As far as superhero names go, the Thing isn’t exactly complimentary, but Marvel just gave the moniker a much more appropriate origin.
Warning! Spoilers for Fantastic Four: Life Story #1
As Marvel’s first family, the story of the Fantastic Four has been told and retold many times over the years. However, Marvel just gave the team a new, updated origin – one that makes the perfect change to how the Thing got his name.
Created by comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Fantastic Four debuted back in 1961. At the time. the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union was in full swing, and Fantastic Four #1 piggybacked off of that interest. In their historic first issue, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, and Sue and Johnny Storm decided to test out an experimental rocket that would give the Americans an edge over the Soviets, but the plan backfired when the ship was bombarded with cosmic rays. As a result, each member of the team was imbued with superpowers, but only Ben Grimm suffered from a radical change in appearance. Ben’s form mutated into that of an orange rock monster, or as Sue describes him, “some sort of a thing!” However, while it was Sue who coined Ben’s soon-to-be superhero name in the original story, Marvel just made a change that fits much better.
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Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 by Mark Russel and Sean Izaakse takes readers back to the 1960s, when the Fantastic Four first embarked on the fateful mission that gave them their powers. While the events play out in more or less the same fashion, the story makes a crucial change after the team gets their abilities. Instead of Sue, it’s actually Ben who first calls himself by his superhero name, as he asks the doctors, “what kind of thing am I?” As sad as it is to see Ben so disgusted with himself, it tracks much better with the character overall.
Invisible Woman is often depicted as the most empathetic member of the Fantastic Four, which is why her being the first to call Ben “the Thing” seems very out of character. Granted, everyone was going through a lot at the time, but it’s still strange for Sue to be so insensitive to the Thing’s tragic transformation. In contrast, Ben’s self-loathing and struggle to cope with his monstrous form has always been a core aspect of his character. It makes sense for him to call himself “the Thing” because he no longer feels human, hence why he can’t bring himself to face his fiancé.
In coining the name himself, the Thing’s journey toward self-acceptance becomes much more personal. At first, Ben understandably views his powers as a curse, but as life goes on, he learns to overcome his self-pity and become a real hero. Eventually, Ben redefines and owns the mantle of the Thing, and that progression is what makes the character so interesting.
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