  

That is one of my favorite versions of the Thing. Nothing cute about him, and
his face on the 6th panel...
---
That panel is one that stuck with me after reading ORIGINS OF MARVEL
COMICS as a kid.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:08am | IP Logged | 21  

I wonder how successful the plainclothes, California-based FF would have been if the original conception had been maintained.

••

Historical note: I was the one who situated Central City in California, much to my later regret. Like the mythical city in which Spider-Man made his debut, the city in which the FF were originally headquartered had no stated geographical location. (Altho all evidence points to Peter Parker living in Florida, since there is a Mercury launching site on the outskirts of town!)

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:14am | IP Logged | 22  

Historical note: I was the one who situated Central City in California, much to my later regret.

+++++++++

Regret?

Also--and I don't mean to dispute your assertion that you established that Central City was in California, but I seem to recall a late-70s Bill Mantlo issue of THE INCREDIBLE HULK that established the city's location as California.

So, if you regret the city's location, maybe it wasn't your fault!

 



Edited by Greg Kirkman on 28 June 2010 at 11:20am
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Kevin Corcoran
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:38am | IP Logged | 23  

I found the Thing to be a source of comic relief in the Byrne FF run; some people with obvious (or not-so-obvious) disfigurements use humor as a release valve.

Not that he ever really would get used to it. I am reminded of Cyrano and his use of self-depreciating humor.

Especially painful must be (as JB referenced above) is that the world around Ben Grimm is 'papier maché,' as smash-able and malleable as his own form is un-workable and fixed.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:42am | IP Logged | 24  

…I seem to recall a late-70s Bill Mantlo issue of THE INCREDIBLE HULK that established the city's location as California.

••

If so, I was unaware of it when I did my FF stories.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 28 June 2010 at 11:50am | IP Logged | 25  

Interesting how much the Thing's manner of speech changed over time as well, gaining not only color but a more fun-loving spirit. That initial Thing's "bah!" is positively chilling....
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