Character Issues: The Thing

The Stats:
Name: Benjamin Jacob Grimm
Height: 6’0
Weight: 500 pounds
Powers: Superhuman Strength and Durability
Type:  Walking Tank / Balboa
Excels at:  Moping, Fighting above his weight class
Fails at:  Changing with the times.

Click here to learn more about The Thing

The Character:

OK LBWB fam,  last week I got a chance to roast a character that I’ve hated for a long time.  Believe it or not, it was surprisingly pretty difficult because I wanted to stick to shortcomings of the character and avoid fanboy inspired rage.  I normally like the characters I review on here.  Today’s character is on my shortlist of favorite characters right next to Spiderman, Green Lantern and Luke Cage.   The Idol of Millions, Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, the spouter of antiquated catchphrases, Ben Grimm: The Thing.  Ben is one of Marvel’s original heavyweights and has gone toe to toe with the most powerful beings in the Universe.  Ben has also been on the receiving end of one of most vicious prolonged campaigns of jobbing in the modern era.

The Issues:

Here is an article that details how much of a BOSS Ben used to be in the Marvel Universe: http://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/ff_thing.html

Ben is outdated.   He hasn’t really been altered since the 90’s and his age is showing.  His dialogue makes him sound like a 60 year old man, his powers have not kept pace with his peers and he seems lost in the sauce when sharing time with characters who used to be peers like Thor and The Hulk.  Ben is perpetually jobbing out to other characters even though he has tangled with nearly every major player from the Cosmic Marvel Universe.  Hulk steals his lunch money, Thor takes his cookies and Thundra….

ThundraBeatsBenGrimm

Thundra stole his dignity.

Ben used to be one of the only guys who could physically deal with a fully enraged Hulk and occasionally win

ThingDefeatsHulk

Now he is a washed up relic of the old days.  A reminder of how Marvel’s sliding timeline damages the narrative for characters that aren’t modernized. Using Marvel’s slowed down time, Ben has been active as a hero for about 14 years, putting him in his early 40’s.  Why does he sound like Jimmy Durante?  Who is this character supposed to represent?  People born in the early 70’s who talk like actors who were popular in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s?  Ben is the classic noble “monster” archetype, this is a narrative that is present across so many popular stories, it is inexcusable that Ben’s characterization would be so awful in recent years.

Hawkeye's getting real tired of your shit Ben.
Hawkeye’s getting real tired of your shit Ben.

The Fix:

Update this character.   Drop the vocal pattern that sounds like the voice-over from Frosty the Snowman.  Make him the elder statesman of heroic bruisers in the Marvel Universe.  Emphasize how his fighting experience gives him an edge over stronger opponents.   Establish him as a mentor to other New York based heroes.  His annual poker game already demonstrates his connection many characters in the Marvel Universe, play this up. Have Ben teach Spiderman how to wrestle or box.  Have Ben be the guy Banner confides in when he’s struggling to adapt to being an outcast.  Show Ben as a character who battles Clinical Depression and is actively receiving treatment.  Contrast the indestructible exterior and indomitable will, with a guy who cares what people think of him and just wants to be ‘normal’.  This is what made The Thing’s solo series such a solid book.  That book humanized him and opened the door for some pretty strong Thing centered stories in the pages of The Fantastic Four.

OR

De-Age him.   Retcon punch the Marvel Universe post-Secret Wars and use that to reboot the FF.  Make them a little older than the original X-Men, maybe their 30’s. Rebooting Ben will allow him to ditch the strange mix of Senior Citizen vibes in a Middle Aged Guy Ben has going on and allow for a re-imagining of the character.  One for the few things that Ultimate Marvel did right was Ben Grimm’s character.  They made him into a Jock / Adventurer, whose powers eventually resembled Wonder Man’s.  Honestly, any direction other that the one they are currently going with Ben would be much better.

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