The Thing, issues 1-10


Writer: John Byrne
Artist: Ron Wilson
Inkers: Joe Sinnott (1, 9), John Byrne (2), Hilary Barta (3-8, 10)
Letterers: Janice Chiang (1), Rick Parker (2-4, 6-7), Jim Novak (5, 9-10), Clem Robins (8)
Colorists: Bob Sharen (1-7), George Roussos (8-9), Julianna Ferriter (10)
Editors: Al Milgrom (1), Al Milgrom & Ann Nocenti (2), Ann Nocenti (3-7), Bob Budiansky (8-10)

The Villains:
     1-4, 10: none, really
     5-6: Puppet Master
     7: Goody Two-Shoes
     8-9: Slave of Souls

Guest Shots:
     
     Issue 1: The Yancy Street Gang; in flashbacks: Daniel Grimm (Ben's father), Elsi Grimm (mother), Dan Grimm Jr. (brother), Jacob "Jake" Grimm (uncle), Alyce Grimm (aunt), Victor von Doom, Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm
     Issue 2: Willie Lumpkin, Alynn Cambers, Nan Freeman (friend of Alynn Cambers, dated Reed Richards once), Jacob "Jake" Grimm, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Alicia Masters
     Issue 3: Crystal, Lockjaw, Black Bolt, Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton, Quicksilver, Luna, various unidentified Inhumans.
     Issue 4: Lockjaw, Lucas Jackson, Sarah Anne Jackson, Puppet Master; various residents of an unidentified Southern town : Sheriff, Zach Weiler, Zack, Elmo, Coot Shallet, Doc Hollister
     Issue 5: Wonder Man, She-Hulk, Edwin Jarvis, Spider-Man
     Issue 6: In flashback to Fantastic Four #236: Dr. Doom, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Homan Torch
     Issue 7: Alicia Masters, John Byrne, Ron Wilson, Ann Nocenti, Roger Stern
     Issue 8: She-Hulk, Mick Clancy, Alicia Masters
     Issue 9: Alicia Masters
     Issue 10: Alicia Masters, Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman

The Set Ups:
     Issue 1: An old friend asks Ben to return to Yancy Street and try to intervene in the life of a young Yancy Street Gang member before his life dead ends.
     Issue 2: Ben's first real love returns to his life, years later.
     Issue 3: When the Inhuman Crystal's infant daughter Luna is about the be exposed to the gene-altering Terrigen Mists, Crystal and Lockjaw come to New York and recruit Ben's aid in stopping it.
     Issue 4: Lockjaw and Ben come to the aid of Sarah Anne Jackson and her mutant son Lucas Jackson.
     Issues 5-6: A succession of heroes, possessed by the Puppet Master, battle Ben until finally the Puppet Master possesses Ben and the two battle it out inside his mind.
     Issue 7: Ben magnificently battles the exceedingly powerful new villain Goody Two-Shoes, and then "true story" of the fight is revealed.
     Issues 8-9: Ben is possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian wizard who has been reincarnating across the centuries.
     Issue 10: Ben and Alicia discuss their relationship, the Fantastic Four's origin is retold, and Ben is whisked away off the planet.

Clobberin' Time?:
     Issue 3, page 19, Ben bashes Black Bolt: "That's best, yakky? Then come on over an' I'll show ya how us big boys play. It's... Clobberin' Time!"
     Issue 7, page 9. As Ben takes on Goody Two-Shoes, at least in the comic book retelling of it, this give and take occurs. Ben: "It's Clobberin' Time!" Goody Two-Shoes: "Nooooo... It's Clodhopperin' Time!"

Petunia's Patch:
      No Aunt Petunia references in these ten issues, but her husband, Jacob "Jake" Grimm physically appears in both issues 1 and 2...

Things of Interest:
      It's hard to rate these as a full set of ten issues, because they vary widly. In my personal opinion, issues 1-4 are all in the four to five star range, either some of the best Thing stories out there or vital to Ben's backstory, or both. 5-7 are okay, 8-9 are iffy at best, and then 10 is mostly a rehash of the FF's origin, adding nothing new of import while Ben tries to get up the courage to leave Alicia for good, a story resoundingly lacking in any sort of real emotional impact. On the whole, I'll list this set as above average, but thats almost entirely from 1-4 dragging the curve waaaaaay up. My personal recommendation on The Thing series as a whole: run, don't walk, to your local shop and get issues 1-4. Pick up 5-10 and 23-36 if you find them in the dollar bins. If you see 11-22, quietly turn and run the other way as fast as humanly possible. But that's just my opinion...

     Lots of tidbits and trivia from Ben's history are doled out in the first issue. His childhood home address was 7135 Yancy Street (although the apartment number is unrevealed), and this is used again in FF 355. The married superintendant in the building was a Mr. Knudsen, before he strangled his wife and was sent to prison, where he committed suicide. Ben's older brother Dan referred to Ben as "pipsqueak" or just "'squeak." Dan led the Yancy Street Gang and was killed in a fight with the Thompson Street Gang, after which Ben joined and eventually led the Yancy Street Gang. Ben's mother was an immigrant, and Ben remembers her learning of her mother's passing away in the old country.
     Trivia from issue 2: As a college football star, Ben's uniform number was 77, though it's just 7 in FF Unlimited #2 (where he gave his best friend Reed the game ball after Ben's "greatest game"). Though he's usually claimed to be a quarterback elsewhere (MTIO 75, FF 236, FF 1234 #2, and FF v3 #55, among other places), and has said he was a fullback once (FF #327), this issue has him dropping several passes, apparently as a receiver. Can you say "Slash"? My personal "best answer": Ben began his college career as either a fullback or a quarterback, and was moved to the other position somewhere along the line (changing numbers at that time). The dropped passes we see in this issue then happened while he was a fullback- in most offenses, fullbacks are thrown the ball with moderate frequency.

     Issue 3. Okay, time to go off a little bit. This is a wonderful issue. Quicksilver, who has always been something of a bigot, has had a daughter, Luna, through his marriage to the Inhuman Crystal. The merging of Inhuman and mutant genes produced a strictly human daughter, and Quicksilver wants to mutate her through exposure to the Inhumans' Terrigen Mists. By Inhuman law, this is the father's decision, and as Crystal opposes it, she seeks Ben's help. Very dramatic set-up, very personal storyline, wonderfully told. It all comes to a head when, in the middle of the battle, Lockjaw, who for years has been perceived as the Inhumans' pet, speaks one whole line of dialogue, revealing that he is sentient and an Inhuman who's gone through the Terrigen Mist, forcing Quicksilver to realize how drastically his daughter could be changed. Lockjaw doesn't ever speak again, save one line of dialogue as he and Ben teleport away alone at the end. Beautiful, moving, touching story, very well done, probably my vote as the single best thing Byrne has written at Marvel.
     Cut to, eight few years later, X-Factor #71. Lockjaw and Quicksilver meet up with Jamie Madrox (the Multiple Man), who then tries to talk to Lockjaw. Quicksilver then laughs at him and tells him that Lockjaw's "talking" was a practical joke played upon Ben Grimm by Gorgon and Karnak.
     Here are Peter David's comments on the issue, from PeterDavid.net: For what it's worth, I didn't give a damn about the Byrne story one way or the other. I thought it wasn't bad; not great, but not bad. It did, however, frost the flakes of several writers and the "X-Factor" editor, basically because Byrne's story made the Inhumans look like assholes. John Byrne, foremost advocate of adhering to creator intent, ignored not only sequences where Stan and Jack had the Inhumans referring to, and treating, Lockjaw as their pet or dog, but the subsequent decades worth of continuity that did the same. So, since Quicksilver was going to be in "X-Factor," the writers--and the editor in particular--asked me to take the opportunity to undo that development as quickly and simply as I could. I shrugged, said, "Okay, boss," and did so.
     And my comments on the issue: The Inhumans don't have pets. Period. I challenge you to go through their various appearances and find where someone has a dog, a cat, even a canary. Why, I couldn't say, but they don't have pets. So why Lockjaw? The knock then is that the Inhumans don't treat Lockjaw as an equal and this makes them out to be "assholes." Yup, I'd tend to agree, save for the simple fact that they're Inhuman. These guys have a long history of acting based on appearance and caste- they're a society built on very different rules from the current mainstream euro-centric society. The Inhumans are not America, and the knock that their actions appear a little, well, inhuman, seems a little egocentric to me. Further, if you start reading through those past issues, he's not actually treated much worse than, say, Gorgon or Karnak are treated by Black Bolt. Finally, the retcon itself is just awful. The reasoning, according to Quicksilver, is that Gorgon and Karnak played a practical joke on Ben while Quicksilver was trying to make a decision which would probably be the most important decision in his daughter's life. Okay, I can accept that Gorgon and Karnak are the kind of, to use the word at hand, "assholes" who would do that at a time like this. But it doesn't work on many levels: Quicksilver, upon learning of it later, would never just laugh it off- "hey, you guys screwed up my daughter's future- pretty funny!". He'd hardly tell it as a funny story months later. While Crystal might quietly accept it to save her daughter, she'd certainly tell Ben the truth in short order. And would Gorgon and Karnak betray the Inhumans to make Crystal feel better? They must have seen literally hundreds of children put through the Terrigen Mists in their day, no? Not to mention Gorgon's having gone through it himself...
     In the end, either interpretation has problems and needs help to make it work. I wish Byrne had taken more care with his retcon, or David with his counter-retcon, just so it would make sense either way. Personally, I think Lockjaw as sentient Inhuman makes perfect sense, and the that eternally angry Quicksilver would try to put a different spin on the incident by lying to Madrox makes a lot more sense than Gorgon and Karnak playing "practical jokes" at that time. In the meantime, Lockjaw remains a man of mystery...

For those who want to further read about the Lockjaw conundrum: an excellent pro-speech site can be found at http://www.zaksite.co.uk/lockjaw/, and a nice anti-speech site at http://www.ffplaza.com/commcenter/articles/Lockjaw.shtml. The pro-speech author has the benefit of being the newer site, and thus responding to the other. Both fun, though, and kudos to both authors.

     Okay, moving on to issue 4... this story about bigotry and hatred, though a little over-written, is still wonderful and a great great story. Though I'm of mixed opinions on it, I might like to see Lucas Jackson return some day.
     Some original art from your editor's collection. This is from Thing 4, page 5, as Lockjaw and Ben teleport into your average everyday angry mob bent on destroying a family for being different. All flippancy aside, issue 4 is one of my favorite issues, and Lockjaw one of my favorite characters, so this piece was a no-brainer for me to buy.

     Issues 5-6 are a two-parter with Ben taking on the Puppet Master, with 6 again dealing with Ben accepting who he is.
     Assitant Editor's Month! Issue 7 is Assistant Editor's Month (cover-dated January, 1984), where most Marvel titles went just a little whacky. This is the month the Avengers guested on David Letterman, and where we had the semi-classic Aunt May/Franklin Richards issue of Marvel Team-Up, wherein Aunt May became Galactus' herald. It doesn't work so well here- kind of a parody of a generic Marvel comic battle, followed by a visit to the Marvel Bullpen which would work a lot better if Byrne hadn't written or drawn himself into a dozen or so Marvel Comics over the years. Once = funny; twelve times = no longer funny. Still and all, an enjoyable issue.
     The villain in 8-9 really isn't ever named- he's given the name "Slave of Souls" in the Fantastic Four Encyclopedia, years later.
     Ben and She-Hulk have a drink at the bar of an old flying buddy in issue 8. This is Mick Clancy, an ex-test pilot, and the bar is Clancy's Irish Pub, in Manhattan. He previously appeared in Fantastic Four #234.
     In issue 10, we see Ben and Alicia apparently about to more or less break-up, but Ben is whisked off to participate in the Secret Wars miniseries before this can happen. Secret Wars was a 12 issues mini-series, Marvel's lesser answer to DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the next issue of The Thing jumps to the end of the Secret Wars, even though it'd be a year before we'd see how it all plays out.
     In early 2011, Marvel produced a Thing Classic #1 volume which reprinted the contents of this page precisely, issues #1-10.
     As a very minor note- the next/last links below will take you to Marvel Fanfare 15 as the next issue. As this takes place before Ben leaves for the Secret Wars, it doesn't actually take place after issue 10, but rather between issues 9 and 10, but, hey, it's close!