He’s been called a monster, a degenerate and a louse, but he’ll always be Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew and the bedrock to the Fantastic Four. Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, might be pigeon-holed by some as little more than the brutish muscle of the Marvel’s super-science squad, but he’s much more than that. He was one of the first flawed heroes in comics, breaking the mold and the majesty of DC’s heroes and forging the way for the unique brand of heroes Marvel would go on to develop. The Thing is one of the first heroes with problems, and being cursed with his craggy skin-type was only more of the same.
Hailing from New York’s Lower East Side, Ben Grimm came from the school of hard knocks and in his superhero identity he’s fought everything from street gangs to dictators to cosmic forces beyond comprehension. Heck, was even a pro wrestler. They say as you get older, every wrinkle tells a story; in the case of Ben Grimm, every crack in his stony exterior is an adventure waiting to be told over a cold beer.
The Best of the Fantastic Four HC Vol. 1: While he’d had his solo runs, the Thing will always be known as a founding member of the Fantastic Four and this hardcover collection has some of the the best team tales with Ben as well as some great ones where he takes the lead. The best of the best is “This Man, This Monster” from Fantastic Four #51, which shows a mad scientist steal Grimm’s powers in an attempt to kill Reed. Although powerless, Grimm’s drive and determination work on all the players here. Another big gem here is the lesser known “That Night…” story by Barry Windsor-Smith that was published in Marvel Fanfare #15, which is positively poetic. Also included is a more recent tale, “Remembrances of Things Past!” by Karl Kesel and Stuart Immonen from Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #56, digging into the bedrock of this rocky hero.
The Thing Classic, Vol. 1: When you think John Byrne and the Thing, your mind mainly focuses on the great run Byrne had on Fantastic Four, but that’s not all he ever did. After finishing up his FF run in 1981, Byrne switched over to launch a new Thing series in 1983, and his inaugural tale really starts it off strong as Byrne delves into Ben Grimm’s childhood to see how this man-monster became who he is today.
The Thing: Project Pegasus: One of Ben Grimm’s finest hours outside the Fantastic Four is collected here, as he’s visting a braintrust think tank called Project Pegasus when he finds an evil scientist trying to create a black hole. There’s a random group of heroes by Grimm’s side, he he takes point and doesn’t pull any punches. And speaking of pulling punches, the creative team enlisted to do this aren’t either: this six-parter is written by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio, with art by — get this — John Byrne and George Perez. Talk about a team-up!
Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 4: Although you might not know it from the title, Marvel Two-In-One was, for a long time, a Thing team-up book. And this volume collects most of the series from 1981 to its ending in 1983. Of the greats here is Thing’s face-off against the gladiatorial Champion with the fate of the Earth in his hands, resulting into one of the most epic “fight comics” in decades. In addition to that story by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson, you also have their one-off from #86 which shows Ben Grimm having a beer with the Sandman and reflecting on their lives and how much they have in common.