Early Years On Yancy Street
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.
Off to College, New Friends, and Heartbreak
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.
The Jock Takes to the Air
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
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
Out of Space, Into the Fantastic Four
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.
Severing Old Ties
Wandering the streets of New York shortly after his transformation, Ben was attacked by a terrified group of Yancy Street Gang members and fled into the sewers, where an encounter with some wretched tunnel-dwellers helped give Ben the determination to cope with his own situation. Returning home, Ben met his girlfriend Linda, who fled in fear of Ben's monstrous appearance. She soon sought Ben out again, trying to comfort him and expressing a willingness to continue their relationship; but he felt she would be better off without him, so he feigned an insane rage and threatened her, scaring her away. They never reconciled, and Dr. McGill went on to marry another man, raising a family and continuing her scientific career.
Fighting the Monster
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).
Poker Buddies and Fighting Friends
For years Ben and Avengers
butler Edwin Jarvis
have organized a series of floating super-hero poker games, attended by players such as Nick Fury
, Wolverine, Blake Tower
, Doctor Strange
, Human Torch, She-Hulk, Black Cat, Archangel, Spider-Man
and many of the Avengers. Ben has also teamed up in action with a dizzying array of super heroes over the years, ranging from icons like Captain America
and Iron Man
to fringe figures such as Son of Satan
, Straw Man
, Brother Voodoo, Jack of Hearts
, Blue Diamond
and the Living Mummy
. Ben even befriended his longtime enemy Sandman
when the villain reformed. One special ally was the orphaned alien man-child Wundarr
, who came to regard his "Uncle Benjy" with a familial affection that lingered even after he evolved into the enlightened Aquarian. When Wundarr was housed at the high-tech research facility Project: PEGASUS for study, the Thing joined their security staff to keep a closer eye on him. During his association with the Project, Ben helped protect PEGASUS from menaces such as the Grapplers and the Nth Man (both sponsored by Roxxon Oil), and he formed close friendships with fellow PEGASUS staffers Quasar (Wendell Vaughn)
and Bill Foster
In Love With the Monster
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.
In Pursuit of Identity
Feeling bitter and betrayed, Ben quit the FF altogether and hit the road, trying to find himself. He briefly joined the motorcycle stunt-riding Thunderiders, where he met and became smitten with champion sportswoman Sharon Ventura
, a virtual twin of Tarianna. During his travels, Ben became a friend and mentor to the troubled young mutant runaway Vance Astrovik
. Ben, Vance and Sharon all became involved in the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, a professional wrestling league for super-humans (Sharon having become a superhuman and taking the codename Ms. Marvel). Ben befriended fellow wrestler Demolition Dunphy and began associating with the new western roster
of the Avengers, whose leader Hawkeye
worked relentlessly to recruit him. Ben was the reigning UCWF champion for some time, but personal concerns (including his growing awareness of corruption in the sport) led him to purposely throw an exhibition match and quit the league. He finally accepted Avengers membership, but resigned and went into seclusion the very next day after mutating into an even more monstrous form. He found sanctuary and acceptance in the subterranean realm of his old foe the Mole Man
, who was planning to raise a new continent where his subjects could live above ground; but when the FF revealed that this process would cause devastating killer earthquakes, the Thing reluctantly sided with them and helped thwart the Mole Man's plans. Having nowhere else to go, and having reverted to his standard Thing form by then, Ben rejoined the FF.
Mutated, False, and Lost Loves
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.
Back To Roots
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.
Death and Family
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
. 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!"
But even the strong bonds of friendship between the members were tested when a tragedy in Stamford, Connecticut led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people near a schoolyard and pushed forward a Superhero Registration Act. While Johnny was attacked and beaten into a coma by a group of angry New York citizens, Reed and Sue broke up after Reed spent more time working with the Registration forces and their leader, Tony Stark, then being concerned for Johnny's pain. In frustration and a refusal to pick either side - each being distasteful to him in some way - Ben quit the country and moved to France. After a very short career alongside the French super team Les Heroes de Paris, Ben soon found himself drawn back to America and joined the majority of his team against the Registration forces. Though their leader, Captain America, soon turned himself in after an epic battle in downtown New York that ended up doing more damage than the help he had imagined. And in the aftermath, the Fantastic Four were left to decide what to do with their fractured relationships and team.