The Thing: issues 24-36
Writer: Mike Carlin
Artists: Ron Wilson (24-33); Paul Neary (34-36)
Inkers: Joe Sinnott (24, 26); Brett Breeding (25, 28); Paul Ryan (27, 29); Dennis Janke (30); Kim DeMulder (31, 33-34); Dave Simons (32); Sam DeLaRosa (35-36)
Letterer: Jack "John" Morelli
Colorists: Bob Sharen (24-27, 29-31, 33-36); Mike Higgins (28); Adam Philips (32)
Editor: Mark Gruenwald
24: Miracle Man; Rhino; Scourge
25, 28, 31-32, 36: none, really
26: Taskmaster; assorted thugs, including Kaminsky (a human cannonball)
27: Marauder; Richie "Champ" Champoulion
29: Gator Grant
30: the Beyonder
33: Scourge (disguised as Golddigger)
34: Sphinx; Puppet Master
35: Power Broker; Dr. Karl Malus
24: Project: PEGASUS; some Guardsmen
25: She-Hulk; Mr. Fantastic; Wyatt Wingfoot; O'Keefe; a band of leprechauns
26: Vance Astrovik; Sharon Ventura (a poster of her only); Lauren Anderson (secret service agent)
27: Vance Astrovik; Thunderiders (R.U. Reddy; Wolf; Georgianna; Wrench; Cowboy; Honcho; Sharon Ventura)
28: Vance Astrovik; Thunderiders (R.U. Reddy; Wolf; Georgianna; Wrench; Cowboy; Honcho); Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation employees (Ed Garner, founder; Bing & Cheech, superhuman workers; Demolition Dunphy; Mangler; many unidentified wrestlers)
29: Vance Astrovik; UCWF wrestlers (Caveman, Blacksmith, Jersey Devil, Demoliton Dunphy, Swami Riba); Ed Garner; Vince McKay; Jamala the Witch Woman
30: Vance Astrovik; Joe (bartender, Ringside Bar & Grill, Brooklyn); Ethan Thurm (independent UCWF recruiter); Squid & Bibbo (thugs); Ed Garner; Sharon Ventura
31: Vance Astrovik; Sharon Ventura; Godzilla; Mister Clean (UCWF wrestler); Ed Garner; Angela and Desiree (stuntwomen); Trimble (special effects expert); Sanders (movie director); Joanne, Liz, Ray, Susan, Pauline, Ted, John, Lisa (actors)
32: Vance Astrovik; Sharon Ventura; Innes (private investogator); Speedo (UCWF wrestler); Norma Astrovik
33: Sharon Ventura; Ed Garner; Auntie Freeze; UCWF wrestlers (Demolition Dunphy, Battleaxe, Titania, Poundcakes, Letha, Screaming Mimi, Butterball, Magilla, Vavavoom, others)
34: Sharon Ventura; UCWF wrestlers (Demolition Dunphy, Little John, Icepick, Battleaxe, Poundcakes, Capriole, Grand Poobah, Mister Cheese, others)
35: Sharon Ventura (becomes Ms. Marvel); Sharon Ventura's father (in flashback); Michael Lynch; Demolition Dunphy; Auntie Freeze; UCWF wreslers (Battleaxe, others)
36: Sharon Ventura; Michael Lynch; She-Hulk; Jarvis; Demolition Dunphy; UCWF wrestlers (Mister Clean, Battleaxe, Poundcakes, Mangler, others); Ed Garner
The Set Up:
Issue 24: At loose ends, Ben decides to look up some old friends, starting with Quasar at Project: PEGASUS. He hops a bus which also carries the Miracle Man and a mysterious bohemian. Hypnotizing Ben, the Miracle Man stops the bus, stops a containment vehicle and frees the Rhino, and drops Ben off a cliff. As Ben climbs back up, the Miracle Man hypnotizes the Rhino, and the fight is on...
Issue 25: Stuck in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, Ben comes to the aid of a band of leprechauns who live in an old barn, and the requisite three wishes ensue.
Issue 26: In Sandusky, Ohio, Ben sees a circus poster showing what appeares to be Tarianna as a lion tamer. Ben abandons his bus, and visits the circus, where he meets up with Vance Astrovik, and learns about a series of kidnappings. When Vance's female friend Lauren becomes one of the victims, the pair investigate, and find the bad guy behind things to be the Taskmaster.
Issue 27: Ben and Vance find "Tarianna," whose real name is Sharon Ventura- she's a professional adventurer and she's riding with the Thunderiders, a motorcycle stunt team. To get closer to Sharon, Ben tries out for the team and is accepted, only to be attacked by a mysterious dark Marauder.
Issue 28: Realizing the Thunderiders aren't the life for him (and since Sharon has left anyway), Ben quits the team. Vance soons finds his next gig: joining the newly forming Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation.
Issue 29: Ben is challenged by a retired wrestling champion named Gator Grant, who soon goes to a mysterious with woman for super powers.
Issue 30: The Beyonder (now roaming Earth in a human body) is recruited to join the UCWF. Ben, still angry about the Secret Wars messing up his life, psyches himself up for the ultimate grudge match.
Issue 31: While the UCWF is closed for a couple weeks due to safety issues, Ben vacations on a Pacific island, watching Sharon Ventura work as a stuntwoman during the making of Devil Dinosaur: The Movie. Things keep going awry, however...
Issue 32: Returning with Sharon Ventura, Ben saves a commercial jet from crashing, then finds his room being ransacked by a P.I. hunting Vance Astrovik for the kid's parents. Vance takes on a new identity as a wrestler while they try to figure out what to do.
Issue 33: Ben watches a match of the female branch of the UCWF, and then gets into a fight with several of the women while trying to stop a murder. Sharon gets an invite to meet the Power Broker and possibly get super powers, while Ben gets cornered into a man-woman wrestling match against the UCWF's top woman.
Issue 34: Ben's old enemy the Sphinx restores and discards the Puppet Master. The Puppet Master goes after Ben, and the Sphinx soon does as well.
Issue 35: Sharon Ventura investigates the Power Broker (the person who empowered many of the UCWF wrestlers) and becomes super-powered, but misses half the treatment and is attacked by the Power Broker's former clients. Ben, despite an illness, goes to the aid of Sharon, now known as Ms. Marvel.
Issue 36: Ben and Sharon go after the Power Broker, but while fighting his UCWF clients, Ben becomes seriously ill and begins to mutate. He's hospitalized, and She-Hulk comes to visit, but her presence upsets Ben. Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk end up fighting on the hospital lawn while the ill Ben tries to escape.
Issue 24, page 12, Ben takes a roll down a cliff in an out of control bus, thinking to himself "an' I paid thirteen fifty for this nice, quiet bus ride! Now either I'm gonna get my money back... or it's Clobberin' Time!!"
Issue 26, page 18, As the lights come up in center ring and Ben and Vance find themselves surrounded, Ben says "don't look now, junior, but I think it's Clobberin Time!", to which a nervous Vance replies "Yeah, but who's going to be doing the clobbering?"
Issue 31, page 8, After punching out a robot he mistook for a dinosaur, Ben repents. "Hate to say this, but... maybe it wuzn't Clobberin' Time!"
Issue 33, page 18, Battleaxe, preparing to wrestle the Thing, calls him out: ""You're gonna be callin' fer ya mommy when I get through with you! And d'ya know why, Grimm? 'Cause it's finally really Clobberin' Time!"
Issue 34, page 11, Ben sits the Puppet Master down and talks at him: "That does it! Sit down here and shut up! An' if ya so much as bat yer goofy lookin' eyes, it's clobberin' time!"
Issue 35, page 10, Ben yells his battle cry in a UCWF promotional commercial beside Demolition Dunphy.
Issue 36, page 16. The final "Clobberin' Time" of Ben's solo series is delivered by, of all people, Ben's replacement in the Fantastic Four, the She-Hulk. She yells it while battling Ms. Marvel.
No Petunia in this set of issues.
Things of Interest:
Taking over as your editor as of issue 23... the Gru! Mark Gruenwald, one half of the Two-in-One Twins who did such a wonderful job with the best issues of MTIO, assumed editorship of this title with issue 23.
With issue 24, the quality is already climbing back up after the Battleworld fiasco. Interesting elements, a nice read on the Rhino, the second appearance of the Scourge (who spak-pum's somebody instead of the usual pum-spak!), and a return to Project:PEGASUS. A very forgettable read on the Miracle Man, though. The story doesn't quite ring true to me (why does the Miracle Man need the Rhino anyway?), but I love the fact that they're getting back to Ben and realizing that he's more than just a lone wolf when not in the FF.
And then in issue 25, that quality drops again. Ben and a band of leprechauns, okay, sure. Plus a throwaway sidebar page to the current event over in the FF, which have a very vague tie to the last couple panels in this story, and which don't matter at all.
Vance Astrovik (in issue 26) previously met Ben in MTIO 69. We seem to be getting a supporting cast again now. Also of note is "Kaminsky" in issue 26, a bad guy who gets shot out of a cannon. I assume him to be named after Len Kaminsky, a writer who was just sticking his nose in the door at Marvel at about this time. He'd go on to write a number of titles for Marvel, including War Machine and Slapstick.
Introduced in a poster in #26, we finally meet Sharon Ventura in issue #27. She'll be a supporting cast member here for the duration of the book (getting superpowers towards the end of it), appear briefly in Captain America (issues 330-331), and then ultimately go on to join the Fantastic Four itself and remain with the team for a long stretch, from issue 306 to issue 382. Also in issue 27 are the Thunderiders, formerly Team America (no relation to the 2004 puppet-based movie by the South Park creators). This motorcycle team had their own book, briefly, and also appeared in Captain America and the New Mutants. If I remember correctly, as I write they've never appeared again since The Thing #28.
Issue 28 introduces the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, not to mention Demolition Dunphy, later D-Man, who'll go on to a very brief stint as an Avenger before pretty much being ever-after dismissed as a joke. Dunphy is kind of a loser who's willing to sacrifice for what he believes in and what is right, and the Avengers all pretty much make fun of him for not fitting their mold- it seems very high school, with Dunphy being avoided/ignored by the "cool kids." In any case, Ben stays with the UCWF until the book is eventually cancelled, and I'm not sure what to say about the issues. While I like the idea of giving Ben a supporting cast and a community of his own to belong to, wrestling never does it for me. The books don't seem to be truly vibrant- maybe its just too grounded for me, or maybe "showbiz" just doesn't work for someone as blue-collar-seeming as Ben.
Would you believe Gator Grant got a second appearance after issue 29? Yup, he was brought back in the Fall 1991 issue of Marvel Super Heroes, in an 8 page Marvel Boy (Vance Astrovik) solo story.
Secret Wars II- perhaps one of the worst miniseries ever, and issue 30 is the obligatory Thing tie-in. Not much to see here, just Ben pulping someone out of rage, kind of depressing overall. Maybe that's why I don't like these stories- there's no real sense of fun in too many of them.
And just as I note that "no-fun-ness" comes issue 31, which is nothing but fun. Ben on vacation, relaxing. Giant dinosaurs. Beautiful babes. Of course, we also get the first hints of the "illness" which'll soon drive Ben from the West Coast Avengers, so all is not quite wonderful after all. Devil Dinosaur, by the by, had his own series in the late 70s, lasting a whole nine issues. The real question here is: where did the idea for the movie come from? While DD himself did go on a rampage through our time at one point, Moon Boy had never been seen by a human and yet was still in the movie. My "No Prize" worthy suggestion- we know that the "Dinosaur World" visited by Roxxon as seen in MTIO 73 was DD's world. My guess'd be that one of the Roxxon employees later ended up in Hollywood, and certain script elements came from him/her. Perhaps the female script writer seen in The Thing #31 used to be an Nth Commando?
Issue 32 writes out Vance, sadly. It also nicely introduces the child abuse issue that'll be a major part of his New Warriors life, and gives Vance his first short-lived costumed identity: Manglin' John Mahoney, a UCWF wrestler. Issue 33 introduces a female branch of the UCWF, and also brings back the Grapplers, from Ben's Marvel Two-in-One days, including Screaming Mimi, later to be known as Songbird. We also get another appearance by the Scourge of the Underworld here, who kills the Grapplers' Titania (no relation to the later Titania who would marry the Absorbing Man), and we get the first mention of the Power Broker, the bad guy responsible for creating many of the super-wrestlers.
34-35 mark the best of this set. 34 deals with the Puppet Master (restoring him to human form after his last appearance as animate clay in The Thing 5-6), and has a logical conclusion to the Thing/Puppet Master conflict, and even lets the PM save the day. Very enjoyable issue, though the Sphinx in this one gets short shrift. 35 introduces the Power Broker, uses classic villainous minor scientist Dr. Karl Malus, gets Sharon Ventura her superpowers and name (Ms. Marvel), explains all the superhuman wrestlers, and advances the plot that'll end the book the following issue.
Issue 36 I'm not as happy with, as its more of a set-up issue for Ben's next appearance in the FF than a great Ben issue, and Ben's almost a side issue. In any case, from here we go to West Coast Avengers 10 where Ben briefly makes his last appearance there, and then to Fantastic Four 296, where Ben returns to that team, ending my continuous coverage of Ben's travails...
As a very minor note- the next/last links below will take you to Marvel Fanfare 21 as the last issues, and West Coast Avengers 3-10 as the next. Fanfares 20-21 actually occur between The Thing issues 22 and 23, and WCA 3-9 (plus the first page of issue 10) all take place between The Thing 32 and 33, but the rest of WCA 10 does all take place after The Thing 36. If I cared I could have split this Thing 24-36 page into about three individual pages to make this work (and the WCA into two separate pages), but I'm just approximating things here...