The Humanity Of Benjamin J- Grimm

Strange Tales #126: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 12

 Strange Tales #126, page 7, panels 1-2

Strange Tales #126, page 7, panels 1-2

Strange Tales #126: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 12

Stan Lee Is Our Inspired Writer

Dick Ayers Is Our Admired Penciller

Paul Reinman Is Our Desired Inker

S. Rosen Is Our Tired Letterer

One of the many, many frustrating things about these early Puppet Master stories is the contrived and inconsistent ways Stan has to come up with to break characters out of the mind control. Here, Ben, who has happily tried to kill Johnny, suddenly manages to break free when he sees an unconscious Johnny plummet from the Fantasticar.

Oh, and he also transforms back to Ben, because this is the first time he's encountered a moral quandry since becoming the Thing, and the arbitrary rules of transformation just can't cope with it. This lasts for an entire page, when, having rescued Johnny, he calms down and returns to the Thing. Does this make him the anti-Hulk?

Note that the Editor's note takes a yellow background, and the narration a white background... only for the rest of the narration to abscond with the yellow background, creating a conflict of omniscient voices, not helped by both boxes in the first panel ending in ellipses.

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales #126 on our thirty-sixth episode: John Byrne Quits Comics

Fantastic Four #32: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 11

 Fantastic Four #32, page 2, panels 1-3

Fantastic Four #32, page 2, panels 1-3

Fantastic Four #32: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 11

Story by: Stan Lee (Who has never been more dramatic!)

Illustrations by: Jack Kirby (Who has never been more thrilling!)

Inking by: Chic Stone (Who has never been more realistic!)

Lettering by: S. Rosen (Who has never been more than an hour late!!)

Fantastic Four #32 opens with another experiment of Reed's to try and restore Ben's humanity. This time, as Johnny handily exposits in a thought balloon on the first page, he's going to alter the micro-electric waves of Ben's body. Sure he is.

Here, Kirby makes a break from the traditional sequence of transitional panels, in which an interstitial stage, featuring a part-Ben, part-Thing figure, would be seen. The focus here is on the energies changing Ben's body, with a combination of heavy inks and colours representing this.

Thanks to a switch in focus for a couple of pages, Ben remains human for an entire five pages, but a sudden bout of amnesia prompts Reed to reverse the transformation.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #32 on our thirty-sixth episode: John Byrne Quits Comics

Fantastic Four #30: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 10(ish)

Fantastic Four #30, page 5, panel 8
Fantastic Four #30, page 5, panel 8

Fantasticast Four #30: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 10(ish)

Written by: Stan Lee (A rather nice writer)

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby (A quite noteworthy artist)

Inked by: Chic Stone (A somewhat nifty inker)

Lettered by: Art Simek (An occasionally neat letterer)

I guess this one counts, even though it's not a full return to human form.

One of the central conceits of this issue is that Diablo's alchemy is able to partially restore Ben's human form, reducing his monstrous exterior to little more than a severe skin complaint, whilst retaining a large portion of The Thing's strength. In the way of all such hokum, the reversion proves to be temporary, and appears to come with some kind of mental persuasion. Ben returns to his Thing form after only five pages.

What astonishes me is that Reed never went back to Diablo's alchemy to see if this temporary cure could be used as the base for a permanent one. Despite Diablo's nefarious intentions, he is able to partially reverse the transformation, and for an extended period of time. Unlike Reed's one-time use and temporarily effective cures, Diablo appears to be able to offer a workable solution that could be developed further. I guess this is counted as invalid due to it being created by a villain...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #30 on our thirty-third episode: Bad Horse, Bad Horse, with special guest host David Walker

Fantastic Four #23: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 9

Fantastic Four #23, page 13, panel 5
Fantastic Four #23, page 13, panel 5

fantastic four #23: the humanity of

benjamin j. grimm 9

Written by: Stan Lee

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby

Inked by: George Roussos

Lettered by: S. Rosen

Lured to Yancy Street, The Thing is attacked by one of Doctor Doom's powered henchmen. Not content with giving Ben a run for his money in the punching stakes, the minion also has a cosmic beam gun which triggers a transformation back into his human body. It's perhaps a sign of the relative regularity of this event - on average, once every three issues Ben returns to human form - that his first thought isn't 'Hurrah! My humanity has returned'. Instead, he's more concerned with who might have been able to invent such a beam gun.

Disappointingly, due to the small panel size (this is a 7 panel page), the transformation is very underwhelming in art terms. The dashed outline looks rushed and a little lazy, and what should be a big event for Ben comes across as just another beat in the fight.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #23 on our twenty-third episode: (Asbestos) Grease Is The Word

Fantastic Four #19: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 8

Fantastic Four #19, page 13, panels 3-5 Written by: Stan Lee

Drawn by: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: S. Rosen

I'm a big fan of this transformation from the Thing to Ben. Unlike several in the past, this is not really random, and it serves the plot. Without this happening, the Four would likely still be slaves of Rama-Tut.

However, it is a bit surprising that the inciting element for the transformation would be a really hot sun. If this was all that was needed, then Reed would be able to put Ben on the next ICBM to modern-day Egypt and let him enjoy being himself. A better way of looking at this would be that it was a combination of Rama-Tut's will-sapping ray and the hot sun, causing a unique reaction within The Thing's body. With all those caption boxes, Stan surely could have squeezed in a better explanation than 'it got really hot'...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #19 on our eighteenth episode: Pharoahs And Plants, Spiders And Soldiers

[audio FF_Episode_18.mp3]

Fantastic Four #17: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 7

Fantastic Four #17, page 14, panels 6-9 Story: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

Now, this is more like it. Doctor Doom is causing worldwide chaos, and the Fantastic Four are powerless to stop him, thanks to the giant floaty marshmallow men things, which recorded the Fantastic Four's... er... something, and made his ship invulnerable to them.

Reed comes up with a loophole - the human form of Benjamin J. Grimm, which should be able to pass the shields and lower them, allowing the rest of the team to board the skyship. Unlike last issue, where Ben's transformation felt like nothing more than a cheap gag and a space-filler, here it serves a valid plot function, getting the team into a direct confrontation with their nemesis.

Much better!

Don't forget to let us know your favourite under-rated Fantastic Four stories!

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #17 on our fifteenth episode: Whence Came The Man of Asbestos

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Fantastic Four #16: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 6

Fantastic Four #16, page 9, panels 3-5

Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

It's been a very long time since we've seen Ben pop back to human form. I wonder if he's forgotten what his regular face looks like?

Today's transformation comes in the middle of a spot of spring cleaning. It's probably the most typical sort of transformation for Ben. Reed has concocted a potion or serum that he happily feeds Ben without any concerns as to its side-effects, carcinogenic contents, any allergies Ben may have, etc.

As we all know by now, these transformations rarely stick, although it's a full three pages before we see Ben as The Thing again. Rather unusually, the transformation back happens off panel, and not a single member of the team comments on it.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #16 on our fourteenth episode: The Return of Doctor Doom

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Episode_14.mp3]

Fantastic Four #11: The Humanity of Benjamin J. Grimm 5

Fantastic Four #11, page 5, panels 2-3 Fantastic Four #11, page 5, panel 4

Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

It's about time we had a frivolous yet tantalising glimpse of Ben Grimm's human form, so let's have one!

I've been so busy listing tropes that I've not really talked about what's been going these past few pages. Well, I use the listing excuse, but the real reason is that not very much is going on. The first 11 pages of Fantastic Four #11 are devoted to a fluffy piece of filler. Basically, the team go shopping and answer some fan mail. Charming, but filler nonetheless.

This is really shown by these few pages, in which Reed randomly rubs Ben with a lotion, turning him human for a few pages before he turns back. There's no plot function served by this. Ben smiles a bit, reminisces about how he and his friends got their nutty powers, the turns back when the clock strikes midnight.

However, all of this can be forgiven, because we get some glorious Kirby artwork here. I love both of the "in-between" shots of Ben. Previously, Kirby's given us static headshots to show the transformation, but here, you can clearly see the emotion on Ben's face as he changes. The surprise at what's happening, the scepticism as to whether it'll last or not. The art is telling us so much more than the dialogue, and that's how it should be!

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #11 on our ninth episode: Episode 9 - Patriotic Pedestrians Proceeding from Planet Poppup Prefer Poorly Produced Podcasts!

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Fantastic Four #9: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 4

Fantastic Four #9, page 19, panel 3 and page 20, panels 1-4 Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

Please forgive my poor attempts at collage today - this sequence spread over two pages and I couldn't think of a better way to get the the whole progression onto the page.Ben and Namor slugging it out on the beaches of Los Angeles is one of the best fight sequences from the early issues of the book. Kirby really depicts the struggle, and there's a superb splash panel of Ben dragging Namor across the sand as the storm gathers.

It's the storm that triggers the latest transformation back to humanity. A lightning bolt strikes Ben, rendering him immobile and transforming him. Namor, realising that the previously even match has become one-sided, fells him with a punch.

This change lasts for just over two pages, although the reversion to The Thing occurs off-panel, and Ben's briefly-regained humanity is not mentioned again in the issue.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #9 on our seventh episode: S(&)M Studios

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/FF_Episode_7.mp3]

 

Fantastic Four #8: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 3

Fantastic Four #8, page 12, panels 3-5 Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: Dick Ayers

Uncredited Letterer: Art Simek

It's been a while since Ben's popped back into his human form, so we celebrate today with a twofer: A grand transition from rock to skin, and a handy plot-advancing breaking of mind control!The trigger for this latest change is a brief punchup in Reed's laboratory, which causes Ben to fall into a set of test tubes. They break, obviously, and the random combination of chemicals does what Reed has so far failed to do - bring Ben back.

But that isn't all! The punchup only happened because Ben was under the control of Phil The Puppet Master. He'd turned up with future girlfriend Alicia Masters (who was disguised as Sue) so that they could... er...

Anyway, Ben's transformation lasts for all of six panels before his monstrous form returns, but his sadness at the reversal of his fortunes was enough for Alicia to fall in love with him.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #8 - with special guest Joshua Lapin-Bertone - on our sixth episode: Like A Puppet On A String

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Fantastic Four #4: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 2

 Fantastic Four #5, page 7, panels 2-4

Fantastic Four #5, page 7, panels 2-4

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: Sol Brodsky

Uncredited Letterer: Art Simek

One of the greatest sources of drama in the Fantastic Four centres around Ben's humanity. Every now and again his humanity is returned to him, but before long, events conspire to persuade Ben to sacrifice his human form to save other people. Resigned to his fate, the reader can't help but sympathise with Ben.

This is not one of those times.

Ben flips to human form for no reason at all other than he was about to put his fist right through Johnny's head and Stan wanted to remind readers that Ben is looking for his humanity. Johnny flies away and only three panels later, Ben reverts to his Thing form.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #4 in our third episode: Super-Villain Cavalcade

Fantastic Four #2: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 1

 Fantastic Four #2, page 19, panels 5-7

Fantastic Four #2, page 19, panels 5-7

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

One of the greatest tragedies of the Fantastic Four is the lost humanity of Ben Grimm, trapped forever in a monstrous form, unable to connect with humanity on the level that he used to. Forced to wear a large mac and fedora to hide his looks (or at least until he came to accept who he was and decided to wear a fetching pair of trunks), The Thing would quickly move beyond his anger issues and become the true heart of the team.

Not that it would stop Stan and Jack from teasing him regularly with the promise of returning to his human form. In this first instance, a repeated exposure to the cosmic rays affects only Ben, causing him to lose his powers and disfigurement. This only lasts for a couple of pages before he loses his human exterior again, but this unexpected transformation launches one of the longest-running subplots in the book, that of Reed working to somehow regain the humanity of his best friend.

 Fantastic Four #2, page 21, panels 4-6

Fantastic Four #2, page 21, panels 4-6

I really enjoy Kirby's layouts of the transitions, and the way they mirror each other. In both triptychs, the eyes are the key element and focus of the panels. In the first, they change from the unnaturally round eyes of The Thing to the more natural shape of Ben Grimm's. In the second, they eyes vanish as Ben becomes The Thing again, highlighting the loss of his physical humanity.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In