Benjamin Jacob Grimm
Bashful Benjy, Uncle Benjy, The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing, Idol of Millions (self-proclaimed), Grim Ben, Dr. Josiah Verpoorteen, Blackbeard the Pirate
Place of Birth
Manhattan, New York
Fantastic Four #1 (1961)
None (formerly brown as Grimm)
Ben Grimm grew up in poverty at 7135 Yancy Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. His drunken father couldn't hold down a job, so much of their family's income came from Ben's older brother Dan, who led the Yancy Street Gang. Ben idolized his brother, and when Dan was killed in a gang fight, Ben grew increasingly bitter-especially after his aunt Sophie died of cancer that same year. Ben joined the Yancy Street Gang himself, eventually becoming its leader; however, when his parents were killed in an accident, the teenage Ben was forced to move uptown to live with his new guardians, his Uncle Jake and Aunt Alyce. The Yancy Street Gang denounced Ben as a sellout after he moved away, developing an enduring grudge against their former leader. A respected medical doctor, Jake had pulled himself up from the Yancy Street slums and hoped he could help Ben make something of himself as well. Jake and Alyce were tough but loving parents, and while Ben resisted them at first, their unconditional affection gradually won him over. Ben finished high school, discovering his natural football talent along the way, and won a full-ride sports scholarship to State University.
Ben roomed with Reed Richards, who dreamed of someday building a starship; Grimm jokingly promised that if Reed ever built it, he would fly it. Ben became a star quarterback at State, and spent much of his time trying to coax his more socially awkward roommate out of his shell. Outgoing and popular, Ben soon found a steady girlfriend in Alynn Cambers, his first true love. When Alynn abruptly dropped out of school, Ben tracked her down and proposed marriage. Though she loved Ben, Alynn wanted a Hollywood acting career, which left no room for a serious relationship. She rejected the heartbroken Ben's proposal, eventually becoming a star as she had planned.
After finishing college, Ben joined the U.S. military to continue his education and pursue his longtime dream of becoming a pilot. After training in a series of military operations, he shifted from combat duty to become a test pilot, one of the best in the Air Force. He formed close friendships with fellow pilots Desmond Pitt and Mick Clancy and found new love with scientist Dr. Linda McGill. As a test pilot, Ben undertook dangerous assignments on occasion, notably when the Pentagon recruited him to fly government agents Carol Danvers and Logan into Russia, supposedly to test a series of radio transmitters. The trio were shot down but managed to fight their way out of Russia while Logan completed his true mission, capturing the Russian Project: Red Storm. Ben eventually moved into the astronaut training program, where his colleagues included fellow pilot John Jameson.
Reed had begun to build his starship and asked his old friend Ben to be its pilot. When the government abruptly cut off their funding, Reed asked Ben to help him make an unauthorized test flight before the project could be shut down. Ben feared that the ship might not be adequately shielded against cosmic radiation; but Reed's girlfriend Sue Storm -to whom Ben was somewhat attracted-played on Ben's machismo and he acquiesced. Joined by Sue and her kid brother Johnny Storm, they successfully launched the ship into space, but cosmic rays penetrated their shielding and forced them to crash-land back on Earth. The radiation had mutated them into superhuman beings-unluckily for Grimm, who transformed into the grotesque, scaly-hided strongman dubbed the Thing. The quartet decided to use their powers for the betterment of humanity as the Fantastic Four.
Ben built a new life for himself as part of the FF; one notable early foe was the Impossible Man, a mischievous alien who later became a friend to the FF in general and Ben in particular. The super-strong Namor and the Hulk would encounter Ben repeatedly as both allies and enemies over the years, and the Hulk would become one of Ben's toughest recurring opponents. The Thing often partnered with the Human Torch to fight foes such as the Beetle, the Terrible Trio, Professor Jack and Kang. Initially, Ben spontaneously reverted to his human form for random intervals; but he always returned to his Thing form, and his mutation eventually stabilized in a more rock-like appearance.
Early on, Ben was so unhappy with his condition that it sometimes compromised his loyalty to the team: for instance, when Doctor Doom forced the FF to undertake a time travel quest, Ben found a new life in the past as the legendary Blackbeard the Pirate and very nearly abandoned his teammates to remain in the 18th century; later, Ben briefly agreed to serve Diablo in exchange for a possible cure for his mutation, though he soon turned on the evil alchemist to save the FF. Over time, Ben came to accept his new form, albeit somewhat bitterly. An immense help in this regard was the Puppet Master's stepdaughter Alicia Masters, a blind sculptress who claimed she could see the inner beauty of Ben's soul. Alicia and Ben fell in love and dated for years, though the insecure Ben was never entirely sure if he was worthy of Alicia and feared she would eventually abandon him. Other women in Ben's life included the alternate future Femizon named Thundra (an admirer) and the cat-woman Tigra (a good friend).
Over the years, Reed and others sought various cures for Ben's condition, some of which were temporarily successful. During a period where Ben had made a seemingly permanent reversion to his human form, the FF hired super-mercenary Luke Cage to serve as Ben's replacement; however, Ben soon rejoined the FF after Reed provided Ben with a suit of strength-enhancing armor that outwardly resembled his Thing form. Before long, Ben had transformed into the Thing again; but over time, Reed began to suspect that Ben's inability to assume human form was a strictly psychological limitation tied to Ben's relationship with Alicia, who had fallen in love with him in his Thing form. Reed theorized that Ben's fear of losing Alicia was the only thing preventing him from resuming his human form at will, but he was unsure of this theory and kept it to himself, not wanting to undermine Ben's romance. When the FF were among the many super heroes forced to fight in the Secret War on the Beyonder's Battleworld, Ben discovered that he could resume his human form at will-probably due in part to his prolonged separation from Alicia, though Ben assumed it was caused by some strange properties of the planet Battleworld itself. When the war ended, Ben decided to remain behind, recruiting She-Hulk to take his place in the FF. Ben had a series of strange encounters, unaware they were mostly formed from his own subconscious-including Tarianna, an idealized warrior woman with whom Ben fell in love, and the sorcerer Grimm, an evil mystical personification of Ben's human side. Tarianna and Grimm eventually killed each other, leaving Ben unable to retake human form. Returning to Earth, Ben learned too late of Reed's theory that his transformations had been psychologically-based, and also discovered that Alicia had apparently left him for Johnny in his absence.
When Reed and Sue retired from active FF duty to focus on raising their son, they left Ben in charge. He recruited Crystal and Ms. Marvel to replace them and served capably as team leader, starting a romance with Sharon that deepened after new cosmic radiation exposure further mutated them both, turning Sharon into a sort of "She-Thing" and Ben into an even stronger, more hideous spiky-hided Thing. Their romance continued through several more changes of form (with Ben eventually settling back into his classic Thing form), even after Reed and Sue rejoined the group; but they were estranged after Sharon accepted Doctor Doom's aid in regaining human form. Ben has not yet had a serious relationship since his split with Sharon, though he has flirted with Reed's old friend Alyssa Moy and briefly dated Damage Control executive Kathleen O'Meara. When the Alicia who had eventually married Johnny was revealed to be the shape-shifting Skrull spy Lyja, the FF found and rescued the real Alicia, but she and Ben have remained only good friends.
Ben has maintained a bizarre enmity with the Yancy Street Gang, his former peers having passed down their resentment of Grimm to the next generation of Yancy punks. Over the years, the gang has perpetrated a seemingly endless series of practical jokes, verbal abuse and petty assaults on Grimm, though many of the practical jokes credited to the Yancy crowd were actually played by a sneaky Johnny Storm. At the same time, the Yancy Streeters take a perverse pride in their distinguished alumnus, and have been known to come to Ben's aid on occasion-they seem to think only they have the right to abuse him. Though estranged from the gang, Ben has remained friendly with some of his childhood chums from Yancy Street, including Cholly (now owner of the Yancy Street Bar and Grill), helicopter pilot Hopper Hertnecky and old high school buddy "Slugger" Sokolowski. Ben has also kept in touch with his uncle Jake, who married a new wife-the much younger Petunia "Penny" Grimm-after Alyce died. Ben took a great liking to Petunia, whom he often jokingly described as a little old lady until the FF actually got to meet the beautiful Mrs. Grimm in person. Alynn Cambers also renewed her friendship with Ben (though not their romance), seeking his guidance and support after a stroke left her disfigured and partially crippled.
The Fantastic Four are not just Ben's friends; they have become his surrogate family, and he is like a beloved uncle to Reed and Sue's children, Franklin and Valeria. When he was killed during a recent battle with Doctor Doom, the rest of the FF followed his spirit to the gates of Heaven itself, where the heavenly Creator restored Ben to life. The Thing remains the big-hearted, brick-hided backbone of the FF to this day, ready to rattle evildoers with his Sunday punch and his eternal battle cry: "It's Clobberin' Time!"